So I’m sitting in a little office on the fourth floor of the science building at the university, and she’s telling me how important the arts are to all of us. It’s the day after the big spring storm. I have little damp spots up my leg from the cars splashing slush and, like most other people, I am coping mostly by ignoring the snow.

Sitting comfortably at her desk she tells me I caught her on a bad day. But she’s so energetic I wonder what she’s like when she’s not tired. She is Jennifer Dyer and I’ve come to talk to her about arts communities and arts funding in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I’m asking her because I heard about her research project that is looking at patterns of arts support in the province (funded by the Harris Centre) and because she’s giving a talk at an upcoming event organized by Business and Arts and the Newfoundland Quarterly, where I now work. (May 2nd, you’re all invited.)

I’m impressed by all of this because where I come from—Alberta—cuts to the arts over the years were taken much more quietly. But here and now in Newfoundland and Labrador, funding cuts have become something to shout about and to organize around. Almost everybody is talking about it.

This is where professor Dyer’s research comes in, I think. She’s been talking to artists, arts organizations, and arts funders across the province. A lot of people are like me: even though poetry is the only reason I get up in the morning these days, and even though I know how important the arts are to my life and to the lives of family and friends, I couldn’t say how that might apply to arts industries and economies on a provincial scale.

There’s not a lot of arts-related data being collected in the province, Dyer says, so “you have no idea what you are basing your policy on except for national information that may not actually pertain to NL.” Policies that reflect the lives, stories, and voices of its own arts communities will create provincial supports that can respond to the things artists are already doing to get through tough times.

During our conversation, Dyer told me about three things she’s noticed NL artists here have going for them already. One is the ability to create strong, flexible artistic communities.

There are two more strengths she talked about, but you’ll just have to come to What’s Arts Got to Do With It on May 2 to hear Dyer’s talk and stay to discuss how we can work to build a stronger arts community.  It’s free, but you need to register here:

Michelle Porter is a writer and doctoral student working with the Newfoundland Quarterly. She wants to know what you’ve been doing to make art work in these tough economic times. Drop down to the May 2 event or contact her with your story (