The NDP Government’s just-announced increased investment to the BC Arts Council budget of $5 million annually over the next three years for a $15-million total investment is cause for celebration. As one participant asked at our post-budget announcement meeting yesterday: “Where’s the Champagne?”
But as others commented at the Celebrate or Demonstrate event—held in partnership with SFU Woodward’s Cultural Programs, and attracting about 30 participants (including live streamers)—there’s much more advocacy work to be done by our community.
“This increase, while certainly not a doubling of the BC Arts Council budget, is a great start,” said Brenda Leadlay, executive director of BC Alliance. “It speaks to the advocacy work we’ve done. But we must work together to become an even stronger voice so that we can eventually get the increase we were promised.”
“We need a vision,” said Jessica Wadsworth, of Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists/West Chapter, adding that we need to be clear how every investment dollar should be spent. Strong advocacy makes detailed demands; being vague is ineffective.
Leadlay suggested that, going forward, BC’s creative community should “strike a committee to create a visionary advocacy strategy for the arts sector.” This committee should reach across every single region of the province, both in rural and urban areas, and include underserved artists and arts organizations of every stripe, in order to itemize the ways more government investment in the arts is needed.
And this committee should “think big.”
“We should be asking for universal access to arts and culture because art is human right!” charged Kay Higgins, executive director at Unit/Pitt Projects. “We need to endorse real living wages for artists and cultural groups! We need to tell strong advocacy stories.”
Minister for Tourism, Arts & Culture Lisa Beare prepared a statement for the meeting, which Leadlay read aloud. “It is because of your years of work and dedication that budget 2018 will bring a needed and additional $5 million to the BC Arts Council Budget,” Beare, wrote. “I will continue to work hard for you, as an ally and champion of the arts, so that artists can afford to live in the communities that they work.”
By the end of the meeting, several people had agreed to join an advocacy group, which we’ve dubbed “A Committee to Develop A Visionary Advocacy Strategy.” Please email Brenda Leadlay (firstname.lastname@example.org) to receive upcoming notices about the committee. And as Leadlay suggested at the meeting, please write your MLA (find your MLA contact information here) and copy Minister Beare, to thank them for the investment and to reiterate the importance of art in the lives of your community..