Home CommentaryOpinions Gambling with Quebec artists: a dangerous game

Gambling with Quebec artists: a dangerous game

by Robin Stanford March 24, 2015
Gambling with Quebec artists: a dangerous game

Loto-Quebec’s cuts to art risks putting artists in the red

What does Loto-Quebec and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts have in common? Not very much anymore.

For the past 35 years however, these two organizations both had an interest in local art. This will change on April 1 when Loto-Quebec will suspend all spending in this area.

The March 5 announcement detailed how the company could no longer afford to support the arts, citing a 5 per cent decrease in last year’s profits. The change in budgetary priorities represents a saving of roughly $350,000 per year, or 0.01 per cent of their profits.

Graphic by Marie-Pier LaRose.

This spending cut is anticipated to affect two main groups of the Quebec population.
First, local artists will be losing a significant patronage. According to a Radio-Canada report on March 10, over the last 35 years, Loto-Quebec has bought over 4,900 works of art from more than 1,200 artists to the province. These figures are in addition to their support of the Musée D’art Contemporain and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Second, this decision will affect the rest of the Quebec population, especially in Montreal. With less art being commissioned, society as a whole will have less art to enjoy. Aside from the more traditional, museum art style, Montreal is home to many avant-garde presentations. These include outdoor statues, painted murals, permanent installations, and festival displays. (Though at this time, it is not known how many of these works are thanks to funding from Loto-Quebec.)

Usually a budget change such as this would not enter the news cycle. What makes this different is that it serves to highlight the questionable way in which Loto-Quebec makes money.

Unlike other monopolies such as Hydro-Quebec, Loto-Quebec is morally problematic. It markets itself on the dream of winning millions. Such a fantasy is not a motivator for the richest in society, but for those in the middle- and low-economic classes.

As their profits often come from the most impoverished, would it not be fitting to give a very little bit of it back to artists? After all, artists tend to be undervalued and—unfortunately—under-employed in our society.

Past the concerns of the individual artists, should it not be the job of Loto-Quebec to give something back to the society that it profits from? One should hope that the next generation will have the joy of discovering new artistic offerings in festivals, at museums, or on the street.

Whether these works please, shock, or confuse their audience, they are important. Pulling this funding is silencing the voices of our local artists, voices whose very function is to get the public to question and discuss every element of society.

Regardless of the stated reason, Loto-Quebec’s decision to pull art funding is troubling. As a group that profits off of the lower classes, they should be required to give something back to the community, even if it’s only 0.01 per cent of what they have.

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