Quality of Life/Quality of Place
Culture, long overlooked as tools for garnering quality of life, is now being recognized as a means to community building, encouraging outdoor activity, healthy lifestyles, life-long learning, increasing accessibility to programmes for all levels of society, and celebrating diversity and cultural differences.
Click below for the PDF version of Quality of Life/Quality of Place section of Making the Case, as well as Profiles.
Profile researchers/writers of profiles:
Claire Dimond-Gibson, Elise Finnigan, Katie Warfield and Steven R. Dang, with additions by Creative City Network members and friends.
Picture Credit: Image appearing above - Evelina Sushko in Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada’s original production MERLIN. Photo by Mike Szaszik.
- Quality of Life/Quality of Place [PDF]
The arts can create a level playing field, open to all socioeconomic individuals, groups and communities, enabling public participation.
- Saskatoon's Writing Culture: A Naturally born character-enhancing industry
Within Saskatchewan, Saskatoon is synonymous with literature and writing. A passion for reading and writing permeates the character of city, and Saskatoon writers receive an abundant number of writing grants every year. Authors live there, they write there, and they choose to do so, foremost, because of the organically grown writing culture.
HOW DOES one relatively small Canadian city attract four Governor General award-winning authors? How does one city grow, over decades, to foster the most literate population of any city in Canada? A city whose libraries boast the highest loan rate of any Canadian hometown?
In Saskatoon culture takes a non-traditional form as an economic driver. Within the province, Saskatoon is synonymous with literature and writing. The municipal government funds readings and events, notably a play reading festival, and its public library system presents well-publicized readings and workshops in its many branches. Its authors receive numerous writing grants from the provincial and federal levels; Saskatchewan boasts the oldest arts funding agency in the country. A passion for reading and writing permeates the character of city. However, the city itself is not a major "distribution" centre of the literature it produces. Adopting a more community-spirited and character-enhancing attitude, the city has become celebrated as the "home" of Canadian writers rather than as a "factory" of Canadian literature.
Beginning before the establishment of the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild in the 1960s, the oldest writer's guild in Canada, the City of Saskatoon has long nurtured and encouraged writing and literature. The Saskatoon Public Library has the longest-running Writer in Residence program of any in Canada. When the Canada Council cut funding for its national program in 1994, the Saskatoon library maintained its residency without the Council's assistance. It then lobbied vehemently for the program's reinstatement. As a result the City has managed to sustain this popular program uninterrupted. Prominent authors who have filled the position at the Saskatoon Public Library have included Anne Szumigalski, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Sandra Birdsell, and Myrna Kostash. This year's placement is Yann Martel, author of The Life of Pi.
Although Saskatoon's identity is linked to a large population of working and celebrated authors, this trait has become nationally recognized without a direct appeal to advertising, marketing or tourism. Authors live there, they write there, and they choose to do so, foremost, because of the organically grown writing culture.
Candace Savage, an active member of the Saskatoon writing community and a former Writer in Residence at the Public Library, elaborated on the structure of Saskatoon's cultural economy. "We are far from a lot; the trade and publishing are elsewhere. This is a centre of writing, not publishing. Writers are resources for each other here." Candace explains that, "it's the culture of human development that we deal with here in Saskatoon."
Saskatoon's ambitious literary community has developed several organizations to foster writing, but again, this has been done without a boisterous external stimulus "there are few signs of tourist-oriented promotion drawing attention to the city's writing culture. Most of the initiatives, organized for groups such as children, women, and the elderly, have been created as a result of community interest.
In 2001 the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild closed the local office to centralize its operations in Regina. The office on the 7th floor of the stately Bessborough Hotel still houses the Saskatchewan Playwrights Centre, Grain Magazine, and the Sage Hill Writing Experience; the latter organizes an annual seminar for writers from across the continent. In response to the guild's move, community members and motivated writers started the Saskatoon Writer's Coop. Housed in the Refinery, a multi-arts venue in the Broadway area, the organization "which boasts a literate chicken for a mascot " fosters and encourages the writing community through classes, workshops, gatherings, talks, and parties.
Saskatoon is home to the University of Saskatchewan, and the academic environment has also influenced the growth of the writing culture. Although the university does not have a department of creative writing, several prominent authors have lectured at the affiliated St. Thomas More College, and a writer's task group is presently looking into the feasibility of developing a Master's program with the university.
Social and Cultural Sustainability
In January 2004, the Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson, chaired a roundtable discussion in Saskatoon on "The Good City", meaning good for writers. The panel included such prominent authors as Guy Vanderhaeghe, Tim Lilburn, Louise Halfe, David Carpenter, and Yann Martel. The forum discussed literary culture in Saskatoon and raised the question of why the city has such a strong writing community. Many factors were proposed: proximity to nature, history, and a deep-rooted respect for literature. Savage explained that "writing is a very private affair and the city [of Saskatoon] provides space for authors to achieve that, but also to have a space to interact and craft with other authors. The Saskatchewan Writers' Guild supports this philosophy and offers writers' retreats and colonies at two remote locations to provide a secluded space for a writers to work, generate and share ideas.
Some of the short-term goals of Saskatoon's writing community involve creating more widespread awareness of the city's local character. Moose Jaw recently has invested great efforts in the promotion of its city as a literary centre and Saskatoon may adopt similar methods. Saskatoon, however, provides an interesting illustration of a city whose cultural economic engine has grown in a very natural and unpretentious manner.
Profile by: Katie Warfield (Creative City Network of Canada, 2005-2006)