The PAA: local success story

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Here’s everyone’s idea of excitement: annual general meetings.  
To learn a little about an organization, go to the annual meeting. It’s all business, with minimal chatter.

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Here’s everyone’s idea of excitement: annual general meetings.  
To learn a little about an organization, go to the annual meeting. It’s all business, with minimal chatter.
The Pontiac Artists’ Association’s AGM, two weeks ago, was the first of theirs I’ve attended as a member. What an eye-opener, this group dedicated to a good thing,
culture and the arts, making magic with a minimal annual budget – and yet benefiting everyone.
As I read the reports, I realized there’s a qualitative difference in promoting our region through public events, exhibitions, workshops, speakers, and tours, compared to promoting the Pontiac by a brochure, or a press-release. “Promotion” is as important as nothing else is, reaching real adults who act and travel,
purchase, or join up.
The big story is the PAA actually creating, via events and physical creations, an image of the Pontiac as a good, solid place to live, to invest in, to raise a family, start a business or a new career . . . as opposed to telling the public we’re a pretty place like the hundreds of other places that are “good to live in”. Inadvertently, the artists’ association is contributing as much or more to promoting Pontiac than all the salaried agents, executives, and fonctionnaires put together (and don’t even start a cost-comparison!).
Not only is this genuine promotion effective, the PAA’s high-profile events also reflect two features of our Pontiac life: the cultural sector is a living, solid contributor to our region’s economy and it provides incomparable substance to our quality of life here, to our sense of who we are. 
Other regions consider their “cultural industry” as a prime mover in their prosperity. Montreal, for instance, considers culture it’s third strongest industry. “Industry” means jobs, local purchases, supporting businesses, and attracting investment. This is Pontiac’s elusive ghost . . . we stalk the ghost of industries past, logging, mining, small and local-market manufacturing, family farming, but, like a ghost, these disappear the harder we look. We’re competing within an integrated world of regions, cities, and corporations, all vying for investment dollars, for new projects, and new populations (like seniors). Culture is a dynamic industry in other places . . . the PAA (plus the other artists’ associations in the Pontiac) is part of that dynamism here.
Look at what this local, community organization, unsponsored by multinational corporations and with only the minimum in government funding, has been able to build and grow – for Pontiac’s fortunate denizens.
First is the artists’ best known institution, the Pontiac Artists’ Studio Tour every June – one of Canada’s first. This two-weekend event brings
visitors by the busloads, literally. The PAA is adding a significant volunteer-celebration next year; here’s solid organization-building!
The Pontiac School of the Arts – built on the Haliburton school model – also promotes Pontiac’s reputation. It brings accomplished artists into our midst and highlights the professionalism of local creators.
The Stone School Gallery in Portage du Fort is another high-profile attraction. The Artists’ Residency Program brings experienced artists into our midst.
As impressive as the PAA’s accomplishments are, we might add a
hand. Should Pontiac-MRC be charging the PAA for the Stone School – or gifting it to them? 
Shouldn’t we all be supporting our arts with an annual purchase, our voluntary “culture support”?
The arts bring visitors and investment in, and show us there is more to life than television, more to living than car payments. The arts everywhere remind us that life means more than just staggering through it. These are efforts we all can support.