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British Columbia’s major arts organizations have joined forces in a mission to convince the BC government to show greater support for arts and culture.
The Assembly of BC Arts Councils, the BC Touring Council, the Vancouver-based Alliance for Arts and Culture, and the ProArt Alliance of Greater Victoria, through the “Creativity Counts” arts advocacy initiative, are recruiting “Community Arts Champions” in each of the province’s ridings to personally take the case for public investment to their local MLAs.
Collectively these organizations and their members represent thousands of artists and community arts groups.
Over the coming weeks, delegations representing community and professional arts organizations and their audiences, small business partners, volunteers, donors, and other supporters will convey to MLAs the benefits to society that a thriving cultural sector brings, and the vital role played by a long tradition of public support, ensuring accessibility for all British Columbians.
“Our goal with the Creativity Counts campaign and this Community Arts Champions initiative is to demonstrate the depth and reach of the arts sector in every community in BC,“ said Alliance for Arts and Culture executive director Amir Ali Alibhai in announcing the launch of the campaign.
“Our Community Arts Champions will seek to develop meaningful relationships with all MLAs from both political parties, and to demonstrate that public investment in the arts is crucial to the health of our communities everywhere in British Columbia,” Alibhai explained.
“Our creative sector, with the help of private and public investment, an independent jury process, as well as donor and volunteer commitment, has generated a cultural legacy that endures as a source of pride for all British Columbians. Now this legacy is seriously at risk,” noted Nelson-based BC Touring Council’s executive director Joanna Maratta in supporting the announcement.
“According to Statistics Canada, BC spends by far the least per capita on public investment for operating grants for arts organizations, compared to other provinces. After the recent cuts BC’s per capita investment in the arts is $6.54, while most recently available figure for the national average is $26.73.
“In most other jurisdictions, the tough economy has meant greater, not less, investment in community-based arts and culture spending. BC is one of the only jurisdictions where we are seeing severe cuts, and it just doesn’t make sense,” added Ms. Maratta.
Cuts to the arts have gone much deeper than cuts to other government services. Even though the province’s MLA’s on the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services unanimously recommended restoring arts funding to 2008-09 levels in the lead-up to last March’s budget, this year:
• The BC Arts Council was initially cut 53 percent from 2008/09, though part of those funds were restored recently, for which the community is very grateful;
• BC Gaming Commission funds for the arts were cut 58 percent from 2008/09;
• A $10 million annual supplementary fund has been created, of which 30 percent went to “spirit festivals,” while traditional festivals are seeing their grants severely slashed, and the rest of the supplemental fund was spent on restoring much of the initial cuts to the Arts Council;
• Total government investment in culture, (including the newly announced $10 million annual supplementary fund) was reduced by 32.4 per cent from the 2008/09 budget.
“When we meet with our MLA’s, we will talk with them about the 3.5 million British Columbians who go, or take their children or grandchildren to a museum, a public gallery, children’s festival, a music festival or theatre production, or those who enjoy the great BC writers and BC books and publications, or whose children dream of a future as a performer,’ said ProArt Alliance advocacy coordinator Peter Sandmark from Victoria.
“If present trends continue, many of these opportunities will vanish, because these organizations will shut down or reduce programming to a minimum, only to be rebuilt when a government has the foresight to re-invest in this vital sector of our society, Mr. Sandmark concluded.”
Anyone interested in participating in the Creativity Counts Community Arts Champions initiative should contact the Alliance for Arts and Culture’s director of communications at email@example.com.
Creativity Counts is an Alliance for Arts and Culture advocacy campaign with three goals:
• The soonest possible restoration of arts investment from all provincial government sources to the 2008/2009 levels;
• The ultimate increasing of stable, arms-length investment in the arts to at least the national average; and
• The development, by the cultural community, of a position paper to be presented to all political parties and stakeholders as a starting point for the creation of a comprehensive and sustainable arts funding policy for British Columbia.
Despite the fact that funding was not restored to the BCAC and that further cuts have, in fact, been introduced by the provincial government, I believe that we have gained a great deal from our recent experience. We have made convincing and sound economic and social arguments for public investment in arts and culture, so that the Standing Committee on Finance made a unanimous recommendation to restore funding.
We have become a united sector and developed strong relationships with our audiences, communities,and other social service and business sectors. We have participated in a major world event that owed a lot of its success to our talented artists and arts and cultural organizations. The Arts and Culture expressed our unique identity to the world. Most importantly, we learned that British Columbians care deeply about art and culture.
Thanks for your support in our recent efforts and we invite you to continue to be engaged as we seek to raise awareness of the critical role of arts and culture in the life and future growth of this province and in our communities.
Vancouver artists and arts supporters took a metaphorical Wrecking Ball to the BC government’s devastating cuts to arts funding at the Vogue Theatre the night of November 23 in an evening of satirical protest, and the Alliance for Arts and Culture took the opportunity to introduce a province-wide campaign, Creativity Counts: Restore Arts Funding Now, as its contribution to the groundswell of arts community protests against the devastating cuts in provincial arts funding this past fall.
This site is a toolkit for community and individual protest.
To begin letting Gordon Campbell and his government know that you expect arts funding to be restored immediately to 2008/2009 levels:
1) Follow the “Make Your Voice Heard” link to your right and send an email protest to the premier, finance and arts and culture ministers and your own MLA;
2) Review the four components under “The Advocacy Toolkit” and adapt them for your own personal or organization protest;
3) Volunteer to distribute “Creativity Counts: Restore Arts Funding Now” buttons, postcards and bookmarks at local arts venues and collect donations to the Alliance Advocacy Fund. Email Alliance director of communications Kevin Dale McKeown at firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest, and he will get back to you.
4) Contact Kevin to inquire about receiving templates of those buttons, postcards and bookmarks that you can adapt for your own community use;
5) Consider featuring the Creativity Counts logo (design courtesy of our friends at Hamazki Wong Marketing Group) as a hotlink button on your own website and social media pages. Email Kevin and he will provide you with the button’s html code and some accompanying text.
6) Donate to the Alliance’s Advocacy Fund. Buttons and postcards and bookmarks all cost money. Your support will keep this campaign going. There is a PayPal account for this purpose, or you can send a cheque payable to the Alliance for Arts and Culture to 100 – 938 Howe Street, Vancouver, BC, V6Z 1N9 (note “Advocacy” in the memo line).
What do we hope to achieve with your help?
We have only a few more weeks in which to influence discussions and decisions around the budget that will be brought down in early March. A relentless drumbeat of protest, letters, emails and community-based activism will ensure that the decision makers in Victoria hear our message loud and clear right up to the last moment.
Restore Arts Funding Now.