Making Culture: English-Canadian Institutions and the Arts before the Massey Commission

Maria Tippett

Maria Tippett traces traditional patterns of "cultural activism" in the first half of the century and fashions a "collective story" of colonial Canada's unofficial culture. From the elitist hobbyists with their drama and choral groups to the professional artists she wants inscribed, Tippett identifies traditions amid the disparate cultural diversions and entertainments. Tippett argues that the Massey Commission and subsequently the Canada Council grow out of a heritage, and not out of cultural lack or anecdotal experience.

A widely researched and readable text, Making Culture is partly chronological and partly thematic in structure, with Tippett mapping the amateurs' efforts at replicating British culture in Anglophone Canada and the processes that stimulated the making of English-Canadian culture. Both garnered state support and private patronage, setting the stage for official culture.

The "bottom up" interests of community groups and the "top down" approaches of institutions such as the CBC and the NFB conventionalized a broad educational model based on cultural borrowing and nationalism. Where the ideology of pan-Canadianism drove the nationalist imagery of World War II and was formalized by government sponsorship, the notion that culture was good for us was felt, not just prescribed. Professionalism in the arts stemmed from a working understanding the "good" meant artistic standards not just moral imperatives or state agendas.

Tippett discusses the personal role of the Massey family and its philanthropy in developing English-Canadian culture alongside the American Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations' philanthropy in Canada, without valorizing the internal influence or devaluing the external ones. Through juxtaposition, she effectively compares family-style patronage with the American foundations' largesse. Through her historical purview, Tippett implicitly taps contemporary issues (without saying so), inviting the astute reader to ponder the contemporary conditions of Canadian culture(s), the underfunded and disintegrating institutions, and the consumerist shifts in corporate mandates and mass media. In the current restive climate, when concepts of the nation are being vigorously contested and defended, Tippett's research and "story" signal that the sobriety and pleasures of the long cultural view are essential.

Tippett the researcher adopts an educative role, revising without advising. In shaping a history out of earlier cultural traditions, she suggests that the Massey Commission was confronted with a record it could confirm as well as appropriately question. Tippett the cultural writer addresses a readership beyond academia, and she wants to be heard. Her hectoring voice in the epilogue ("...the cultural activity of the century's first five decades simply demands to be taken seriously") underlines a passion for placing unsung players and processes into a coherent retrospective.



  •  Announcements
    Atom logo
    RSS2 logo
    RSS1 logo
  •  Current Issue
    Atom logo
    RSS2 logo
    RSS1 logo
  •  Thesis Abstracts
    Atom logo
    RSS2 logo
    RSS1 logo

We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

SSHRC LOGO