By Linda J. Pedley
Ask people to define culture and it garners a myriad of answers. Based on a combination of their own thoughts, the interaction of physical things, internal emotions and external influences, people derive their response. It is a concoction of where they were born, how they were brought up, where they now live, what they do, and their interpretation of those integral parts as they work together. It is defined not only by who they are, but influenced by what they encounter and learn along the way.
Formal definitions place culture as the inherent characteristics of a particular group of people defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music, and arts. In western society, culture is largely influenced by the many groups of people that make up the country affected over time by immigration and the integration of old world values into our changing societal norms. The culture of a specific demographic can be entrenched in its historical foundations or founded in a commonality shared by the group. The culture of a settled old world country is very different from that of a western urban city affected by dynamic modern influences and, often, a transient population.
In general, the mention of culture is "high brow” and above what some would say applies to them - this misunderstanding is perpetuated by those who pass this belief down to their kids, or associate with others, who have the same mistaken definition. Elevating the appreciation of the arts and higher learning to an unattainable status means many are missing out on valuable education.
The same general misconception between definition and interpretation also applies to "the arts” - many thinking it is merely to do with the physical painting or visual art. This is so far from the truth. Arts can be music, dance, theatre, culinary, literary, and visual - to name a few. Unfortunately, to many, an Arts Expo or Market or Exhibit is simply a display of paintings - and, for the most part, it does not generate the interest expected.
An appreciation for the arts is learned and must be cultivated and supported and shown to be worthy of time and effort. Those who focus only on sports and the physical pursuits as part of a healthy upbringing are contributing to a disproportionate life experience. True, our physical health and well being is important, but so is our emotional, spiritual, and mental health for a well-balanced journey.
Education and the arts stimulate an appreciation for beauty and creativity. It is often borne of a passion found deep within our soul. This greatly expands an individual’s personal growth and understanding in discovery of self and the action of sharing. The collaboration of many creative and imaginative-minded individuals contributes to the cultural identity of the community, as a whole. To neglect this, is not only a shame, but short-sighted and blinkered. To experience all the facets life has to offer enhances, not only our own life journey, but also what we have to contribute in return.
In Strathcona County we are lucky to have a group dedicated to raising awareness about arts and culture in our community who make it their mandate to promote, educate, and advocate on behalf of their members and the community. For more information on the Arts & Culture Council of Strathcona County visit their web site. Want to find out more about what the Council does and visit with some of their members? Check out one of their signature events: Celebration of the Arts held in February.