Local arts organization protest funding cuts

February 25, 2009 at 4:32 pm (Community) ()

Just received this emailed newsletter via Victoria Film Festival:

Arts Organizations Warn Against Provincial Budget Cuts

Victoria – Arts organizations are calling on the provincial government to reverse its decision to dramatically reduce support to the BC Arts Council.  Despite repeated recommendations from industry leaders and the Standing Committee on Finance, the government announced severe cuts in funding to the Council in the 2009 budget.

Finance Minister Colin Hansen referenced the importance of the Arts in his budget speech when he announced an immediate one-time investment of $15-million dollars, the details of which are still not entirely clear.

While it appears that this one time investment may maintain the 2009/10 BC Arts Council budget at the current level, the budget projections for the following years reduce funding for the Arts to less than 50% of the current level.

The concern in the arts sector is palpable”, notes David Shefsiek, President of ProArt Alliance of Greater Victoria.  “The long range projections suggest that despite a strong service plan from the Ministry, the Government still does not fully recognize the role the sector plays in the cultural and economic vitality of our region.  The funding levels simply do not match the plan. With this lack of investment, the stability of our Arts infrastructure will be threatened in communities large and small, and the province’s creative potential will not be realized.”

Funding the Arts is an investment. The Arts have proven to be a growth industry in British Columbia, growing at a faster pace than provincial GDP, contributing $5.2-billion to the provincial economy, and accounting for 117,000 jobs, according to Statistics Canada.  Arts organizations have proven themselves to be experts at leveraging provincial support into funding from other levels of government, private and corporate sources, and admission fees.  Funding to the Arts has proven to be a wise return on investment for the province over the years, producing tax revenue far greater than government investment; even if that $5.2-billion industry returns a conservative 7% in tax revenue, the province is receiving hundreds of millions of dollars for a small, but vital, outlay – amounting to one-twentieth of a cent for every dollar in the provincial budget.  A reduction in funding will ultimately contract Provincial tax revenues in far larger amounts than any immediate saving.

BC has the highest concentration of artists in the country.  Many of those artists live close to the poverty line: the average income for an artist in Canada is $22,700 – less than two-thirds the Canadian average.  A reduction in funding – especially in a recessionary period when other sources of revenue are in flux – will mean fewer performances, fewer concerts, fewer showings – and increased unemployment. “We hope that the government’s concern for families extends to the families of BC artists as well” comments Mary Desprez, General Manager of the Belfry Theatre.

And these artists do not live exclusively in the large urban centres.  Funding from the BC Arts Council supports artistic initiatives throughout the province, in centres large and small, and – as a recent study from the University of Northern BC proved – the Arts are just as important to people in rural areas as they are in the big cities.  In fact, stable funding is more vital in smaller areas that lack access to other sources found in large centres.

In this current economic climate, where other sources of income – from foundations, corporate and private giving – are eroding, this is not the time for the provincial government to be cutting back as well.  Arts organizations call on the government to live up to Minister Hansen’s own words in his budget speech: “The arts help to shape our vision of who we are. They bring to life the concept of culture, and — just as important — bring us together, entertain us, intrigue us, and challenge us intellectually.”

ProArt will continue to lead the discussion as the debate on this decision continues, and will encourage the public to take this opportunity to speak out in favour of a reversal of this decision.

For more information, contact:

Scott Walker
Coordinator, ProArt
250-896-0860
proart1@shaw.ca

The Professional Arts Alliance of Greater Victoria represents:

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria ♦ The Belfry Theatre ♦ Dance Victoria ♦ Intrepid Theatre ♦ Kaleidoscope Theatre ♦ Open Space ♦ Pacific Opera Victoria ♦ Story Theatre ♦ Theatre SKAM ♦ The Victoria Conservatory of Music ♦ The Victoria Film Festival ♦ The Victoria Jazz Society ♦ The Victoria Symphony

Some Facts About the Arts

Arts and culture make up an important sector in Canada’s economy, creating $84 billion dollars a year in direct and indirect output – 7.4% of this country’s GDP. – Valuing Culture: Measuring and Understanding Canada’s Creative Economy [The Conference Board of Canada, 2008]

British Columbia residents’ spending on culture is four times the amount spent by all levels of government.    – Hill Strategies 2005

On a per capita basis, British Columbia’s expenditure on culture ranks second-last among the provinces and territories. – Statistics Canada, Government Expenditures on Culture 2005-06

British Columbia has the highest concentration of artists of any province. – Hill Strategies 2007

The Arts have proven to have a positive impact on individual and community health, marginalized groups, youth at risk, and the elderly. – Arts and Culture in Medicine and Health [Cooley & Associates, Victoria, 2003]

Youth with high involvement in the Arts had significantly higher marks, lower drop out rates and lower reported boredom rates than those with low involvement in the arts. – Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement In Music and Theatre Arts [James S. Catterall et al, UCLA, 1999]

The tourism industry will need to attract 84,000 workers to meet the government’s goal of doubling tourism by 2015.  Attracting workers will have a significant impact on provincial GDP .  Culturally rich communities attract creative people; a highly creative workforce attracts business . – A Case For Investing in Arts, Culture and Heritage Infrastructure [Vis-à-vis Management Resources Inc., 2007] & The Rise of the Creative Class [Richard Florida, New York, 2002]

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