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Arts Go Broke.

I fear the domino of much-loved arts groups gasping their last breath has just begun:

  • Soulpepper and Factory Theatre Lab have had to pull shows from their schedules or cancel premieres.

The Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council predict that by the end of the year many more groups will turn out their lights.

The reasons are as real as they are clear: ticket prices are rising even faster than restaurant meals and airfares; government support is wobbly, and corporate sponsors are going ‘in a different direction.’ That trifecta of doom has hit  exactly when galleries, theatres and concert halls are coming out of rehab after COVID blew up their audiences and shredded their balance sheets.

But there’s another factor at play, especially in the small audiences department.

A lot of people who think they attend the arts and are great supporters of the arts groups they love, aren’t.

My wife and I are big arts attenders. We hover up the arts. But as I was raving on about Stratford last month, my listener asked: “So, when was the last time you went to Stratford?”

I was dumb-founded by his question. “Uh…let’s see…I think it was in 2019, the year before COVID.”

Which is five years ago. But you’d think, the way I ‘owned’ my connection to Stratford, that I went to every show every summer. But no. I attend its brand and its reputation. I just don’t attend its shows. There must be a word for this, and if not, someone should create one.

Then last Fall, we drove to see the McMichael Collection in Vaughan. We were amazed at how spiffy it was, how daring its shows were, how ‘new’ it all looked and felt. We asked each other when we were at McMichael last, and the answer was somewhere around 10 to 15 years ago. Ugh.

I’ll bet there are thousands of people like us, who are also ‘big attenders’ who do everything but the one thing the arts we love need from us: our attendance.

As Woody Allen once said: “80% of life is turning up.”


1.Accept your idiocy. Rule 4 of Rules to Live By from The School of Life.

Which brings me to death, whose definition is now more fluid than we thought. As the MIT Technology Review noted: “In 2019, scientists reported in Nature that they were able to restore a suite of functions in the brains of 32 pigs that had been decapitated in a slaughterhouse four hours earlier. The researchers restarted circulation and cellular activity in the brains using an oxygen-rich artificial blood infused with a cocktail of protective pharmaceuticals. “In 2022, [researchers were] able to recover many functions in multiple organs, including the brain and heart, in whole-body pigs that had been killed an hour earlier. They continued the experiment for six hours and confirmed that the anesthetized, previously dead animals had regained circulation and that numerous key cellular functions were active.”

But don’t confuse that with coming back to life. At least not yet.

2. Moving pictures. It’s remarkable how colorization can bring the past to life.

Even more affecting is this commercial on how love can be messy.

3. Against mediocrity. No one planned for our homes and cities to be like this. But they are. Why?

Speaking of which, I first thought “I’m going to get me one of these!” Then I saw the review.

4. Wild women. First, Fran Lebowitz on the joy of revenge. Next, Michelle Obama on the same.  Sharon Stone on the new meaning of diversityHelena Bonham-Carter (via Mary Oliver) on worrying. And Reshma Saujani on men.

5. “In the world.” The smallest public movie theatre in the world is in Stratford, Ontario. The largest dark sky sanctuary in the world is in Oregon. The most expensive drug in the world (at $4.25 million a dose) is in America.

6. How to…tie your shoelaces. It’s easy and will add hours of calm to your mudroom. Get inside 5 great cities. Ask the concierge of their top hotels. Learn how to pick locks.

7. The virtues of slow writing. Never having done that (and recall, Kazuo Ishiguro drafted The Remains of the Day in four weeks), I found this essay eye-opening.

8. Canada’s maple syrup reserves. They’re critically low, according to the Toronto Star. “Quebec’s strategic reserve of maple syrup, a trio of vast warehouses that typically hold tens of thousands of barrels, is nearing empty after a couple of warm winters collided with a pandemic-era spike in demand. Built to hold 133 million pounds of syrup, the reserve has dwindled to just 6.9 million pounds, a fraction of where it sat just four years ago.”

9.  A primer on stopping deepfakes. “Deepfakes are non-consensually AI-generated voices, images or videos that are created to produce sexual imagery, commit fraud, or spread misinformation.” We’ve all seen them, though likely not the worst of them. What to do? Let’s start here.

10. Singin’ and dancin’ and meowin. First the cat orchestra. Next, Shut Up and Dance. Finally, The Tenors sing “Danny Boy”at Brian Mulroney’s funeral.

11. What I’m liking. The Japanese gangster series, Tokyo Vice, is now in Season 2 on Crave. It’s dark, dense, intriguing and full of cultural surprises (Yakuza carry business cards and have head offices). The protagonist is based on the memoir of Jake Adelstein, an American who was a police reporter at Japan’s largest newspaper.  Adelstein was interviewed on NPR in 2009 when his book was published. It re-played last week.

12. And finally, Happy Easter….from me, but much more important, from Donald Trump.




Both trips are curated by karibu adventures, a boutique travel offering founded by former journalist and foreign correspondent, Andrea Mandel-Campbell. She brings a journalistic lens to the karibu offering – introducing you to people and places and experiences you might not otherwise have.

Andrea has written about both trips and the origins of karibu in the latest edition of Harrowsmith Magazine, which you can read here.

The Italy trip is limited to 12 people and 3 spots are open; the Vancouver Island trip is limited to 10 people, and 7 places are open.

So sign up now for the kind of summer you really want, and deserve.

Contact Andrea Mandel-Campbell directly to learn more about these trips and to book your spot. 1.888.969.7712.


Bob Ramsay

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