Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer
Have you ever wondered why most Canadian cities have fewer cultural institutions than they ought to? It’s because we “outsource” much of our cultural life.
Most Canadians not only speak the same language as our neighbours in the United States, but we also share, to a very large degree, a common culture. We watch the same films and television shows, read the same books, and follow the same sports. And most large northern American cities are easily accessible to us.
In fact, since we mostly live in an east to west band close to the border, big cities like Boston, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and even San Francisco, are often closer to us, depending on where we live, than other Canadian cities.
If you live in the Maritimes, it’s easier to get to Boston than to Calgary or Vancouver. Torontonians are not that far from New York, Philadelphia and Washington. Manitobans can get to Chicago as easily as to Toronto.
No one in Australia or Britain will spend just a weekend in a great American city, the way we can.
From southern Ontario, it’s fairly simple to visit Chicago, with attractions such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Chicago Cultural Center. The University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute is home to an archeology museum and research center.
There is classical music with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Someone in Saint John or Halifax can drive to Boston without difficulty. There are some 40 museums in the greater Boston area, including the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Isabella Gardner Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts.
The city is home to a number of professional theatre companies, as well as the Opera Company of Boston and the Boston Ballet. The Boston Symphony and Boston Pops orchestras perform at Symphony Hall.
The many world-class universities for which Boston is famous house on their campuses museums and galleries, such as the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis and the Fogg Museum of Art at Harvard.
Philadelphia, too, has an abundance of history and culture. The city’s museums include the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum.
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts is home to the Philadelphia Orchestra, while the Academy of Music hosts the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Opera Company of Philadelphia.
The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is a theatre, dance and world music venue. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is an internationally renowned educational and research institution.
It’s ridiculous to even begin to name all the various attractions in New York City – it is arguably the cultural and entertainment capital of the world.
We need only to think of the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of the City of New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Frick Collection, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Morgan Library and Museum.
And there are wonderful institutions outside Manhattan – the Brooklyn Museum is the city’s second largest in physical size and holds an art collection with roughly 1.5 million works.
The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is home to the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet, and the New York Philharmonic. As for live theatre, the list is endless. Some 40 or so theatres make up what we call Broadway; as well, there are the smaller venues known as Off-Broadway and even Off-Off-Broadway. So there’s something for everyone.
Nothing can match the grandeur of Washington, DC, and its numerous museums and monuments along the National Mall.
The National Air and Space Museum, National Gallery of Art, National Museum of American History, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Museum of the American Indian, International Spy Museum, the journalism Newseum, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum provide a cornucopia of riches.
The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts produces and presents theatre, dance, ballet, and is home to the National Symphony Orchestra.
A Calgarian may find it just as simple to head to San Francisco as to travel thousands of kilometres east to Toronto. The Museum of Modern Art contains 20th century and contemporary pieces. The De Young and the Asian Art Museums have significant anthropological and non-European holdings.
The San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, and San Francisco Ballet all perform at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center.
These cities offer an incredible wealth of culture – and all within fairly easy reach of most Canadians.