The Alliance for Arts and Culture addresses our premier issue

An open letter to Gordon Campbell

Reprinted from The Alliance for Arts and Culture blog, May 13, 2009:

Dear Mr. Campbell,

Congratulations on your victory last night. You must be honoured to [be] among a select group of Premiers who have been elected for a third term.

As you have reminded us throughout the election, you have been a friend and ally of the cultural sector. Last year’s $150-million endowment to the BC Arts Council and the new funding for the Vancouver Arts Gallery and the Vancouver East Cultural Centre were wise and prudent investments. However, the 40-50% cut to arts and a culture laid out in your three-year service plan is a serious blow that will have a devastating effect on the creative industries. We have spent the last few months trying to gauge that effect. Here are just a few examples:

“For the Arts Club, a cut of up to 40% in our BC Arts Council grant will force our Board to consider diminishing or possibly cancelling some of our core activities. One area that could be adversely is our provincial touring program that has been successfully produced for almost 30 years. Our touring program has little financial benefit to our organization but serves every corner of our Province with the highest quality professional theatre generating to communities small and large.” – Howard Jang, Executive Director, Arts Club Theatre

“Many of our member arts councils (and other small arts organizations) depend on BC Arts Council funding, not just for projects, but for the core funding that allows them to offer the level of programming that they offer their communities. As an example, an arts council may receive 30% of its annual budget from the BC Arts Council, and offer a wide selection of programs with a part time employee. Reduced funding would impact the number of hours this employee is able to work, or in some cases, the employee may even be laid off, requiring a corresponding decrease in services provided to the community. This would reduce access to the arts, or require municipal arts and recreation programs, where they exist, to fill the gaps.” – Junko Sakamoto, Executive Director, Assembly of BC Arts Councils

“The repercussions of the cuts will be very hard on artists outside the Lower Mainland, where there isn’t a concentration of major cultural institutions like the VAG or massive spending like the Olympics. It’s also where economies have already been struggling due to the mountain pine beetle, the softwood lumber dispute, mill closures, etc.” – Bill Horne, Visual Artist, Wells, BC

“The stability of our Arts infrastructure will be threatened in communities large and small, and the province’s creative potential will not be realized.” – David Shefsiek, President of ProArt Alliance

“In the case of the Victoria Fringe, the Islands largest theatre event, we would have to shrink the Festival by two venues, having been able in the last few years to expand from 4 to 7 venues. This would impact the number of technicians and support staff hired by the festival. This would also dramatically reduce the number of artists that would be able to participate in the Fringe as well as dramatically reduce the festivals impact on the local community both economically and socially. Festival spending on outfitting and promoting would be reduced as would public participation as a result of the reduced programming.” – Ian Case, General Manager, Intrepid Theatre

Consensus seems to be that you were elected because the voters deemed you to be the best steward for our economy during this time of hardship and upheaval. Well, the arts are good for the economy. We won’t quote you the figures – the massive return on investment, the direct and indirect benefits to the economy, the community and health benefits – because you know them already. You’ve used them in speeches and printed them on your website. We only ask that you work with your Finance Minister to find a way to reverse the cuts for the good of the entire Province and the wellbeing of British Columbians everywhere.

Please let us know if there is a way we can help. On June 25th and 26th, we will be hosting a Vancouver Arts Summit in partnership with 2010 Legacies Now at the Vancouver Public Library. The theme of the summit is: “Shifting Ground: New Realities, New Ideas, New Opportunities”. The goal is to discuss the health and sustainability of our industry, and chart new paths to success. We hope will come and join in the discussion.

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