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Monthly Archives: October 2010

Video of interview with Christine Benty, Mayor of Golden, BC, Caleb Moss, Councillor and David Allen, Chief Administrative Officer with the Town of Golden. The video tells the story of the Town of Golden, BC’s investment in arts and culture. Elected officials and staff explain why they invest and why they consider important to Golden. Special thanks to Bill Usher, Executive Director of Kicking Horse Culture and Rider Media for producing this video. Funding for the video was provided by the Arts area of 2010 Legacies Now.

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Wedge Politics Strategy Seen In Loss of Investment In a Civil Society

Speaking on behalf of its 350 members and a growing province-wide coalition of arts and community service groups, the Greater Vancouver Alliance for Arts and Culture is calling on the provincial government, specifically Minister Rich Coleman of Housing and Social Development, to reinstate all the gaming funds previously used to support community services provided by charities and non-profits.

In advance of Friday’s BC Association for Charitable Gaming Symposium at Richmond’s River Rock Casino, Alliance executive director Amir Ali Alibhai said, “We are taking this opportunity to urge the BC government and Minister Coleman to properly fund charities and non-profits, as was promised when Gaming was expanded throughout BC.

“While the government of BC becomes increasingly addicted to the lucrative business of gambling at the expense of vulnerable British Columbians, and continues to expand its gaming activities, it has proceeded to break a social contract made with BC’s citizens,” Mr. Alibhai continued.

“Gambling was expanded in this province with the understanding that 33 percent of its profits would go back into communities to fund key social and community services. Currently this percentage has been eroded to 10 percent and important community infrastructures in the non-profit and charity sectors are crumbling.”

Mr. Alibhai acknowledged that there seems to be no hope of stopping neither the unprecedented expansion of gambling nor the social malaise that it creates.

He notes, however, that “we are forced to accept this source of funding for our sectors. We therefore demand a fair percentage of revenues for our communities. We also seek a more transparent manner of allocation of funds than we have witnessed of late.

“The risk of political agendas and motives affecting civil society is currently great. This massive pot of Gaming funds is currently distributed entirely at the ministry’s discretion, without transparency, consultation, or any type of arm’s-length process to ensure Gaming is not a political slush fund.

“The recent priorities announced by Minister Coleman suggest a strategy of wedge politics that we find disturbing.

“The BC government has increasingly put pressure on non-profit organizations, the pillars of a civil society, to deliver the social services it has gradually off-loaded, while cutting back its own financial support of those organizations. This is largely a result of an ideological strategy to cut corporate taxes while jumping on the cash cow that Gaming represents by taxing consumers. This addiction to gambling proceeds is not healthy and does not build a bright or better future for BC.

In making this announcement Mr. Alibhai outlined three key requests, that the government:

* Restore the funding previously provided through Gaming to civil society organizations, including the arts;

* Work with the BC Association for Charitable Gaming to negotiate and formalize an agreement to allocate at least 20 percent of all Gaming revenues to the charitable and non-profit sector so that services they provide to the public are sustainable for the future.

* Consult with community organizations from all sectors on priorities and eligibility criteria and processes for allocation of funds to civil society.

“It is not just about arts and culture, this is about the general future health of our province,” concluded Mr. Alibhai.

Alliance for Arts and Culture advocacy chair Sandy Garossino will be the keynote speaker at Friday’s BC Association for Charitable Gaming Symposium 2010, being held from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond. Ms. Garossino will speak on the topic of “Advocacy in a Challenging Time: We Can Work Together Toward A More Stable Future.”

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Acclaimed American theatre director Peter Sellars on the argument for financing culture. This is an excerpt from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston lecture, “Cultural Leadership in Difficult Times (Fighting off a Depression) or the Economics of Transcendence” presented on February 4, 2009. Part of The Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Celebrity Lecture series.

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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 communications@allianceforarts.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.

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