Brampton Approves its First Ever Culture Master Plan

Brampton has been planning to revamp its arts and culture scene for some time, and now, our city has taken a major step forward.

On June 20, 2018, after a fiery back-and-forth between Uber and taxi drivers, Brampton City Council voted on Brampton’s first ever Culture Master Plan.

After hearing delegations from a variety of community representatives, Council endorsed the plan unanimously.

Brampton now joins the majority of North American cities with intentional cultural planning.

It’s true that Brampton is a natural incubator of talent. It's also one of the fastest growing cities in the GTA. The combination of these two realities provides Brampton with a unique opportunity to engender a brand-new industry of artists and cultural entrepreneurs.

Like the 2040 Vision, which, with the help of urban strategist Larry Beasley, sets Brampton on a path to becoming a world-class city, the Culture Master Plan acknowledges the economic potential of the arts.

To put things in perspective, according to Americans for the Arts, arts and culture represents 4.2 per cent of the GDP in the U.S., a larger share of the economy than transportation, tourism, or construction. But arts and culture has multiplicative effects on food, tourism, real estate, entrepreneurialism, and other ancillary sectors.

In the same way we view emerging tech startups, the Culture Master Plan views the arts as a profit generator. It seeks to increase private sector investment in arts and culture through corporate sponsorship, recognizing that Brampton has far too often resigned arts and culture to charity.

The Plan seeks to undertake feasibility studies to implement tax incentives for space provision and funding leveraged through new developments in the city.

The common claim that arts and culture will simply develop organically as a consequence of improvement in other sectors is economically unsound - such an argument would not be made about the technology sector. Yes, the automatic mechanisms of supply and demand has set the Brampton arts market in motion, but without encouraging proper investment, these same mechanisms of supply and demand will allow larger, more sophisticated markets, like Toronto and Hamilton, to absorb whatever supply of talent we may have left.

Sixty per cent of Brampton’s population currently leaves the city to pursue work elsewhere. There's nothing stopping artists from pursuing employment in more advantageous cities.

In my opinion, municipal leaders do not need to act as the vanguard of arts and culture in this city. The dismantling of the Brampton Arts Council was a move towards a more modern approach to arts and culture funding. Where the City and City affiliates can provide tremendous value is studying the landscape and expediting processes, where necessary, in order to develop the sector in a profit-driven manner.

They can also support the artistic scene solving issues with information asymmetry. The Culture Master Plan endorses these ideas with their pledge to conducting feasibility studies and founding a non-profit, arms-length arts organization, respectively.

With an extremely young, but growing population, the name of the game for Brampton is not only to attract new people, but to retain residents. The population is growing, but it’s also clustering closer together.

A city without concert goers, theatre enthusiasts, poetry connoisseurs, audience members, and artists is a city without taxpayers.

As an advocate for arts and culture, I often find myself challenging the notion that arts funding is a luxuriant addition to society, enjoyed only after we have solved the serious issues of construction, education, jobs, and infrastructure. I argue that it is arts and culture that animates those other sectors.

With the endorsement of the Plan, and Council's pledge to commit a minimum of $372,000 to it in the 2019 budget, our artists might have a reason to stay in Brampton after all.

Cover photo of local artist Crystal Lori Boyd courtesy of Herman Custodio

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