By Kristie Pearce, The Windsor Star February 27, 2012
What do most people think of when they discuss great civilizations?
Quebec MP and heritage critic Tyrone Benskin says art.
"When we look back at history and look at all the great civilizations - the Egyptians, the Byzantines, the Phoenicians - we don't sit there and talk about their economic plan," he said at an information session Saturday at the Artspeak Gallery on Wyandotte Street East. "We talk about the architecture, the painters, the great writers and how we learn about those - how archeologists, scientists, anthropologists learn about it - are primarily through the works that are left behind."
The MP (NDP - Jeanne-Le Ber) was visiting Windsor for the first time for Black History Month.
He also took time to address the Art Council Windsor and Region, giving advice on how to access federal funding for arts and culture.
Benskin created an access guide that listed more than a dozen Canadian programs that fund artists.
"The fact is that the art community is one of the pillars of society and always has been," he said.
Benskin, who lives in Montreal, said art needs to be taken more seriously.
In Canada, about $85 billion is generated by the culture community yearly, Benskin said.
"That outweighs the automotive industry, the mining industry and the forestry industry together."
Benskin said people who think government funding of art is a waste of money need to realize it's an investment.
"For every dollar that the government puts into the arts they're getting over $10 back," he said.
"What other industry has that kind of turnaround?"
A small crowd, including NDP MP Brian Masse (Windsor West), attended Benskin's talk.
"The reality is many artists are struggling out there," Masse said. He said Benskin's talk was encouraging. "And it was fun for me because I get to highlight and show off our arts community in Windsor that's very strong and unique and has great productions."
Masse brought Benskin to NAFTC Studios, a state-of-theart film studio being constructed in Lakeshore, and a Canadian Mental Health Association gala held at Overseas Motors before Benskin returned home Sunday.
"I think in Windsor we're naturally shy about ourselves. We don't brag about ourselves as much as we've earned it, in my opinion," Masse said. "The more I travel, the more I see the strength of our local community here."
The Ontario Arts Council's Artists in the Community and Workplace program in Windsor and Essex County offers up to $10,000 in funding to develop community-based arts projects.
For more information about the arts council go to www. acwr.net.
To view Benskin's access guide to funding go to http://tyronebenskin.ndp.ca/arts.>