Elly on the Arts: Learning in a time of quarantine

With everyone practicing physical distancing to try and stay healthy, there is not much arts activity happening in our town at the moment. While that is a good and laudable thing, it leaves this intrepid columnist with little to report. We must confess it is an odd state of affairs for Flin Flon and area - perhaps one that has left us with too much time on our hands to always be put to good use. We have been doing some reading and have some thoughts now to share with you about how the arts can positively impact our community now and in the future.

We get an email almost every day through a website called Academia, which tries to keep us informed about relevant research in the arts and on cultural activities. We don’t read and save all of them, but some are really worthwhile and worth sharing more widely with a community like ours that may soon be struggling to continue with a mine shutdown on the horizon. We need to look to other industries to diversify our economy and many writers suggest that a good place to start is with our community’s strengths.

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The arts and culture have long been seen as a major strength for Flin Flon, though not so much as an economic driver. A paper by Nancy Duxbury called Developing and Revitalizing Rural Communities through Arts and Culture, first published in 2011, lists many of the ideas we ought to be considering as we struggle with this.

Duxbury is a senior researcher and co-coordinator of the Cities, Cultures and Architecture Research Group at the Centre for Social Studies at Portugal’s Universidade de Coimbra. Her research focuses on creative tourism, culture in local sustainable development and cultural mapping methodologies. She is also an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University’s school of communication and at the School of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Waterloo.

Duxbury talks about six major themes in the area of cultural development in small and rural communities - the nature of arts and creative activities in rural communities, capacity and related challenges, community factors and critical ingredients, population-related issues and opportunities, economic issues and opportunities and governance factors.

We will attempt to highlight her findings under each of these categories as they apply to Flin Flon, to give you an idea of what is happening in the rest of the world and how it might best apply here.

Arts activities in rural communities are usually focused on three broad areas - the kinds of arts activities that happen within the town, festivals and the impacts of external touring activities on the town. Flin Flon has all three of these areas covered.

We have a vibrant local music scene with more and more performers joining all the time. Almost all of our local performers are amateurs in that they don’t make their living from performing, but that certainly doesn’t indicate the quality of the performances we are regularly treated to. They are uniformly good. We also have local theatre in Ham Sandwich productions which seem to up their game towards professionalizing with every new outing and we have Flin Flon Community Choir musical theatre productions, which seem to get better and better.

Next time, we will talk about festivals and touring shows and move further into our exploration of this topic.

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