CULTURAT is a widespread mobilization and sustainable development effort to significantly affect the Abitibi-Témiscamingue area with arts and culture, notably through:
1. the beautification of the area through art, flowers and green spaces;
2. bringing people together, notably through the social inclusion of Algonquin communities;
3. showcasing the area’s local products with a view of sustainable development;
4. highlighting culture through education authorities, notably by developing worksheets and workshops;
5. awareness of the business sector and the importance of culture and the arts;
6. promoting arts and culture in urban planning and managing public spaces marked by culture;
7. sharing information and knowledge, and inviting people to participate as citizens via the culturat.org website;
8. the mobilization of all the sectors around arts and culture with a view of sustainable development, notably through creating committees and advisory boards.
CULTURAT creates a strong synergy between culture and the other sectors (municipalities, businesses, cultural and tourist organizations, schools, Algonquin communities, media and citizens) which enables culture to become a significant factor in tourism, social, environmental and economic development in the region. By doing this, the attractiveness of the region is also going up for its citizens, tourists and those who have yet to arrive while strengthening residents’ attachment to the land and cultural diversity.
CULTURAT is in line with the principles of Agenda 21 for Culture and includes all community spheres to mark the area using arts and culture, as well as focus on cultural development to improve the quality of life.
Through CULTURAT, it was possible to implement tools to foster community understanding, adherence and action for this widespread movement based on sustainable development for the cultural sector:
- Designing the unique www.culturat.org website and having it go live to facilitate networking with the cultural sector (Répertoire des artistes et organismes);
- A list of 10 actions to be carried out under CULTURAT to all sectors of activity, a calendar of cultural activities in the area, models of contracts to hire local artists, guides, pricing charts, etc.;
- Signing the participation charter, which marks the commitment of 53 municipalities (out of 65 in the region), along with all the Algonquin communities chambers of commerce in the region, as well as several organizations;
- Support the creation of local committees through CULTURAT in certain municipalities in the region to make it easier to carry out projects based on arts and culture;
- Encourage citizen participation through a “Participe au décor” outdoor space beautification contest;
- Campaign to promote the process with citizens in the region in order to position the movement. By wearing blue, people are visually showing that they adhere to CULTURAT;
- Campaign to promote cultural tourist attractions and invite citizens from the region to take advantage of these sites;
- “Mon été CULTURAT” contest with citizens in the region, with the goal of discovering the region’s cultural products;
- Creation of an Anicinabe cultural circle with the goal of uniting the seven communities in the area to make known and showcase the Anicinabe culture;
- Establishing the Fonds CULTURAT pour la ruralité to allow the rural areas to promote artistic and cultural activity in the area by professional artists.
Thanks to CULTURAT, a widespread mobilization effort has begun, a communal action strategy between municipalities and the area has been developed, and many sectors of society have become involved, all while integrating arts and culture into the various areas of life. The ultimate objective is to mark the area with arts and culture in both rural and urban sections. The following aspects have been noted:
- an increase and improvement in cultural tourism activities;
- increased visibility for the region;
- increased “positive” media coverage by establishing a community strategy based on mobilization;
- stronger Aboriginal presence in Algonquin communities in carrying out CULTURAT projects;
- a contribution to pride in Anicinabe culture by showcasing it
- strong ties to the area by the resident population and training cultural ambassadors;
- stronger presence in social networks and on the regional products website;
- a more flowery and welcoming environment.
In terms of cross-sectoral impacts, CULTURAT:
- encourages cultural diversity by better integration of Algonquin community members in the cultural dynamism of the region;
- helps to improve the quality of life;
- maintains environmental integrity through beautification and flowers;
- encourages municipalities to join in citizen participation, along with public and private cultural development partners;
- helps to strengthen ties between culture and education;
- population retention because of the region’s increased attractiveness for tourists;
- accentuates sustainable development by encouraging local purchases.
The material, financial and human resources allocated to the mobilization of Tourisme Abitibi-Témiscamingue has grown to nearly $CAD 700,000 since 2012. These amounts do not include the works of art on buildings that belong to businesspeople, or even green spaces in municipalities. Furthermore, sponsorships from local media (newspaper, television, radio) allow us to reach every home, and thus far, the amount has increased to over $600,000.
Under the recommendation of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, a partnership was established between Tourisme Abitibi-Témiscamingue and the Université du Québec in Abitibi-Témiscamingue to scientifically document CULTURAT and notably make it easier to analyze and improve it. These documentation efforts on the origins and implementation of CULTURAT did not undergo formal evaluation, however.
Administrators are currently involved in strategic planning to ensure the continuity of this process, which will have to involve a more structured analytical review on the actions carried out thus far.
After CULTURAT has been implemented for a few years, it is obvious that local governments will mobilize around culture to increase synergy, empowerment and the combined effort of many stakeholders in the area to better draw on the regions’ cultural assets. CULTURAT ensures that small communities have better management over their own cultural resources by compensating for the lack of cultural policies and isolation. Furthermore, an increased quality of life has a direct influence on the region’s attractiveness and retention capacity—two major factors for local governments that are currently experiencing closures of many regional and municipal bodies.