Today in the Toronto Star’s op-ed section, Martin Knelman argues that Toronto is finally getting the funds it needs to compete with Montreal as Canada’s seat of cultural avant-garde. He even ups the urban-rivalry ante by writing that “Toronto’s cultural all-stars [by which Knelman means the AGO, Luminato and the ROM, all of which have received millions from politicians of late] are upstaging Montreal’s, which is the equivalent of the Leafs winning the Stanley Cup by beating the Canadiens in overtime.”
Millions or no, I have to say that from where I sit, Toronto still has a long ways to go before it snatches Montreal’s cultural crown. In terms of cultural access, Hogtown is way behind La Belle Ville, even more so than our beleaguered pucksters are lagging the Habs.
Why? Because $75 million-plus in funds that our big-name TO institutions and fests are receiving isn’t tied to creating equitable admission fees.
Check this: Admission to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MTL’s most ROM-like venue) is free for the permanent collection, and fee’d only for temporary shows. The ROM? Still $20 for both.
Over at the Musee d’art Contemporain de Montreal (MTL’s more AGO-like institution) the comparison is just as dramatic: Where the new AGO will have a more reasonable admission policy than the ROM ($18, with free entrance on Wednesday evenings) it still pales to that of the MACM, which charges just $8 for an adult admission and still has their own free entrance scheme—also, coincidentally, on Wednesday evenings.
Similarly, Luminato is still far from totally affordable. As far as I could see on their website, half the events are free, while the other half range in price up from $10 to $125.
Luminato just released a list of “community outreach” events today, which is of course better than nothing, but there are still issues. As Kate Hammer reports in today’s Globe and Mail, the access programs that the AGO and the ROM do have are often confusing for intended users. While the existence of these programs sounds great to donors and access advocates, it’s clear that they have a long way to go before they can deliver culture in a way that actually provides access to all Torontonians.
“Vive le Toronto artistique,” Knelman suggests, and that will work for some in our city.
Yet for the many who can’t afford it, Toronto culture might as well be on life support. Oui ou non?