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Premier's Award for Excellence in the Arts

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Premier's Award for Excellence in the Arts

Office of the Premier

Welcome to the 2010 Premier's Arts Awards.

I am very pleased to be here tonight to celebrate your achievements and to recognize the vital place that the arts have in Ontario.

We created the Premier's Award for Excellence in the Arts only four years ago and it was high time.

My government thought it was important to recognize, celebrate, support and promote the arts in Ontario -- and we do this, this evening, by giving awards to exceptional artists and arts organizations.

To all our artists present here, and to all who are pursuing their passion for the arts in Ontario, I have a simple message: Thank you for everything you do for us.

Thank you for enriching our lives.

It was the great writer, John Updike, who said: "what art offers is space -- a certain breathing room for the spirit."

You -- our artists -- give us that breathing room.

Your commitment, passion and talent help us all take a deep, sustaining breath,
which is all the more appreciated as we live increasingly hectic, just-in-time lives.

It takes a special kind of person to forge a career in the arts because while you enrich our lives, that often comes with real financial hardship for you.

It is just plain hard trying to earn a living as an artist.

I'm reminded of that story about the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

It's a cold winter's day and they're on their way to a gig when their bus breaks down.

So the musicians grab their instruments and start walking.

Before long, they come across a cosy little house.

Inside, a family is sitting around the dinner table, talking, laughing and enjoying each other's company.

Outside, the band members, damp and shivering, are gazing at this idyllic Norman Rockwell scene.

Finally, one of the musicians turns to another and asks, "Man, how do people live like that?"

Life in the arts is not for the faint of heart.

Thank you for your strength, your courage, your drive and dedication.

And thanks to all the families, friends and colleagues who've supported you, encouraged you -- tolerated you, when that was called for -- loved you and sustained you.

You are making Ontario stronger.

You're contributing immeasurably to the extraordinary quality of life we enjoy here in Ontario.

You have made Ontario a cultural destination through countless festivals like Stratford, Winterlude, Luminato, Shaw and Cinefest in Sudbury.

You have excelled at your craft, which is visible in so many ways in virtually all our communities.

Tonight, we honour the individuals and organizations who have given so much to our province.

And yes, we proudly do so at a time when the economy remains a real concern for us.

It's only reasonable that today people are focused on the economy, recovery and jobs.

So let's not shrink from that -- let's, for a moment, talk about the economic side of culture.

The arts employ over 200,000 people in Ontario.

The arts generate almost $20 billion a year for the Ontario economy.

Last year was rough, and still, attendance at Ontario festivals was up by over half a million from 2008 -- and visitor spending was up by $50 million.

Here's my point.

Art is a social good and an economic good.

By any measure, art is not a frill -- it's an investment in our better selves

My job as Premier is to give expression to the ideals and values of the people I represent.

So, I will tell you, unequivocally, we Ontarians value our arts and our artists.

That's why, as a government, we've invested $2 billion in culture since 2003.

We're doing it, not just because we want to invest financially in arts and artists, but also because we are investing in ourselves.

We are investing in our quality of life.

Our arts and culture help make our province one of the liveliest and most diverse places in the world.

Expressing my appreciation for the arts is more than just my responsibility as Premier.

It's personal.

My father began his life in very humble circumstances.

He was the first in his family to graduate from high school.

He went on to study business.

And then he moved to the States and worked in business for a few years.

Until he decided he didn't enjoy business.

So he went back to school and got his PhD in English literature.

And for 30 years, he taught Shakespeare and romantic poetry.

Because he loved it.

My father helped me understand a society does not reveal itself through its golf courses and its shopping malls.

Rather, we give expression to who we are, where we've been and where we long to go, we give expression to our humanity, through our art.

And we would have no art, without our artists.

So, on behalf of 13 million Ontarians, to all of our artists and creators: thank you for following your hearts, for enriching our lives and for helping to make Ontario the greatest province in the best country in the world.

Congratulations to all of our award recipients and nominees.

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