July 18, 2015
To Whom It May Concern:
My husband and I have been small business owners and artists for over 20 years, first in Toronto and now in rural Nova Scotia. We moved here for the life-style, the real estate prices that were just low enough that we could afford our own studio separate from the house where we raise our children (hard to get kids to sleep and practice drums or mix music) and to be in an area known for independent artists with like-minded values.
We knew coming here was a risk—that we wouldn’t be walking into a market that would provide us a ready-made income—and we have learned to cobble together a patchwork quilt of jobs that lets us stay in this area. I freelance as a musician, playing regularly with Symphony Nova Scotia in Hfx, picking up work as a piano player locally and I teach music to local kids in my beautiful studio in Mahone Bay. I have a Masters Degree in Music Performance from Yale University and a pretty long resume of professional work mostly in Toronto and I make about $20K a year in this area. My husband is a Juno award winning recording engineer with a Master’s Degree from McGill University and has recorded some incredible artists including Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Suzie LeBlanc and most recently Old Man Luedecke. He also squeaks out a living from Mahone Bay, recording remotely and coming home to mix/master in his small studio in our backyard.
We love it here. We do worry about money and it is difficult enough to make a living as an artist without worrying about some of the things we need to worry about. A few years ago we were dropped by our long-term insurance provider because of our separate studio. It was declared a client-based business and the new rates quoted to us were beyond what we could afford including steep liability insurance. We struggled to find another provider and eventually had to pay the high-rates for business and liability insurance.
Rural Nova Scotia is full of imaginative, creative artists who are finding ways to make a modest living at home, making this area an attractive tourist destination, providing a richness to our culture and also showing our youth that you can make it work here despite the lack of available jobs if you have an imagination and some creativity. These small businesses are vital to our community and reflect the kind of place I want to live with music studios, ceramics studios, hat shops, art galleries etc. We NEED to encourage these types of businesses if we want to keep our small towns vital and diverse.
We need to ask ourselves what kind of community we want to live in? Is it one with hat-makers, ceramic artists, painters, writers and musicians and music/art teachers for our children to learn from? If so, then we need to ask ourselves are we making it easier or harder for these independent business owners to live here?
Erin Donovan and John Adams