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As expected, the budget presented by the provincial government on Tuesday, held to a “stand pat” strategy.

We were disappointed to see that yet again the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Finance were not followed.  Given the current political and economic climates, however, we have not been surprised.

A small degree of freedom and flexibility have been provided for the next Premier of British Columbia.

The budget for the arts seems to have remained about the same as last year.  The BC Arts Council (BCAC) seems to have to deal with a very slight decrease in actual dollars ($18K) and the 2010 Sports and Arts Legacy fund is still intact at $20 Million.

We are grateful that these budgets have not been cut since last year, but there is still a huge lack in the BCAC’s ability to meet the needs of the sector it serves or to have a significant impact on its development, without allocating most of the 2010 Legacy Fund monies directly to the BCAC without strings.

Last year, allocation of almost $8 Million dollars from this fund came very late in the year, causing a scramble and confusion for the arts community.  The ability to plan wisely through these difficult economic times is critical for the arts and cultural community as well as the BCAC.  We urge the new leader of our province to allocate the bulk of the Arts Legacy fund, at least $8 Million, to the BCAC as soon as possible in the new fiscal year.

It has not been possible to verify the status of Gaming grants to the Arts and Cultural sector.  If the numbers are in the Budget, we have not been able to locate them easily and are working on this.  The BC Association for Charitable Gaming (BCACG), however, has announced that here too the overall picture is the same as last year.

Gaming revenues to charities and non-profits in the province remain at last year’s level, which is well below the justified need, and well below the level agreed to by the BCACG and the province in previous negotiations.

To date there has been no indication of a reversal of eligibility restrictions on arts and cultural organizations, leaving many of them ineligible for funding.  The annual loss to Metro Vancouver organizations is estimated at $4 Million.  This means jobs and programs.

We urge our new leader to address these issues regarding Gaming funds as a priority, to ensure that the civil society infrastructure of the province, especially the arts and cultural infrastructure, does not collapse.

Amir Ali Alibhai
Executive Director
Alliance for Arts and Culture

 

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Support the BCACG initiative to restore gaming grants to non-profits and charities across the province. Visit the BCACG site for full details.

Please sign both petitions – especially the first, if you live, work or have family in Vancouver:

    1. Petition to BC gov’t and Vancouver City Council to stand up for charities and non-profits
    2. Petition to restore gaming funding to charities and non-profits across the province

      Please read BCACG’s
      Open Letter to Minister Rich Coleman

      For more detailed background information:
      BCACG Brief on BC Gaming Legislation

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      Dear Arts Supporters:

      At the Alliance for Arts and Culture’s Board Meeting on November 16 a resolution was passed to support the BC Association for Charitable Gaming’s Petition to the City of Vancouver to protect the charitable and non-profit sector in the City of Vancouver.

      The request to expand the Edgewater Casino will come to City Council in the context of massively expanding gaming activity and increasing revenues to the province, at the expense of its commitments to charities and non-profits, including arts and cultural groups.

      The resolution reads as follows:

      Whereas:

      Gambling in Canada was legalized for the purpose of benefiting sports, arts, and community charitable and non-profit purposes;

      Benefits to charities and non-profits have been used as a justification for the expansion of gaming in British Columbia;

      Support by charities and non-profits was critical to the success of the original grant of gambling license to Edgewater Casino, and the applicant at that time entered into undertakings to benefit the charitable sector in order to acquire its gambling license;

      Edgewater Casino has not fulfilled its obligations under that original license;

      The Province of British Columbia has failed to adhere to the spirit and the letter of its own Memorandum of Agreement with the BC Association for Charitable Gaming, committing it to allocating 33 percent of gaming revenues to charities and non-profits;

      The provincial government has denied eligibility to arts organizations for gaming grants, which will have a direct loss to the Vancouver arts sector in excess of $4.5 million annually by 2012;

      And Whereas this loss will directly cost jobs and severely and adversely affect Vancouver’s cultural life;

      Therefore:

      The Alliance for Arts and Culture endorses and fully supports the Petition of the BC Association for Charitable Gaming, asking the City of Vancouver to refuse any expansion of gambling until the Province of British Columbia honours its commitment to allocate 33 percent of net gaming revenues to charities and non-profits, or renegotiates that agreement in good faith;

      I would like to encourage our members to pass similar resolutions at their own Boards and join the growing number of civil society organizations in the city in supporting this initiative.

      On behalf of the BC Association for Charitable Gaming, which represents any of us who have ever received a Gaming Grant, I ask for the following:

      I ask for all member organizations of the Alliance in the City of Vancouver to:

      1. Put an equivalent motion forward to their boards, and notify us;

      2. Write to Vancouver Council advising of the motion from this link: Blog | BC Association for Charitable Gaming ;

      3. Disseminate the motion and the Open Letter to Coleman (LINK?) to memberships, asking for letters of support;

      4. Ask members, audiences, and such groups as are thought to be appropriate, to please sign the online petition here: Petition to Vancouver City Council to Support Charities and Non-Profits – Signatures

      The online petition is very important. Its success is having an impact.

      I believe that supporting this initiative by the BCACG may be our best chance at achieving a resolution to this ongoing issue for civil society in BC, including arts and cultural organizations.

      Amir Ali Alibhai
      Executive Director
      Alliance for Arts and Culture

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      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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      Des McAnuff
      Artistic Director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival

      When I was 10 years old, a teacher took me and another member of my class to a Picasso exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario. It was my first introduction to the idea that art need not be literal: that something’s essence may be captured by a radical departure from its superficial appearance. That exhilarating early discovery fired my imagination and completely changed my life.

      Eye-opening encounters with art are essential parts of our education. They are as important as the classes we take, the exams we pass, the degrees, diplomas and certificates we earn. Arguably, they are more important, for they teach us not just how to be doctors or lawyers or plumbers or pilots, but how to perceive beyond surfaces, to think in unconventional ways, to approach life’s mysteries with intuition and imagination.

      Education is about far more than memorizing and regurgitating facts, writing essays and solving mathematical equations. It is about inspiring young minds (and old ones too) to explore ourselves and the world in which we live. While such inspiration does not come exclusively from the arts, it is often through the arts that we first experience it.

      Finish the article here.

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      A cultural economics that captures the value of the arts has to understand value in use, and that involves broader ways of understanding ourselves and our world, for instance, anthropology and environmentalism. The value in use of the arts is that they help a society make sense of itself. They generate the symbols and rituals that create a common identity—that is why art and religion are so closely linked. Like religion, the arts give access to the spiritual. Art is a link to previous generations, and anchors us to history. Culture is a social language that we would be dumb without.

      Read entire article here.

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      In the face of almost daily announcements of arts funding cutbacks across the province, former BC Arts Council chair Jane Danzo has released the content of her letter of resignation, officially submitted Monday to Lori Wannamaker, deputy minister of tourism, culture and the arts.

      Mrs. Danzo’s resignation had been announced last Thursday in an internal ministry document, and Stanley Hamilton named as interim chair.

      “With respect and with regret, I felt obliged to resign in order to have a voice” Mrs. Danzo’s said in her resignation, addressed to the Honourable Kevin Krueger, minister of tourism, culture and the arts.

      Mrs. Danzo’s letter went on to cite the lack of consultation around the creation of the Arts Legacy Fund, the government’s rejection of the recommendation of its own Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services that arts funding be restored to 2008/2009 levels, and the lack of a real arms-length relationship with the government as evidence that the BC Arts Council Board does not “have a voice independent of government”.

      “All these and other factors led to my conviction that I had to step down in order to effectively speak up” Mrs. Danzo said in releasing her letter.

      Alliance for Arts and Culture executive director Amir Ali Alibhai congratulated Mrs. Danzo on her decision.

      “We appreciate and applaud Jane’s courage and integrity in taking this step” said Mr. Alibihai. “The arts community is without question in crisis, and to have someone of Mrs. Danzo’s position and stature stand up and speak truth to power on our behalf is a major development and source of encouragement.

      “Our own voices of protest and concern can be ignored and discounted, but her’s cannot.

      “Some arts organizations that have recently seen large funding cuts are afraid to speak out for fear losing further funding opportunities. That this fear is well-founded is itself distressing and is a sad reflection of our entire political and bureaucratic reality. Ms. Danzo’s speaking out on behalf of the creative sector will help unite our community and strengthen our ongoing advocacy efforts” concluded Mr. Alibhai.

      The full text of Mrs. Danzo’s letter to Minister Krueger follows.

      JANE DANZO’S LETTER OF RESIGNATION

      Dear Minister Krueger,

      Thank-you for your kind words in last week’s press release that announced my resignation from the British Columbia Arts Council.

      I was very proud to have been appointed to the BC Arts Council and even more so to have been appointed Chair. I consider it a privilege to have been asked to serve the government for the past four years.

      While my resignation may have seemed sudden, I had been considering stepping down for some time.

      With respect and with regret, I felt obliged to resign in order to have a voice. In my opinion, the work of The B.C. Arts Council Board, has not been supported by government on a number of different levels.

      According to the Arts Council Act, Council is defined as not more than 15 members, appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The Charter of the BCAC further identifies the appointees as “the Board”. The Act stipulates that the Board’s main purpose is to provide support for the arts and culture sector in British Columbia. In November 2009, Council (board and staff) made a submission to the Committee on Finance and Governmental Services regarding BCAC funding for the following year. Council recommended that the government return to an appropriation for the BCAC and restore its funding to 08/09 levels.

      This recommendation, which was echoed by the submissions of artists and arts organizations province-wide, was supported by the government’s own committee who brought it forward for consideration in the March budget. The government rejected its committee’s strong recommendation for restoration. The devastating impact of that decision is now being felt by artists and arts organizations throughout the province as they receive notification of substantial cuts to their core funding.

      Instead of restoring the funding to the BCAC, the government announced the establishment of an Arts Legacy Fund- a surprise as much to the Board as to the arts community. Even after the announcement, the Board was not consulted for input, nor was it permitted to know the details as they were developed by ministry staff over a four month period.

      Meanwhile, the arts community struggled, some members with life-threatening uncertainty, as they reduced their programming, laid off staff and made poignant appeals to patrons and donors for further support. And the Board remained awkwardly silent until the government released more information about the Arts Legacy Fund.

      The Act also specifies that the Board support arts and culture through advocacy. This responsibility is virtually impossible to accomplish because the Board’s relationship to government is not at-arms –length. It has neither its own funding nor its own staff. It is dependent upon budget allocation for funds and ministry employees for human resources, both managed by a government employee. Furthermore, it has recently been made clear that the Board does not have a voice independent of government. The only independence the Board has from government is defined by the granting process.

      The Board members of the BCAC are chosen for, among other qualifications, their areas of expertise and their knowledge of the sector. Collectively, they represent a broad range of board experience that includes not-for profit, public sector and corporate boards. Given the issues I have identified, it would not be surprising if such capable volunteers were to become frustrated, even disillusioned. I believe that unless government is more consultative, and makes significant organizational changes, it will be difficult to attract and retain qualified candidates for Board positions on the BCAC.

      I strongly recommend that the government and the Board review the models used in some of the other provincial jurisdictions where their arts councils are at –arms- length from government; where they are respected for their expertise and judgment and where, as a result, the arts and culture sectors are better served. Surely such co-operation could produce only beneficial results for the B.C. arts community.

      Minister Krueger, you have been a strong advocate for increased funding to the BCAC , and, more broadly, for the arts and culture sector of British Columbia. I am very grateful for that support, and, on behalf of the community, I thank-you very much.

      Yours very truly,
      Jane M. Danzo

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      Guest post by Shannon Litzenberger

      In April I spent a considerable amount of time researching relative provincial spending levels on arts and culture across the country. It was budget season and so I read a lot of throne speeches and analyzed a dozen budget documents, comparing figures from this year to last. For a couple of weeks, I was the goddamn Nancy Drew of 2010 public arts spending commitments.

      The result was this article, which first appeared in The Dance Current print magazine’s Summer Annual 2010. Learn more >> http://www.thedancecurrent.com.

      Post-Recession Budgeting and the Fate of Arts Investment

      The arts community braced for impact as 2010 provincial budgets were unveiled across the country and governments articulated their public spending priorities. Federally, year two of stimulus spending is still in effect and the arts sector continues to see some benefit from these investments. Provincially, however, most governments are already scanning public spending line by line in hopes of identifying unnecessary expenditures.

      Maintaining and creating jobs, while protecting essential services were the trending words in budget speeches from coast to coast. Basically every industry sector has associated jobs, so the real question is which jobs are being protected and created? Manufacturing? Trades? Health Services? Education? Environment? Energy? Arts and Culture? At a time of spending restraint, one would expect governments to seek relatively low-cost investments that produce significant returns. The arts sector makes a compelling case, with over 600,000 jobs, its considerable $46 billion GDP impact, and the multiplying effect an invested arts dollar has on the economy. Given this extraordinary potential for economic, not to mention social, returns, why haven’t more governments viewed the arts as a strategic investment in Budget 2010? Here’s what happened across the country.

      After BC’s Liberal Government first proposed an eventual 92 % decrease to cultural spending in the province – a move that would have essentially decimated the BC arts scene – the arts sector poised for battle. During pre-budget consultations concerted efforts on the part of local arts advocates, assisted by sympathetic voices across the country, resulted in a unanimous recommendation from the BC Standing Committee on Finance to restore cultural investment to 2008/09 levels. However, Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, confirms: “Arts funding was not restored to 2008/2009 levels… In fact what we have seen are further cuts to core funding for a total loss of 32.4 per cent from funding levels in 2008/09.” Vancouver-based Canadian Dance Assembly President Jim Smith explains that BC Gaming Commission contributions to the arts have been cut 58% and the BC Arts Council has been cut 53% from 2008/09, reducing core support for the creation of cultural experiences like those that thrilled audiences in Canada and world-wide during the 2010 Olympics. A new $10 million annual fund for arts and sport was introduced, though no further details about the fund are available. Smith reflects, “I expect, as a direct result of these cuts, in a year or two, a significant number of arts organizations will no longer be in operation.”

      Continue reading this article ›

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