Culture runs into politics – guess who wins? Cultural guru Jeremy Freiburger bites the hand that feeds him.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  May 28th, 2012  – Biting the hand that feeds you is never a wise thing to do.  Ticking off the people who sign your pay check might be called just plain dumb.

Telling a Ward Councillor in Burlington that you don’t particularly want him to attend a meeting you have called in the Councillors Ward and announcing the meeting without informing the Councillor borders on suicidal.  It gets better.  Jeremy Freiburger also advertised the events in the local newspaper without informing the Council members.

Two of the Burlington Council members are going to be away on the dates the events are to take place in their Ward’s.  Councillor Taylor will be on vacation and asked for an “interview with Freiburger. Councillor Dennison will be in Apeldoorn, our twin city in Holland the day the Cultural Conversation is to take place in his ward.

Cultural guru doesn't make any friends with Burlington council members - tells them they are not wanted at public Cultural Conversations.

Freiburger  advised the two council members that they weren’t actually wanted at the meeting.  Freiburger explained that council members sometimes influence voters unduly.  Ouch!  Most politicians believe that it is the voters who influence them.

Councillor Jack Dennison looked a little dumb struck when he heard those words and he too asked for an “interview with Freiburger.

Councillor Taylor told Freiburger that he had chosen the wrong place for the event in his ward; Councillor Lancaster added that holding two events at Tansley Woods was a mistake as well.

Cultural has its sensitivities and politics has its nuances – Freiburger may have the sensitivities of culture down pat – but he has a lot to learn about the nuances of politics.  Trust Councillors Taylor and Dennison to straighten him out very quickly.  Councillor Lancaster may also have a couple of choice words for Mr. Freiburger.

Jeremy Freiburger is the cultural guru the city has hired to oversee the development of the Cultural Plan that will come in at a little over $100,000  – $61,500 of that is provincial money, the rest came from you dear taxpayer.  If done properly a sound cultural plan can make a difference – the plan is the easy part – it is the execution of the plan that matters and that calls for as much collaboration as possible.

Telling Councillors that you don’t want them at an event in their ward that will deal with something as sensitive as culture is not what is meant by collaboration.

Mr. Freiburger may find his reception at the “interviews” he will be having on the 7th floor of city hall a little on the frosty side.

Freiburger   also oversees the city’s Public Art Plan and is shepherding the choice of art for the front of the Performing Arts Centre, which by the way is progressing nicely – there is interest from local artists, regional artists, national and international artists.

This particular piece of public art is being funded to a very significant degree by local businessman Don Laurie of Dan Laurie Insurance, a company with offices in Burlington and Hamilton.

That one has a bit of a tussle going on over just how much the city has to say about what goes on property, which the city points out to the BPAC people is property that the city owns.

The Memorandum of Agreement between the city and BPAC has yet to be signed, that has been going back and forth between the city and the lawyers for more than a year – so in actuality the BPAC people are basically just squatters.  But that’s another story we will follow up on for you.

Freiburger  was taking Council through the process he is using to get the Cultural Plan completed and in place by the end of March next year.  That is going to be tight and Freiburger is going to need Council on his side – he didn’t have them with him Monday morning.

There are plans for a very significant amount of public involvement beyond the planned ward meetings.  Interaction with the Sound of Music and the Children’s Festival is included in the plans.

Cobalt Connects is a simple concept - Freiburger went for a sophisticated look and what is really top level design - that works for the arts and design community. Burlington's city council just didn't get it.

Freiburger is a decent presenter – he would talk and then break for some back and forth question and answer.  Freiburger is a big believer that there has to be strong leadership if a Cultural Plan is to become effective and he wanted to know how Council felt about cultural management – pointing out that Burlington tends to prefer external relationships for cultural management.

“Does Council” he asked “have feelings regarding the development of internal cultural expertise vs. external?”  He got his answer – Council felt that the city could manage its own cultural plan – it just needed to put one in place.

“How often do you want to hear from us” Freiburger asked Council.  At least once a month they replied – they are going to keep this guy on a short leash.

There is a lot of rally good stuff in the plan that has been put together.  We will report in more detail later in the week.  It was given to the council members in a workshop setting – at some point it will work its way to Council Committee – that’s where the pruning will get done.


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