We will soon learn what the provincial government has in mind for the $10 Million “new money” for the arts and culture that was announced on Budget Day early in the spring.
According to statements in the Georgia Straight, it seems that a significant portion is going to something called “B.C. Spirit Festival Days”. It sounds like a new province-wide festival that will have funding for two years, at least. I guess we will have to wait for the official announcement from the Ministry, which is likely to be made soon.
In any case, I am concerned about the apparent lack of consultation with the broader arts community, despite our request to work together. We have indicated to the government that British Columbians will have less access to the arts and culture as a result of drastic cuts to the BCAC budget and the equally devastating cuts and redefinition of Gaming grants. The latter, in particular hurts many volunteer-run and community-based programs and groups throughout the province.
Minister Krueger has stated that consultations have taken place, specifically with the Assembly of BC Arts Councils and the BC Arts Council; this is a good start, but the consultation should be substantive and broader. There is indication that the BCAC will be involved in vetting this government initiative, which is ironic, given that the Council had its budget stripped of about the same amount as was announced for the “new” $10 Million Legacy Fund. Directing pet government programs through the BCAC hardly seems to support the notion of an arms-length funding mechanism.
In the meantime, as we wait for the actual announcements, some questions arise. The Minister has provided some clues about the government’s intent, which is to be “working together to build Arts organizations’ membership rolls, audience numbers and sales throughout the province, while growing cultural tourism”. I want this to be true but I’m not sure that these largely supportable goals can be achieved without more consultation with the greater arts and cultural communities. It is necessary to discuss the principle of access to the range of arts and cultural practices, active in the province by its citizens. This is a fundamental value that underlies the justification of public funding for arts and culture.
Back to the arising questions regarding the anticipated announcements from the government regarding BC Spirit Days and the Legacy Fund:
Why February, and is that really the best time of year in BC for a new festival meant to encourage cultural tourism? If it is meant to continue the magic of the Cultural Olympiad, is that possible without the context of the Winter Games? What happens after two years of funding – will that be cut and the young BC Spirit Festivals be asked to sustain themselves, after an initial investment? How long does it take to establish a sustainable event? What about the festivals and arts organizations across this province that already exist and which have been so drastically cut?
I think that if the Cultural Olympiad is to truly be leveraged into the future then we need the government to continue, not cut its much touted trend of investment in the arts, through the BCAC and the Direct Access programs as it did leading up to the Olympics. We saw the development of much talent and cultural production as the Games approached and took place. That sort of support needs to be restored to build on the legacy. Also with national initiatives, like Culture Days already developing in BC, we need the provincial government to support those programs which are in development or which already exist. BC is not “officially” part of Culture Days in 2010, but could be in 2011, if there is some investment from the provincial government as there is across the country in other provinces.
I can go on and on, but the point is that there is no dearth of opportunities out there. I just fear that these chances to invest in a healthy arts and cultural sector in the future are being missed.
Amir Ali Alibhai
Alliance for Arts and Culture