An open letter to Kevin Krueger

As you know, during the cabinet shuffle the Honourable Bill Bennett was supplanted by the Honourable Kevin Krueger, MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, as Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts. We have written the following letter to Mr. Krueger, whose Ministry is facing a forty percent cut in the service plans for the next two years.

For more information about Mr. Krueger, check out this interview done by Scott Walker of the ProArt Alliance: Scott Walker's interview with Kevin Krueger It's worth a listen, if only for the Minister's assessment that the arts community is "unconcerned" about the cuts to the arts laid out in the Service Plan.

Herewith, our letter:

Dear Minister Krueger,

This letter is written in the spirit of collaboration and is, in essence, an invitation to engage in dialogue about the Arts and Culture in this province. I believe that the Arts and Cultural Sector in BC will be severely handicapped by the proposed cuts to the BC Arts Council, and that they will undo several years of sustained investment by your government.

Our Premier and others have stressed the importance of the “Creative Economy” in recent speeches. I also believe that we had Minister Bennett’s commitment to make the argument to his colleagues that funding levels had to, at the very least, be maintained to the BC Arts Council. We had made our own promise to help as possible and appropriate. We hope that you, also, are willing to make that commitment to the Arts and Culture and will be a champion for this important and growing sector. I know that we will work with you as required.

The cultural sector in British Columbia is $5.2 billion industry that employs 80,000 people. That is bigger than the forestry and fishing industries combined. According to countless studies, the Arts and Cultural sector builds healthy communities, enhances education, and helps to shape our cultural identity. 

The sector will be positively gutted by the devastating cuts proposed in the Service Plan for the next two years. Those cuts, which will cause massive lay-offs in arts organizations, make no sense at a time when the province is working very hard to create and retain jobs. The cuts make no sense at a basic economic level, since the province makes back that investment in direct taxes at a rate of 138%! The proposed cuts make no sense at a time when we, across this province, are trying to establish ourselves as cultural destinations with creative economies. And they make no sense because the cuts will wreak havoc within a stable, green industry that pours billions into the provincial economy.

On the behalf of the Alliance for Arts & Culture, our 350+ member organizations, and the hundreds of thousands of British Columbians who visit our galleries, frequent our theatres, attend our festivals, and listen to our concerts, we implore you:  work to reverse the cuts proposed to arts and culture in the 2011 and 2012 Service Plans. The proposed cuts will have catastrophic repercussions.      

Don’t believe us? We’ve taken the liberty of polling our members on the effects of the cuts. Here, in their own words, is what will happen to just a few, if those cuts are not reversed:

“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

Per capita, we have more artists working BC than in Ontario and Alberta, and those provinces have chosen to increase funding to the arts during this time of economic uncertainty. Even the Federal government, which is facing an unprecedented deficit, has elected not to reduce funding to arts and culture. We beg you, heed their wise examples and ensure that funding levels are restored. These cuts will bring arts funding in this province back to the level they were in the Eighties; rebuilding in the future will cost considerably more than sustaining the sector during these difficult times. Your predecessor, the Honourable Bill Bennett, was committed to restoring the cuts. We hope you will be too.

Sincerely,

Amir Ali Alibhai
Executive Director
Alliance for Arts & Culture

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