“Arts Without Permission” or Seven Tales from the Field: Notes on Bob Egan’s VIA Address at Salon #3

Something which he believes does not happen to many people, Bob Egan undertook a dramatic career and lifestyle change in midlife. He “lived out his dreams being on the road” as a musician with Blue Rodeo, but recently retired from playing to work as Manager of Community Connections and Development at the Kitchener Public Library and is establishing imaginative literacy initiatives such as the recently launched Musical Instrument Lending Library at KPL. In Bob’s words “you don’t get many chances to shape a community and to help it grow, so that’s why I took to the job at the library.”

Seven Tales from the Field

These are seven pieces of advice that Bob realized as he was doing work to help transform communities over his career and they are often inspired by missteps along the way. He shares these unfiltered words of wisdom from the heart and hopes that his experiences can be insightful for the next generation of creative thinkers.

  1. Don’t Ask Permission – Just Do It
    You are usually not going to be able to convince someone else to realize something that is unproven or far in the realm of imagination. They just won’t get it at first, so it’s best to show everyone by doing it. If you believe in it, than work on making it happen.
  2. Get the Youth Involved
    We’re old. New things happen when new voices get involved. You have to engage the the 18 to 24 year olds in the arts.
  3. Become Inclusive of all Arts
    There is no difference between the arts; they are all creative and imaginative disciplines that help us to reflect on the human condition and imagine new possibilities. We need to work collectively if we want things to happen and we need to focus on bridging opportunities for collaboration in “Arts & Culture.”
  4. Stop Romanticizing the Past
    There is no point in trying to recreate history and to do things like they used to be. “Arts & Culture” is a living entity that needs to grow and change in order to thrive, and will not survive if we suffocate it by demanding it stay the same.
  5. Do Something Socially Relevant
    In order for “Arts & Culture” movements to succeed, they need to prove their worth to the community. Because this is difficult to do from an economic perspective sometimes, it is important to show social profit as a way our activities are benefiting the community. This also brings awareness and engagement within the larger community, putting us on the map.
  6. Separate Art and Money
    Art is the human condition and a mirror for the soul. We cannot think of it merely as a way to make money or as an economic driver, it is so much more than that and we are only limiting ourselves by imagining Art as a way to profit financially rather than socially.
  7. Do, Don’t Ask
    A proof of concept is so much more powerful than an idea. Don’t dream and ask others to make that dream a reality; instead, come together and work towards a common vision so that it can be realized. Then you start to get the cohesion and traction you need to make things really flourish in the arts.

About the Speaker

Of Blue Rodeo and Wilco fame, Bob is a pedal steel and mandolin guitarist who’s career officially started after a backstage meeting with music legend Johnny Cash and his inspiring words that a career in music “can be a hard road but if your heart’s in it, it can be a good life.” That meeting set in motion a successful career in-between other appearances on records by the Tragically Hip, Cowboy Junkies, Hayden, Jason Collett, and the Sadies, among others. Recently retired from Blue Rodeo, Bob is Manager of Community Connections and Development at Kitchener Public Library and is developing imaginative literacy initiatives that encourage sociocultural innovation, such as the recently launched Musical Instrument Lending Library.

Works Cited

Carter, Kathryn, and Bob Egan. “Increasing Imaginative Capacity for the Arts.” Arts Ecology Salon #3. Arts Ecology of Brantford/Brant, 24 July 2017. Web.