Today was a big day for downtown Sarnia. A large number of downtowners went to a council meeting where they were deciding the fate of the new Lambton Gallery project. It’s been quite a long battle for some and we are thrilled that it went through.
What was most moving for me today thought was listening to person after person speak in front of council about their love for downtown, the art gallery and the culture down here. There was passion in their voices. There was excitement in the air. It is pretty exciting to see a bunch of twenty somethings take ownership for their city.
This art gallery is a long term plan that will only bring more health to our city. Integrating art with our children and into our culture is a crucial part of building healthy citizens that seek the welfare of the entire city not just their own backyard. Many of the same people that fight for art in the city are the same ones that fight for the marginalized and advocate for those that don’t have a voice. This isn’t meeting present needs of overnight housing like a homeless shelter would or safer streets like a stronger police for might; rather it is seeking to build a stronger foundation so homeless shelters and more security are things that are less needed. These are long term goals, not short-sighted fixes. This isn’t to say there is anything wrong with the short-term fixes, they are obviously needed, but they need to be balanced out with long term goals of justice, not temporary acts of mercy.
Giving the art gallery a prominent spot in the downtown, and giving them the opportunity to restore a historical building is a perfect fit. Art is about restoring and displaying the beauty in things that most people would not see. Restoring an old building to be a new gallery is art in itself and it needs to be upheld. It would have been easy to spread out of the city, take over more farmland and build a box with some windows, but going this route is risky and brave, artsy and intentional and I think it is what cities are made out of. It is when a city takes a risk on art when cultural centers start to thrive.
There is still quite a bit of opposition to the gallery, and much of it is about the amount of money spent. I find this odd only because the large majority of money being spent isn’t really up for negotiation of to where it is allocated, rather it is either here for the arts or it isn’t. We can either accept the free money from the federal government or we can turn it down. There is another group of those that simply dislike the arts and they don’t want their tax dollars spent there because they don’t think they need it. Which is fine, we all have to sacrifice a bit. I for one do not think I need the police force and would prefer my tax dollars not spent to beef it up, after all they only give me parking tickets and cost me more money.
Good job today people. It was an important day us all in seeing what a group of Sarnia citizens can accomplish when we really believe in something together.