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It has been a very busy year so far for our Alliance and in case you’ve missed anything, or want to know what we are up to, you may find this update useful.  We have seen the appointment of a new Premier of our province, a Federal election called, and some changes and a review of gaming funds underway.  We can also look forward to an HST referendum, a Municipal election and possibly a provincial election.  We also have a by-election in which our Premier is running for a seat.  These all present opportunities and challenges to make sure that our collective voices are heard clearly.

First of all, we were proud to be a part of the Vancouver Not Vegas coalition, whose work, led by Sandy Garossino and Lindsay Brown, resulted in an unanimous decision by Vancouver City Council to prevent the major expansion of Edgewater Casino in our downtown.  This initiative and the public discussion that has begun will inform the anticipated review of public Gaming, especially the revenues that are generated and distributed to charities.  While we welcome this review, the situation for the arts and cultural groups remains dire and largely neglected.  Especially as multi-year agreements have come to an end, many arts organizations are finding themselves ineligible to apply under the “new eligibility criteria” introduced by Rich Coleman in 2009.  We have urged our new Premier and Minister to address this issue immediately, before a lengthy review process is completed.  The $15 Million that was “restored” recently has not satisfied or addressed the pressing need in the arts and culture community, including many of our members.

It is also important to use the opportunity of the May 11th by-election, in which Premier Clark is running to remind her of promises made to the arts and culture during her leadership campaign.  She has made good on the $15 Million to Gaming and we expect an announcement regarding a review.  Restoration of funding cuts made to the BCAC, however, were also part of her promises and we urge our members and supporters to write letters to remind her of this.  We support the allocation of at least 80%of the Arts Legacy fund ($10 Million) to the BCAC, and emphasize that this decision be made as soon as possible to avoid the confusion and backtracking that the BCAC had to endure last year.  We also need to address the per capita level of arts and cultural spending in this province, which is the lowest in the country.  We all want healthy, flourishing, and livable communities and the arts and culture have a large role in this.  We also want her to know that those of us who work in arts and culture represent families and jobs that contribute significantly to our communities and which, in turn, serve families and support jobs in other sectors.   Our new premier has an opportunity to distinguish her new government from that of Gordon Campbell and has much to gain from supporting civil society, especially the arts and culture.  You can send letters to

The Federal election is days away and we have worked with the Canadian Conference for the Arts to ensure a coordinated effort through a Common Arts Election Platform.  Please vote!

For a summary of responses from the federal political parties to our questions regarding Arts and Culture, please vist the CCA’s website.

Our strength as an Alliance is based on our membership and in being able to work together to achieve our collective goals.  I invite you all to Arts Summit 2011, being held in partnership with SFU Woodward’s at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts on June 10 and 11th.  This is a great opportunity to strengthen our networks and strategize together.

Amir Ali Alibhai
Executive Director
Alliance for Arts and Culture

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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

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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Re: Arts Festivals Cut Off From Gambling Funds–Vancouver Sun, May 29, 2010

On Saturday, May 29, the Vancouver Sun published a comprehensive report of major, though unannounced, changes to the administration of gaming funds in British Columbia, which are administered by Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman (Arts festivals cut off from gambling funds / A7).

As a result of its own fiscal choices, the B.C. Liberal government is now forced to siphon funds from large and small social profit (non-profit) groups at the heart of British Columbia communities, large and small.

Government Policy Diverts Gaming Dollars Away from Charities

The purpose of Minister Coleman’s changes to gaming eligibility criteria is not to make any positive change. The minister knows, as we know, that only a minute fraction of applicants will meet the new, only partially disclosed, eligibility criteria. The few that do qualify will only be eligible for tiny grants.

The real outcome is the diversion of gaming revenues away from the charitable purposes they were intended to support and into unspecified non-charitable government projects.

Damaging Dominoes

The damage does not end with gaming cuts alone. When the provincial government cuts support to BC festivals, the effect spreads far beyond a single budget line. Federal programs and private foundations frequently provide funds to match provincial contributions. Corporate sponsors naturally get nervous when their projects suddenly experience financial distress, and greener pastures are easy to find.

Abrupt and unexpected changes in grant eligibility jeopardize many other critical revenue sources. A single cut can swiftly multiply losses several times over, to devastating effect.

Minister Coleman Belittles Non-Profit Sector and Volunteers

We take particular exception to Minister Coleman’s remarks demeaning the proud public service to British Columbia made by thousands of volunteers, donors, sponsors, and ordinary people who work incredibly hard in the arts sector year in and year out. Out of the spotlight and behind the scenes, an army of dedicated citizens tirelessly labours to keep the doors open on our non-profit festivals, arts companies, orchestras, galleries and museums in villages, towns, and cities across this province.

At every turn they cut costs and stretch each precious dollar to the breaking point. They do this in the most honourable tradition of public service, for the privilege of presenting the finest BC, Canadian, and international talent to all British Columbians, including our children, at an affordable price (or for free) ensuring access to all.

These unsung heroes deserve better from our government leaders than to be dismissed as incompetent failures.

3.5 Million Attend BC Arts and Culture Presentations

Arts and culture in BC are hugely popular. The arts community is honoured to serve more than 3.5 million British Columbians, including some 300,000 schoolchildren who attend non-profit performances and exhibitions annually from Atlin and Fort Nelson to Victoria and Sparwood.

When the world turned its eyes to British Columbia at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, our artists stood with our athletes to put Canada’s heart on its sleeve. The Cultural Olympiad showed all British Columbians the priceless value of investment in our own talent.

Non-Profit Sector Helps Small Business

When artists take the stage, they put British Columbians to work — be they ticket sellers, dry cleaners, caterers, printers, waiters and waitresses, lighting suppliers, ushers, stage hands, sound engineers, taxi drivers, parking attendants, delivery drivers, florists, hair dressers, or babysitters. This buzz of economic activity not only keeps British Columbians employed, it generates sufficient tax revenue to cover taxpayer investment in the arts, with more left over for schools and hospitals.

Small business is the backbone of British Columbia’s economy, and the arts sector is proud to support and partner with small businesses in communities across our province.

Public Support for Arts and Culture an Internationally Accepted Practice

It is deeply misguided to suggest that professional exhibitions and performances can be mounted on a strictly private enterprise model. If this were the case, none of the world’s greatest museums or professional companies would exist today–the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Bolshoi Ballet, La Scala Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the British Museum — not one of these pillars of modern civilization could survive without considerable government investment.

Each was built from humble beginnings, generation by generation, upon the bedrock of visionary leadership who made a pact with a future they would not live to see. They understood that a nation’s greatest prize is its heart, and that belongs to all the people, not just the rich and powerful.

Government Policy Means Art is Only for the Rich

Here in BC, if Minister Coleman’s view prevails, only the wealthy in our large urban centres will see the greatest performances and exhibitions, even those of our own homegrown and world-renowned artists.

Art Serves British Columbia

The arts community is proud of its service to all British Columbians, proud of its volunteerism, its enterprise and can-do spirit, proud to enrich our culture and traditions, proud to grow British Columbia’s profile and reputation abroad, and proud to contribute to our provincial economy.

Re-Instate Gaming Grants and Consult with Charitable Arts Sector

We ask today for Minister Coleman to reinstate full access to gaming funds for arts and culture organizations throughout the province.

We renew our calls on the government to consult with our sector so that together we can build a vibrant future for British Columbia.

Sandy Garossino
Chair, Advocacy Task Force
Alliance for Arts and Culture

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Recharge, Enter The Dialogue & Share!

The Alliance for Arts and Culture, with the support of 2010 Legacies Now and the City of Surrey, is pleased to present Arts Summit 2010, Thursday, June 24 and Friday, June 25 at Surrey’s Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre.

This beautiful new facility is 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver by Skytrain, one block from the Gateway Skytrainstation, at 13458 – 107A Street.

Register Now!

Check-in begins at 8 a.m. both days, with the first event at 9 a.m. Thursday’s reception ends at 6:30 p.m. and Friday’s events conclude at 5 p.m.

For the full Arts Summit 2010 schedule follow this link

Continue reading this article ›

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I have many stories to tell about the power of art as I am now a music teacher but I was saved by art in Grade 9. I was completely, utterly un-interested in any academic pursuit and had pretty much resigned to the fact that I simply didn’t fit the system, when my English teacher commented to me that I was always doodling and scribbing. He asked me what I was writing and I told him “just poems and songs and stuff.” Since I was uninspired by anything else in the curriculum, he told me in private that if I filled up a binder full of songs, poems and drawings he would mark it equally as the other assignments. In that one moment I was given a gift. I was astounded, and felt like what I wanted to do had value. Not only that, but it gave me hope knowing that even in the rigid school system a teacher could be an individual and make personal judgement calls.

I wrote like mad and was critiqued, applauded, questioned and marked. It was our secret. It went on through grades 10 and 11. I went on to be a songwriter and musician performing with various groups and bands including the CBC Radio Orchestra. Years later I wrote that teacher a letter and told him how much his embracing my creative force inspired me and changed my life. He wrote back saying “I recognised your handwriting right away…”

I now hold sound and music workshops for kids, youth and adults with developmental issues. More than teach them how to make music, I try to give them the space and encouragement to appreciate the experience of being creative in the moment. To me music and art in general is a living space where we can try out new thoughts, put on boots bigger than our own, and write a letter across time. Taking music out of schools will hurt students chances in all other areas of learning.

Steve Wright
Sound and Music Educator

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An Open Letter to the Vancouver School Board and the Government of British Columbia,

On the subject of closing music programs and Programs of Choice in the Vancouver Public School System and province-wide.

I write to you today, on “Music Monday” May 3 (link to press release below), to argue against the closure of music programs and Programs of Choice in BC Schools. My name is John Oliver. I am a full-time freelance composer whose works have been commissioned by major Canadian musical institutions, including the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Canadian Opera Company. My composition, “Five-ring Concerto,” was commissioned by Vancouver’s Turning Point Ensemble as part of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics Cultural Olympiad. As part of my collaboration with Turning Point Ensemble, I am working as an invited guest with young composers at a Metro Vancouver secondary school. This music program is so vibrant that there are over 20 young composers eager to learn from a professional composer. I am also the father of two daughters, aged 11 and 13, enrolled in French Immersion programs in the New Westminster school District and active in the school music programs.

I attended Lord Byng High School from 1973-77. At that time, the Byng Band did not have a string section, but it was a respected band program. When I was growing up, there were no band programs in elementary schools at all, but most high schools had music programs with concert band at the core. Because I had demonstrated music talent early, my family paid for private guitar and clarinet lessons while I was in elementary school, though we had to pinch pennies to do so. It wasn’t until I entered the high school band program that I was able to explore other instruments, such as flute, the various saxophones, bass clarinet and percussion.

In grade twelve I designed a special “directed-study” course, investigating music notation history from the earliest examples of music being written down to the most avant-garde and contemporary music notation. I was able to do this because during grades ten and eleven I had taken part in a satellite program for gifted, self-motivated students at Byng called “Self.” This self-directed studies program encompassed English, History, and Physical Education. Students were required to design their own course of study in these subjects, picking their own activities and topics for study and essay-writing. We also produced our own theatre productions and planned educational trips.

I owe a great deal to the program offerings at my high school. I became a composer because of the breadth and depth of experience I gained within the Vancouver public school system Programs of Choice.

If the Vancouver School Board decides to close the band and other Programs of Choice, they will do irreparable harm. They will deprive our children of a hopeful, bright, interesting, and engaging school experience. They may save some money this year and next, but we will all pay for it in the end, including the cost of servicing the social ills that come with bored youth.

I believe that the BC government must stop funding private schools and put the savings into the public education system. Why should scarce public dollars fund private schools? Why should the wealthy be able to benefit from the mixture of public and private funding that will allow their private school to afford to offer a music program, while kids in public schools have their music program taken away from them?

John Oliver
New Westminster, BC

Music Monday Press Release:

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The bad news for the creative sector in the March 2 provincial budget was followed on March 8 with an announcement of further massive funding cuts in funding to arts groups through community gaming grants.

Creativity Counts is the Alliance for Arts and Culture‘s advocacy campaign for the return of provincial arts funding to 2008 / 2009 levels and the creation of a comprehensive and sustainable arts funding policy for British Columbia.

Our goal is to provide arts organizations, individual artists, and patrons and supporters with ideas and tools to work towards these goals.

The Alliance for Arts and Culture is now in the process of recreating the Creativity Counts advocacy toolkit and will be announcing an update to this site shortly.

In the meantime, we thank everyone for their support and participation over the past few months. We look forward to working together with all of you throughout British Columbia in the weeks and months to come to continue delivering the message that Creativity Counts.

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Several BC communities have shown their support for the arts with these wonderful photo messages. The Face of the Arts idea began in Golden, BC this fall. We’re posting these photos and their instructions on how to run your own Face of the Arts photo shoot below.

Golden BC kicks off Face of the Arts

The idea was picked up again on Gabriola Island

Gabriola Island residents show their support

Rebecca Coleman has also contributed an excellent blog piece on Art of the Business that shows how the cuts have already had a direct impact on several organizations.

These photos were taken by The Social Utilities at the Wrecking Ball on November 23rd at the Vogue in Vancouver.

The Social Utilities are: Caroline Liffman, Tanya Podlozniuk, Gina Readman, Aliya Griffin, Caroline Sniatynski and Adrienne Wong.

Take a look at the whole series in this slideshow.

Here is a call-to-action from the Kicking Horse Culture advocacy page about how you can put a face to the arts in your community with this very effective photo initiative:

What you can do:

Invite to communities and arts orgs all around the province:

All you need is a white board and a digital camera and a Flickr account via Yahoo (it’s free).

1. Take the photos at your events. Our audience loved it!

2. Export the images from your camera into your photo software program… we’re using iPhoto.

3. iPhoto links directly to Flickr. With other software, just follow Flickr’s FAQ to upload.

4. That’s it!

May we suggest thay you name your Flickr account “Face of the arts in (your town name here) BC” That way, when one does a search in Flickr, it will be very evident how many communities have joined in.

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There are several ways for you to lend your support to the arts in BC. Here is one more that is gathering a lot of momentum. Please help circulate this petition, and make sure to use our own easy-to-use webform to Speak Out Against BC Arts Cuts:

Arts Victoria‘s Petition in Support of the Arts here.

This petition will be presented to the Legislature when the house resumes sitting in February. As budget decisions will be made between now and then, we will be making interim reports on the progress of the petition to media, and are asking that completed sheets be returned by December 14, January 14 and February 7.

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