Mr. Speaker, our ability to foster art preservation, creation, celebration, and sales is key to our territory's success. Art is far more an a thing of beauty. It connects people to themselves, one another, and tradition. Art is vital to our well-being and our shared and individual histories.
According to the NWT art's website, there are 912 registered artists across the territory. The pre-COVID estimated economic value of NWT arts is a mere $7.2 million. Comparably, the Yukon arts generated $12.9 million and, inspirationally, BC generated $2.6 billion.
In the last year, social media has become a primary marketplace for independent artists promoting and selling arts, and we saw the work of many global artists go the 'good kind of viral'. But we have not capitalized on the potential of art in the Northwest Territories. Not for locals, tourists, or the masses looking to purchase online. Our need for arts infrastructure in the NWT is huge. Artists need physical and virtual spaces for creative development, collaboration, celebration, and sales, and I am concerned the GNWT is not taking this repetitive call to action from the arts community seriously as there is still no plan to develop and fund these spaces. In other jurisdictions, the agency that promotes the arts operates independently from the government. Independent art councils are provided core government funding and then held accountable to secure added funds from federal and private sources to grow the arts community. In other jurisdictions, these independent arts councils partner with Indigenous stakeholders, implement youth programs, school programs, artist residencies, and mentorship opportunities, manage art collections, conduct art research - the list is exponential and so is the opportunity, Mr. Speaker.
The GNWT currently spends $2.8 million on various investments to the arts community through marketing, film, and entrepreneur funding through ITI and grants for performers, arts organizations, and the NWT Arts Council through ECE. And just like you can't put Baby in a corner, Mr. Speaker, you can't put the arts in a bureaucratic box. The arts need the creative space to grow, evolve and empower. It needs fluidity and autonomy from the government.
Mr. Speaker, the NWT is not meeting its full potential to grow the arts, and art isn't just about sales. Art promotes intellectual, emotional and spiritual enrichment. It is a healer, a mental health tool, a historian, a dreamer, and a place -- sorry, and placing value in art is reconciliation in action, Mr. Speaker. If the government really wants the NWT arts sector to soar, it needs to be prepared to let it fly. Thank you.