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To protect BC arts, advocates aim to draft 'cultural policy'

"Flush" is not usually the first word that comes to mind when thinking about B.C.'s arts and culture scene. Funding cuts and venue closures have hit the arts hard in recent years, and unable to propel itself onto the provincial government's priorities list, the future of the creative sector isn't particularly clear.

In an effort towards a new relationship between the community and government, an advocacy organization is pushing for the creation of a unified cultural policy for B.C., something supporters see as exactly what the arts need to get back on track.

The Alliance for Arts and Culture is organizing the Arts Summit 2013, a meeting they hope will come up with the essence of that policy.

Rob Gloor, executive director of the Alliance, sees the policy as key to rekindling some love with provincial funders.

"I think that it's important now to help establish a new level of certainty around the relationship between the cultural community and the provincial government, and among various sectors of the cultural community," he said.

Gloor also feels the policy will help the community mount a stronger defence against funding cuts.

"I think that if we had something of this nature already existing in British Columbia, we may not have faced the volatility of funding that we've seen over the past few years," he said.

The Arts Summit will be held in Vancouver on June 21 and 22 and, according to its official webpage, will include "voices from all arts, cultural, and heritage sectors, the creative industries, the tourism and hospitality industries, all levels of government (elected and administrative), and other stakeholders."

Tom Durrie, executive director of Arts Advocacy BC, is also convinced it's important to have an established cultural policy in B.C., one that guarantees "stable funding for the B.C. Arts Council."

Durrie said the policy will prevent the provincial government from repeating "some arbitrary decisions" regarding the distribution of funds destined for arts and culture.

"[The policy] is a way of setting a tone for how the provincial government deals with cultural institutions in the province," he said.

Not everyone is as excited as Durrie about the project.

Keith Higgins, a spokesperson for Stop BC Arts Cuts, is skeptical about the overall effectiveness of the meeting. While he believes it's a worthy initiative, he feels that the Alliance for Arts and Culture is not well suited to lead the push for a cultural policy.

"They're historically a marketing organization rather than a policy development one; they're very regionally specific, and they represent organizations rather than individually working artists," he said.

Higgins isn't certain the Alliance will draft a policy that can effectively tackle the community's most pressing issues.

"Right off the bat, I think this is more likely to be one initiative among many, rather than a thing that unquestionably develops a cultural policy framework that everybody can work with," he said.

Durrie, on the other hand, is optimistic about the results of the summit. He believes that after the meeting, the cultural community will be better suited to make its voice heard, regardless of who ends up elected as premier.

"It doesn't matter who wins the election; they're going to hear from the arts community."

Carlos Tello is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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