More Cuts in B.C. Arts Funding

Even minor cuts to provincial funding can be devastating to grassroots 
groups that are the lifeblood of arts in B.C.

In October 2009, Vancouver’s Helen Pitt art gallery was forced to close its doors. After losing its $32,000 gaming grant from the provincial government – nearly 40 per cent of its estimated annual revenue of $87,000 – the 35-year-old artist-run gallery had to give up its Gastown space. “We were no longer able to pay staff and no longer able to bear the cost of our lease,” says Keith Higgins, a visual artist who also serves as the organization’s administrative co-ordinator.

Closing the gallery created a domino effect: without a public exhibition space, private and self-generated revenue subsequently dropped. Higgins is now working to drum up as much private fundraising support as he can to keep the gallery afloat and attempt to rebuild, but without provincial government funding, the Helen Pitt faces an uncertain future. 

Similar stories are playing out across the province: not only are artists losing crucial financial support, but gallery workers and arts organizers are losing their jobs in the wake of provincial funding cuts that started in 2009 and continue to have an impact on arts and culture workers today.

B.C.’s arts and culture sector lost $12.1 million in gaming grants from the B.C. Ministry of Housing and Social Development in the past year as the provincial government struggled to rein in a $2.8-billion deficit (for the 2009 fiscal year ending in April). In addition, funding from B.C.’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts went down from $37.8 million in fiscal 2008 to $18.4 million in 2009 and now stands at $24.6 million for 2010. 

Arts and culture community members say the cuts have devastated the sector, resulting in a radical reconsideration of how to make a living in the arts in B.C. Some organizations have been forced to close their doors, others have left the province and still more struggle to reinvent themselves and seek alternate funding at home. The struggle is almost Darwinian: it’s survival of the fittest, the most strategic and, often, the richest.

While 2010 arts funding appears to indicate a slight increase from 2009, critics say the provincial budget isn’t as generous as it seems. According to March 2010 calculations by the Alliance for Arts and Culture, the budget includes a new $12-million item for the Royal B.C. Museum that inflates the numbers. A new legacy fund, derived from the 2010 Games and Cultural Olympiad, will contribute $10 million a year for three years to regional events, internships and growth sectors such as digital media, but critics argue the fund does not adequately address the drop in gaming grants.

Read the full article on BC Business magazine: (link below)

Art on the Edge: More Cuts in B.C. Arts Funding B.C. Arts Jackie Wong BCBusiness

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