City of Vancouver's Proposed 2013 Budget Includes Increased Arts Funding

On November 28, 2012, the City of Vancouver posted the draft 2013 Capital and Operating Budgets, and welcomes public input. Vancouver City Council will consider a proposed Capital Budget of $258 million and Operating Budget of $1.148 billion when it meets in a special evening session on Tuesday, Dec. 4 at City Hall. The proposed budgets are being brought to Council in a combined report for the first time under a new best-practice based process. 

This budget provides an additional $300,000 for arts, cultural, and social grants.

The Alliance for Arts and Culture thanks the City of Vancouver for recognizing the importance of supporting artistic and cultural activities. 

Excerpts of the document that reference arts and culture are provided below:

Capital Budget:

The 2013 Capital Budget of $258 million consists of previously approved projects that have been carried forward from the past year and new funding requests brought forward from the 2012-2014 Capital Plan. 

The major planned expenditures are broken down into eight service categories: Community Facilities, Parks and Open Spaces, Housing, Public Safety, Transportation, Utilities and Public Works, Civic Infrastructure, and Overhead. 

Of the $26,866,000 allocated for Community Facilities, Culture accounts for $4,462,000.

The City owns 47 cultural facilities and funds the cultural capital grants program. The main focus is to rebuild and upgrade aging facilities and to add new facilities based on need.  
Goal: Focus on facility maintenance and continue funding for the cultural capital grants program.
Major projects for 2013 include:

  • Restoration of Bloedel Conservatory roof (Phase 1): $1.0 million in 2013 (Total Project $1.0 million, with completion anticipated in 2013) 
  • Capital maintenance of existing cultural facilities: $0.8 million in 2013
  • Vancouver Maritime Museum building capital maintenance: $0.7 million in 2013 (Total Project $0.9 million, with completion anticipated in 2013)

Parks and Open Spaces planned expenditure is $14,455,000, which includes $835,000 for Public Art:

There are over 250 public art installations across the city.   
Goal: Maintain existing public art and build new public art. 
Major projects for 2013 include: 

  • Civic Public Art Program (includes the completion of artwork at Trout Lake Community Centre and Hastings Park, First Nations Artist Initiatives, and Manhole Cover public art project): $0.5 million 

Operating Budget

The 2013 Operating Budget of $1.1 billion ($1,148 million) reflects a balanced budget of revenues and expenditures. Community programs (Parks and Recreation, Library, Community Services, Planning and Development) make up 20% of total budgeted expenditures.

A $300,000 increase in new cultural and social grants will be directed towards fulfilling Council priorities, with recommendations reported to Council in the first quarter of 2013. The cultural community will benefit from a new facility at West 1st Avenue.

Cultural Services Plans for Improvements in 2013:

Building on the Cultural Plan, the City’s Cultural Strategy will be renewed to drive a diverse and thriving cultural economy. Grant programs will continue to support arts and cultural organizations as long as their performance remains relevant and sustainable. The future Civic Theatres Model will need to balance supporting core cultural institutions while promoting new, local, and diverse talent and also the mainstream performing artists and commercial events.

Other major initiatives include the review of the proposal for the relocation and expansion of the Vancouver Art Gallery, the first full year of operation of the Vancouver Inspiration Pass that provides free access for families to our major cultural institutions, the development of a new public art strategy aligning our civic and private sector programs, the implementation of a major cultural amenity on West 1st Avenue through a unique partnership of three cultural organizations, and the determination of the future of several of our major public open spaces including both the north lawn and the Robson Square frontage of the (current) Vancouver Art Gallery.

Department Service Metrics: Cultural Services

Approximately 8,200 artists live in Vancouver and over five million people attend their art events, performances, and exhibitions annually. Vancouver has the highest concentration of artists per capita of any city in Canada and the growth of the cultural labour force has grown at a rate of three times the overall labour force in recent decades. The creative economy is a major source of employment and has significant economic impact. Vancouver’s investment in culture is substantial; we spend more per capita in grant funding to our cultural organizations than any other major metropolitan area in the country. However, the sector is experiencing tremendous changes in response to reductions in funding at higher levels of government. As well, ticket sales and individual and corporate donations are stagnant, if not declining. In response, we are renewing our cultural strategy, including the Civic Theatres business model and the funding of public art to address the shifts that the sector is experiencing. 

It is for these reasons that we are seeing a steady though slow decline in the use of our civic theatres, despite new space being added to the Orpheum Annex and Queen Elizabeth Plaza in the last two years. The closure of the Playhouse Theatre Company (the prime local production company) also hastened this trend, leading to a drop in usage of the civic theatres. The cascading effect of all these events is shrinking audience numbers. It is timely for Cultural Services to renew its strategy and review its Civic Theatres model and public arts funding to ensure long-term financial sustainability.

The City has been consulting on the draft budget since early October, through meetings with Citizen Advisory Groups, an online survey, and 3-1-1 feedback. The budget comes to a special Council meeting on Tuesday, December 4, where citizens are being invited to share their input and ideas. A final decision will be made on December 11.

Mayor Gregor Robertson invites your feedback via email at or via twitter to @MayorGregor or @VanMayorsOffice

Download the full 2013 Capital and Operating Budget for consideration.

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