Culture Heritage & Society

Dyer, Jennifer (2014) Culture Heritage & Society. In: NL Forum 2014 , November 4 & 5 2014, St. John's NL.

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In the ten years since its inception in 2004, The Harris Centre has brought together diverse groups of practitioners, communities, artists, audiences, funding agencies, and researchers with public and private stakeholders in the development of culture, heritage, and society in Newfoundland and Labrador. Issues in culture, heritage, and society in the province include the practice, promotion and maintenance of (1) crafts and the arts, (2) media and recording, (3) institutions of social archiving, celebrating, and educating, (4) cultural traditions and symbolic practices, and (5) vernacular forms of knowledge and living. In addition to this, culture, heritage, and society includes education about how cultural and social forms are accessed, transmitted, protected and reconfigured, and the places in which they occur, whether those places are natural or artificial. It is obvious from the projects and participants involved in these Harris Centre sponsored works that Newfoundland and Labrador includes many diverse cultural groups with distinct traditions, needs, expertise and formations. The theme of culture, heritage, and society is fundamental in promoting regional development and public policy across the province, which is the stated mandate of the Harris Centre. The importance of culture, heritage, and society is shown in Harris Centre programming in two ways. First of all, these activities have inherent social value on their own, but in order to have political and economic value they also require ties to other explicitly commercial concerns, such as tourism, trade, or rural development. This suggests that in order to promote cultural, heritage and social activities, we must reveal their connections and tertiary value in larger and more economically viable projects, such as tourism, in order to bolster the impact and value of both. This is a strategy of corporate sponsorship that works to promote heritage and culture, practices such as painting and sculpture, television and radio, oral culture, design and craft, theatre, literature, festivals, museums, clothing, cuisine, sports, come home days and traditional ways of living. In this respect, Harris Centre funding, promotion and support is providedto cultural practitioners who are able to take advantage of it. When these events and activities can be appended to regional tourism, to the development of outport and rural areas, or to the marketing of the province, then all of these cultural elements become stronger and more economically feasible. Yet it is worth remembering that culture, heritage, and society are important for more fundamental reasons that also have been addressed by some Memorial Presents, Synergy Session forums, Newfoundland Quarterly articles and Applied Research projects sponsored by the Harris Centre. So second of all, culture, heritage, and society are important for specific reasons in and of themselves. They have intrinsic value in life. The majority of Harris Centre works that fall under the theme of culture, heritage, and society are tied to more economically oriented projects, such as tourism. However, there is a minor thread in its programming that argues that a well-administered democratic state in which citizens are encouraged to be knowledgeable and engaged in their communities cannot exist without Culture, Heritage and Social practices. These practices teach about, and bring to light the identities and potential for communities. The activities of our diverse cultures within Newfoundland and Labrador, and the histories therein, provide people with strong identities, of which they can be proud, but also from which they can generate strength, stability and social cohesion. Moreover, these cultural practices and histories—what I will call the arts in general—promote the primary values we live by, values such as freedom, experimentation, diversity, concern. When we get immersed in Jamie Skidmore’s play Song of the Mermaid (2013) or caught up in the sounds of Mi’kma’ki recorded by Janice Tulk (2007), or relive a Newfoundland and Labrador song, story or oral narrative as documented by Ursula Kelly (2013), when we learn to attend to these cultural events we learn about who we are, where we are from, and what we are capable of doing, for better or worse. Attention not only opens an aspect of our own experience of the world to include the fulfilment of aesthetic experience, but it encourages us to recognize our biases and to see others more fully on their own terms. We learn to attend to others—other people and other cultures—as seriously as we attend to ourselves, putting aside our own interests to understand those of another. These are the values of culture, heritage, and society, these values underpin all other activities. They teach us to see beyond our everyday concerns and to think in new ways. From this we can learn innovation, experimentation, and thinking outside the box. In terms of the culture, heritage, and society of Newfoundland and Labrador, we realize what makes us unique and attractive as a culture is also what connects us to different parts of Canada and the world. As Ursula Kelly argues in the August 2013 Memorial Presents keynote lecture “Pushing Back from the Edge: Education in Difficult Times,” an emphasis on culture, heritage, and society or the Arts in general promotes groups and individuals to think critically, creatively and independently and to pay moral attention to others, one’s place, and one’s well-being.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Item ID: 8205
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Communication Studies
Divisions > The Harris Centre
Date: 4 November 2014
Date Type: Publication

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