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Governments around the world have responded with various interventions. Canada has performed admirably, most notably with the announcement of a $500-million fund for cultural, heritage and sport organizations; the Canada Council’s Digital Originals program to support artists and arts organizations pivoting to digital during the pandemic; additional advanced funding from the Canada Council; $1,000 to each act that performs in the National Arts Centre’s #CanadaPerforms series; as well as numerous provincial and municipal initiatives, among others.

These programs offer helpful short-term relief for arts communities and audiences, but they do not go far enough in looking to the future. We need to envision the role of culture in the “post lockdown” world with large-scale unemployment, seating limitations and safety precautions, as well as more activity occurring outdoors, digitally and in the public realm. In this world, the cultural sphere can reduce social distance while maintaining physical distance.

A 21st century WPA would require co-ordination across all levels of government, though federal leadership and dollars would be crucial sparks. The devil would be in the details of governance, technology and implementation. But angels fly from a vision of a better world, and this is what we need to allow ourselves to imagine.

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