Words by Kat Runnalls 

“The city is striving to create a sense of place—a strong, positive identity for each area and the city as a whole. Neighbourhoods need their personality, a “heart.” Great places—unique, welcoming, livable, beautiful—contribute to an improved quality of life, engage the public realm, and reinforce a sense of community.”—Mississauga Strategic Plan, p. 24

Let’s nurture and develop people’s capacity to experience creativity, innovation, risk-taking, joy, awe, amusement, compassion, contentment, pride, accomplishment and resilience. Let’s capture hearts to make more human-centred meaningful connections and places in our own neighbourhoods.

If we have the heart for it—let’s create one of the most livable
creative cities.

“On an individual level, the arts can stimulate, inspire and entertain. At the neighbourhood level, strong artistic environments may contribute to changes in local economies, social environments, neighbourhood character and demographics. In short, a strong artistic community anchored in strong local neighbourhoods can enhance the whole community’s well?being.” —Artists and Cultural Workers in Mississauga: A Neighbourhood View (Hill Strategies, 2010)

If there were cultural development staff working right within our neighbourhoods, from our libraries, community centres or other sites, providing the needed resources and training to enable the production of local plays in our parks, murals on building walls, banners on our streets, community public art and heritage projects.

Mississauga, like many cities in Ontario, began a serious foray into cultural development, planning and policy within the last decade or so. The City created the Culture Division in 2007 in part to “transform our neighbourhoods and the City Centre into vibrant cultural nodes.” Since that time, the division has increased its commitment to the arts and heritage by bolstering its staff to over 50 people and has a proposed 2014 budget of $6,817,000.

In 2009, the division undertook a Culture Master Plan outlining a five-year commitment to the development of arts, culture and heritage. The goals reflected the need to support creative individuals and strengthen organizations, infrastructure and the public realm. As the Culture Master Plan is winding down this year and Mississauga embarks on changing the political guard and possibly its civic culture, this is the opportune moment to deploy some grassroots creative tactics!

kat3Ask anyone on the street in neighbourhoods other than City Centre if they see any evidence of cultural staff working regularly in their neighbourhood. The answer would likely be no. Yet if you ask the same question about community recreation, arena, senior centre or library staff, the answer would likely be yes.

Imagine the potential for development of arts, culture and heritage at the neighbourhood level if cultural staff were also in our midst and cultivating this wonderful diversity, creativity and talent. We know we are a young city, but should this prevent us from becoming a beacon of best practice… a veritable Barcelona of the world? Are we not empowered with enough creative ideas, projects and flights of fancy that override a more sedate, conservative, policydriven lack of appetite for being extraordinary?

Every day, some creative neighbour will astonish you. So what do we need to share this wealth and make this an even more captivating place to live, learn and create? As a start, what about:

Partnerships of neighbourhood artists, artisans, designers, architects, business leaders, educators and folk to harness the rich talents of our ages, knowledge, skills, social class and ethnic backgrounds. The creative possibilities are endless.

The Mississauga Cultural Resource Partnership (MCRP) was established in 2010. “The objective of the partnership was to create an informal forum where key cultural organizations, community associations, educational establishments, other levels of government and business affiliates can meet regularly, [and] learn and share useful information that is relevant to Mississauga’s cultural development.” (mississauga.ca)

At an overarching policy and information-sharing level, this may very well work as a city-wide endeavour. However, tactically, our neighbourhoods are rife with opportunities for partnering at the local level. Facilitated by cultural staff, these neighbourhood cultural partnerships could:

If the City were to develop a Cultural Investment Strategy which reflected neighbourhood priorities and outlined new opportunities to collaborate with funding partners. This strategy could address any gaps in grant funding in support of artists and artisans, creative projects, cultural development, infrastructure and knowledge building.

The vision of the 2009 Mississauga Culture Master Plan advocates a “focus on building a cultural infrastructure that is community-driven and neighbourhood-focused.”

The City currently administers several traditional grant programs to support cultural festivals and major celebrations and to assist new, emerging and established organizations by providing limited operating, project and capital funds. Strategic partnerships at the local level would encourage other resources to support new creative endeavours and initiatives.

The creation of a cultural development authority could oversee a new cultural investment strategy to disseminate resources both at the local and city-wide level, such as:

If we were to harness the hearts and creative spirit at the local level, marry this to partners in the community and create new ways of sharing resources, supporting cultural development and strengthening infrastructure. Think of the possibilities!