Monday, February 20, 2012

Tech and the public service shrink as the arts and sports bloom

Ottawa Fashion Week has come and gone and I have to say I'm a little proud. I didn't attend this season but from a distance I can tell the event has grown. The Ottawa International Film Festival also seems to be going strong recently finishing their 72-hour challenge.

I've always seen these attractions as good for economic development, but I've begun to see that they serve a greater purpose for city-building and developing local identity.

Two of the ways in which they do that is by (a) providing a platform or outlet for people's crafts, and (b) inspiring people to dream.

As a child I always wanted to be a baseball player when I grew up. That dream came about after regular visits to Exhibition Stadium with my family to watch the Blue Jays. I was a huge Jesse Barfield fan. I wanted to hit home runs like him and throw people out at the plate from deep in right field like him. I even practiced his hitting stance in the mirror. If the Blue Jays weren't in Toronto I would've never joined a baseball league or dreamed of being a pro baseball player. Their presence in the city alone made me a dreamer.

Today there are quite a few basketball players from the Greater Toronto Area who have either made it to the NBA or are in American high schools and the NCAA hoping to go pro in a few years. The Raptors have inspired a generation of young Raptors fans to one day play in the NBA.

Once people have dreamed and have begun to pursue their passions, these kinds of attractions also give people an outlet to work and grow in their craft.

Bluesfest has given groups like Philly Moves a significant local platform to work their craft. Ottawa Fashion Week and the Ottawa International Film Festival have given local fashion designers and film makers an outlet for their craft.

New attractions like Nuit Blanche, AA baseball, NASL soccer, and CFL football will also give aspiring local artists and athletes both inspiration and/or a possible platform.

Big cities like Toronto attract people because they inspire them with possibilities and provide so many outlets for people to work in their craft, especially on a full-time basis. Ottawa is slowly getting to that place, partly through the attractions that are growing in the city.

Today Ottawa is only known for government and technology, but how many of our children will aspire to be athletes, artists, fashion designers, film makers, and musicians because of the platforms that are being built in our city today? How many people would be able to stay in Ottawa and be successful in their craft because there's a platform available in the city instead of having to move elsewhere?

Many people, including myself, have said Ottawa is becoming a big city because it's becoming more dense and it's getting proper rail infrastructure (including a subway), but I also believe what is making Ottawa a big city is that through the hard work of some visionary people it's slowly starting to build those platforms and ecosystems in certain industries that will allow people to aspire and work in the area of their passions.

Some people are mourning the shrinking of our technology sector and cuts to the public service, which are unfortunate, but it's time to get excited about the growth of fashion, art, music, sports, and film in our city. Ottawa is growing up right before our eyes!

Kevin Bourne

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