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Arts Funding Less than Advertised Say Advocates

BC's overall arts budget $15 million less than two years ago: ProArt Alliance.

By Andrew MacLeod 4 Mar 2010 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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BC Arts Minister Kevin Krueger says arts groups should be happy

While presenting the British Columbia budget on Tuesday, Finance Minister Colin Hansen made a big deal of the money being put into the arts. Advocates within the sector, however, are unimpressed.

In his speech Hansen lumped the arts spending in with sports. "We are also making new investments to help young British Columbians excel in sports and to increase participation in the arts for all British Columbians," he said.

"Over the next three years we are allocating $60 million for a 2010 sports and arts legacy. Half the funding is targeted to enhancing youth participation in sports, and athlete and coach development. The other half is targeted to arts investments, building on the momentum of the Cultural Olympiad."

That works out to an added $10 million a year for the arts, a sector that's suffered provincial cuts in recent years. This in a budget that includes over $40 billion in total spending.

The minister responsible for the arts, Kevin Krueger, says the legacy fund brings spending in the area to a level as high as it has ever been.

Total funding down

Arts administrators disagree.

"Our numbers don't add up as well as his numbers appear to," said Scott Walker, the co-ordinator for the ProArt Alliance of Greater Victoria.

In its calculations the organization included arts money budgeted for the B.C. Arts Council, the B.C. Arts and Culture Endowment, the B.C. Gaming Commission, the 2010 Arts Legacy and other gaming transfers and committments.

Overall, the commitment for 2010-2011 falls far short of what was available to artists two years ago, he said.

"We see a decline in funding from $47 million in 2008-2009 to about $32 million now," he said. "That's $15 million that's missing."

There are also questions about how the legacy money will be administered, he said. Rather than create a new pool of money, it would be better to maintain funding for the B.C. Arts Council or another body that already manages grants, he said.

"We've just shown the world what not only our athletes can do, but also our artists with the Cultural Olympiad," Walker said. "We'd like to continue the legacy of the Cultural Olympiad, we're just not sure if we're going to be able to do that because of the funding cuts."

Artists should be pleased: minister

Artists in B.C. have nothing to complain about, said Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Krueger.

"They don't yet realize the tremendous new program we have with the Olympic Legacy Fund," he said in an interview.

The budget included $7.931 million for the B.C. Arts Council, said Krueger. "There's another $10 million to come this budget year and $10 million next budget year and $10 million more the year after that," he said. "They're going to really like what they see there."

(The budget documents actually list $9.379 million for the council in 2010-2011. The ProArt Alliance listed the figure as $9.235.)

"Ten and 7.931 is almost $18 million. The best they ever did was $14.8 million in a year," Krueger said. "They have nothing to reproach us for at all."

There will be money for things like internships and mentorships that help young artists get started, something arts advocates were asking for at roundtables, he said. "The arts groups themselves, once they realize what's coming down the pipe will be happy with it. They should be."

Minister counts funny: critic

The arts groups know exactly what they're talking about, and of course they're not happy, said Spencer Herbert, the New Democratic Party's critic for Tourism, Culture and the Arts.

"It's a big shell game," he said. "They've given with one hand with the hope it would get a whole bunch of press with their legacy fund, but they've taken with the other hand. It's pretty brutal."

Asked about Krueger's assertion that arts funding is as high as it's ever been in the province, Herbert said, "That's completely bogus."

The B.C. Arts Council used to give out $14 million a year in grants, but now it's at $7 million, he said. "Either he multiplies everything by two as an attempt to make it seem everything's fine or he's just making it up."

The province is throwing away thousands of creative jobs, said Herbert. The dance troupe Kidd Pivot is moving to Germany partly because they can get stable funding there. The filmmaker Lynne Stopkewich is leaving Vancouver for Ontario, Herbert said. "Those kinds of cuts will send creative people out of the province when we need to keep them here."

Over the past year the Union of B.C. Municipalities, federal Conservative Heritage Minister James Moore and the province's finance and government services committee have all called for increased arts funding in B.C., he said.

"We saw an incredible outpouring of sympathy for arts and culture in our province in the last year," Herbert said. "We'll continue to fight."  [Tyee]

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