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Creative: Strengthen your spirit

Art as an Economic Force

Arguments can be made as to the value of art in any of its forms. Who needs art? We can live without paintings, without music, without dance, without film, without any of it, right?

Put that question to any old-timer who lives in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. They can tell you how art saved their town. The story starts with a man named Tom Patterson. Here is an excerpt from the archives of the Stratford Theatre Festival:

In the early 1950s, seeing the economy of his home town endangered by the withdrawal of the railway industry that had sustained it for nearly 80 years, Patterson conceived the idea of turning Stratford into a cultural destination by mounting a theatre festival devoted to the works of William Shakespeare.

Stratford Theatre Festival's first tent

Stratford Theatre Festival's first tent

On January 22, 1952, Patterson presented his plan to Stratford City Council, which gave him a grant of $125 to seek artistic advice. On February 14, a Chamber of Commerce subcommittee was formed under the leadership of Harrison Showalter, a local soft-drinks manufacturer who proved to be no less dedicated in pursuit of this bold vision than Patterson himself.

The story goes on to relate how Tom Patterson’s vision gradually took shape and gained support. The legendary British director, Tyrone Guthrie became its first Artistic Director and Alec Guinness starred in the inaugural performance of Richard III. When Guinness spoke the play’s opening lines – "Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of York" – his words aptly marked the beginning of an astonishing new chapter in Canadian theatre history.

Now, some sixty years later, the Stratford Theatre Festival has grown to be a world-famous destination for great theatre - and - an economic force for the entire region.

The garden at Stratford

The garden at Stratford

Check out their 2014 season here: http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/

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Cover photo by Kathleen Franks

Background image by Getty Images

© 2014 - 2017 Kathleen Franks