There has been a groundswell of supportive response to the resignation of BC Arts Council chair Jane Danzo, and yesterday morning (Thursday, Aug. 26) Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Kevin Krueger appeared on CBC Radio One's Early Edition with host Kathryn Gretsinger, to add his perspective to the discussion.
In the interview Minister Krueger repeated the government’s talking points about arts funding cuts, but went a step further and told CBC’s listeners that at a meeting with some key arts advocates he had actually been “threatened”. The minister also demonstrated an unfortunate misunderstanding of Mrs. Danzo’s resignation.
A point-by-point clarification of the facts as misrepresented in the interview will follow soon.
Last November the Alliance for Arts and Culture hosted the meeting that Minister Krueger seemed to refer to, the content of which had, until today, been deemed more or less in camera –- an opportunity for the minister to meet privately with creative sector workers, hear their concerns and understand their positions.
The participants included some of the most respected leaders and creative forces in our community.
The comments that Minister Krueger interpreted as being threatening were several statements that made two main points:
- that arts audiences province-wide consisted of a politically significant number of individuals of all political affiliations;
- that the arts community was prepared to take its advocacy to all constituencies in the province and to reach out to all MLAs and their electorates.
That was not a threat. It was, however, a promise that there would be ongoing and province-wide advocacy work to engage communities at every level. It was a statement from a group of citizens who understood their democratic right to speak out to their elected representatives and to take their message to the broader community through every communications channel at their disposal.
It is regrettable that Minister Krueger felt that these comments were threats. That was neither the intent nor the spirit in which the comments were made. We want to engage with Minister Krueger, and with all of the MLAs across the province. This is an important issue for all British Columbians.
Our province-wide advocacy has been gaining momentum through the summer. The Alliance for Arts and Culture, in concert with the ProArt Alliance of Greater Victoria, the Assembly of BC Arts Councils, the BC Touring Council, and other allies, will be announcing some next steps in early September.
“The success of our advocacy work, in the fullest sense, depends on our ability to make a strong and compelling case for the public interest in supporting arts and culture,” says Alliance Advocacy Committee chair Sandy Garossino.
“Even though the BC government, earlier this decade, made some important investments in arts and culture, all of that good work is being destroyed by the deep and unprecedented cuts over the past two years. The level of cuts is greater than most areas, and it doesn’t make sense to do this when our economy is struggling. Everywhere else in North America, arts spending is seen as part of stimulus programs.
“Just to bring us up to the national average of per capita spending in arts and culture, BC would have to spend at least four times as much money for operating grants to arts institutions. Why does BC have to be dead last when it comes to arts and culture? Does this government think arts and culture is for other people in this country?
“Our greatest strength is our audience, which is the public we serve. They number in the millions, and they are everywhere, in every riding in the province. To almost any problem, our audience is the answer.”
In reaching that audience, and in making the case for the public good provided by a strong creative sector, Ms. Garossino noted that the Alliance is working with a broad coalition of partners and supporters from across the political, social and cultural spectrum.
“The non-partisan character of our advocacy has been a source of understanding and strength, and we appreciate everyone’s hard work on behalf of arts and culture. Our audiences are as politically diverse as any other cross-section of the population, which was a point we were trying to make to Minister Krueger, and a point we were hoping he would see as an opportunity to earn some political capital by supporting our advocacy.
“Everyone will be back from summer breaks next week,” concluded Ms. Garossino, “and you can look for the Alliance to announce the first phase of a grassroots and province-wide outreach to MLAs across the province to ensure that they fully understand the importance of the arts in their communities.
“We want Minister Krueger to be engaged in recognizing the public good provided by a strong and thriving arts sector, not to feel threatened. We invite him to see our advocacy as an invitation to political dialogue and constructive policy discussions towards a comprehensive and sustainable arts funding policy. ”
Stay tuned …