The board of governors of the Canadian Conference of the Arts says British Columbia is making a “strategic error” in cutting spending in the arts sector.
Kathleen Sharpe, the president of the national arts organization, has written to B.C. Culture Minister Kevin Krueger on behalf of the CCA expressing concern over the cuts and over the resignation of Jane Danzo as chair of the B.C. Arts Council.
“With all due respect, we submit that this is a strategic error that will have negative impacts not only on tourism and economic development but also severely compromise the role your province plays in defining Canadian identity at home and abroad,” Sharpe said in a strongly worded letter.
She also expressed support for Danzo’s decision to resign, calling the former B.C. arts chair “widely respected.”
Danzo spoke out Wednesday about cuts to arts grants, saying she had to step down from her post at the B.C. Arts Council to be free to criticize Liberal policies.
A spring budget cut the funding the B.C. Arts Council hands out to groups from around $14 million to about $8 million.
Groups across the province are facing deep cuts, including a 70 per cent reduction in the operating grant for the Victoria Symphony, 60 per cent less to the Vancouver Fringe Festival and the elimination of grants to Ballet Victoria. Gaming funds that supported other arts groups have also been diverted.
Sharpe said the CCA does not often intervene in provincial matters but “cannot remain silent” while B.C. abandons support to dozens of organizations that are CCA members.
“It bears repeating once again that the arts and culture sector is at the vanguard of the shift to a post-industrial economy which much be strategically guided by Canada’s various levels of government,” Sharpe said in her letter.
B.C.’s arts and cultural sector employs 80,000 people and contributes $5 billion to the provincial economy and the recent Cultural Olympiad held alongside the Winter Olympics confirmed the role of the arts in crafting Canada’s image abroad, she said.
“The arts are a growth sector in most Canadian cities and Vancouver boast the third largest concentration of professional artists in Canada,” Sharpe said.
“Investing in the arts and culture sector should be a strong component of your government’s strategy to tap this inexhaustible natural resource to advance creativity, boost the economy, lead to greater social cohesion and contribute to our identity as a nation.”
The cuts are the result of a “short-term view” of growth, she added.
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