Open Letter from George Zukerman, O.C., O.B.C., to Minister Krueger

Dear Minister Krueger:

I want to express my grave concerns at the severity of the funding cuts recently imposed on much of the  BC Arts Community.

Over the past thirty five years    The BC Arts Council   has worked in trusted collaboration with   Arts organizations throughout British Columbia, assisting with annual operating expenses  and investing in the essential task of  building  infrastructures to last for the benefit of future generations. . The Arts Community learned to trust the  Council even when funds were limited. Through the Cultural Services Branch, it became known as a responsive  agency which maintained as even a hand as possible in its ongoing distribution of available monies,

The  draconian  cuts recently imposed coupled with the elimination of gaming grants for cultural organizations has left the BC arts world reeling.  I recognize that when cuts have to be made, very often somebody down the line suffers  inordinately.  It is not always possible to make all cuts equally across the board.  But I cannot believe that any government would  knowingly wish  to inflict such serious harm  on some of the very organizations which it has nurtured for so many previous  years.  Did you know, for instance, that the Prince George Symphony  - a vital Northern musical resources for the entire Northern region as well as for the City of PG has been cut off from its entire 2010-2011  BC Arts Council operating grant?    Your own Kamloops Symphony has been slashed to 43% of normal operating grant.

Curiously,  this is all happening at exactly the time that the BC Government has  announced  its special $30,000,000   Legacy fund,  designed  (according to the declaration on Page 2 of the  2010  budget statement,)  to  “enhance existing provincial arts investments in  arts and culture.”   There is even  a side-bar with a smiling theatre-logo which adds “$30 Million for Provincial Arts Investments.”   (We have little enough to smile about, these days!) 

Bravo!  The intent of Cabinet in its  budget-plan seems clear enough.  Investment.   But somewhere down the line, the good intentions  have become tangled in a morass of confused and confusing   regulations.  It appears that  most of the  new fund is linked  to  a series of time limited celebrations of  the legacy of the 2010 Cultural Olympiad.

It is a  wonderful thing to celebrate our Olympic success.  A good example is the  Canada Line  to the airport which  leaves  a permanent Olympic legacy.  In the Arts we also want  to celebrate with something  permanent.  There are more pressing needs than a glorious block party.

Public policy,  as announced  in the  Budget Statement cannot and should not be changed  But   hastily devised regulations which specify how  Arts funding should  be distributed  can - and should -  be amended At the same time this would reassert  the crucial  “arm’s length” separation  between government and its funding agencies.

It really is not too late for your Government to alter these regulations, and devote at least some  portion of the annual Legacy Fund  to  the BC Arts Council.  This might begin to make up  for some of the deepest and most injurious  cuts.  There are so many of them - and you’ve probably heard from them all!  Think about it - in  a simple move,  much of the damage  inadvertently inflicted  on the arts community would be undone. The intent of the Budget statement would be fulfilled, and the Olympic memory would still live on! 

I hope you might agree that it would be enlightened self-interest  to allow the Arts to flourish with this small new investment.   The alternative is that they will languish  because of  ill-advised cuts. Many of them will not survive.   Who knows - with a move in the right direction, the  Chair of the BC Arts Council,  who recently resigned over this issue, might be persuaded to return.

 

Sincerely,

 

George Zukerman, O.C. O.B.C.,
Surrey, B.C.

c.c   Hon Gordon Campbell                                        

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