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A school for medicine, architecture…perhaps now a school for the arts

As a devoted promoter of the arts, I’ve attended many meetings, forums and debates on ways to support artists in the city. The most original idea I have heard comes from Dr. David Robinson, an economist who has a gift for being able to see and state the obvious in a way people like me who flunked economics can understand.
Robinson helped the city embrace its strengths as a world leader in mining-related services. Later he brought some of the city’s brightest minds together to develop a plan to establish a School of Architecture when most people considered it a pipe dream.
Now he has a new idea. He suggests Laurentian University could and should establish a School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCAPA). The program would be unique in Canada as an incubator for Northern Ontario stories and build on the city’s reputation as the centre of Franco-Ontarian culture while nurturing emerging First Nations artists.
The city has all the right stuff right now: talented people, a university and two colleges offering theatre, music, fine arts and communications programs, as well as dance schools, a symphony, two professional theatres, several community theatre groups, book publishing houses and a thriving film industry.
All that’s needed is a will, a way, a governing body and a little branding. SCAPA would keep our talent at home while attracting students and teachers from throughout the country. Each student represents an investment of $20,000 in the local economy annually, says Robinson.
We know in the future there will be jobs with no people (robots), people with no jobs, and lots of retired baby boomers. Employment in the arts, tourism and other creative pursuits as well as sports and recreation will provide the jobs of the tomorrow. A leisure society has to do something besides go to Tim Hortons and play computer games.
Robinson has all sorts of economic statistics to make a strong argument for SCAPA. He’s not alone in recognizing the importance of creative thinkers. Educators in places such as Harvard and the University of New South Wales in Australia are suggesting a master’s of fine arts will be as valuable as an MBA in tomorrow’s economy.
Steven Tepper, associate director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee says, “Many people see artists as shamans, dreamers, outsiders, and rebels. In reality, the artist is a builder, an engineer, a research analyst, a human relations expert, a project manager, a communications specialist, and a salesman. The artist is all of those and more combined with the imagination of an inventor and the courage of an explorer. Not a bad set of talents for any business challenged to innovate in a world of volatility, uncertainty, and change.”


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