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Cambridge festival highlights city's commitment to arts and culture

Council approved the Arts and Culture Action Plan on Tuesday
Photographer Tara Markov stands with three of her photographs outside city hall during a press conference for the Cambridge Celebration of the Arts.

The community gathered at city hall on Thursday afternoon for a press conference ahead of the Cambridge Celebration of the Arts festival on June 14.

It was the latest step in the city showing its commitment to arts and culture after council approved the Arts and Culture Action Plan at a meeting on Tuesday night.

The plan outlines the vision, strategic priorities and recommendations for developing and enhancing arts and culture services, facilities and programming in Cambridge.

Part of the approval was an ask for a $25,000 increase to the operational budget for existing events that will be considered in the 2025 budget process, including for the Celebration of the Arts.

In March of 2021, consulting firm Nordicity was retained to work alongside the city's Recreation and Culture division to devise the plan with $101,500 in funding that was approved as part of the 2022 budget.

Local photographer Tara Markov is one of the artists taking part in the festival. Having grown up in Cambridge, she's seen the arts scene change over the years and is excited for it to continue to grow.

"I think it's changed quite a bit, especially with the emergence of technology," Markov said.

"With our new library, I printed my pieces there, and they give people access to technology they wouldn't be able to get or even afford. Embroidery artists, 3D printing artists and having laser cutters, it's brilliant."

Markov believes with more focus being put on art in the city, local talent will benefit from the exposure.

"We have a very young emerging crowd," she said.

"We're getting a lot of people from Kitchener, Waterloo and Toronto and they're bringing their work and expertise here. We're keeping it a small town vibe while keeping it open, available and inclusive to other cultures."

Mayor Jan Liggett voted in favour of the action plan and sees the festival as a way to showcase the talent within the community.

"It's part of the Cambridge experience," Liggett said.

"This event, among others, is another reason why Cambridge is a great place to live, visit and celebrate the arts."

While the action plan ultimately passed by an 8-1 vote, Ward 1 councillor Helen Shwery voted against it.

Shwery felt taxpayers shouldn't be on the hook for any increases and voiced her opinion at Tuesday's meeting, requesting external funding options be examined.

"I'm a lover of art but I'm also a lover of saving money and being fiscally responsible," Shwery said.

"What bothers me is this year we increased property taxes over seven per cent because of saying we needed money. I get many calls from unhappy residents that say they're paying taxes for services they aren't getting. I would suggest the group looks to external funding and sponsorship, as currently taxpayers have no money."

The Cambridge Celebration of the Arts will showcase over 40 professional artists.

The festival features a mix of local artists, from painters and poets to musicians and crafters and has drawn as many as 5,000 people to the core in past years.