Monthly Archives: December 2009

Brain drain – how many are leaving BC thanks to arts cuts?

We are currently tracking the number of artists and arts professionals leaving BC for Ontario and beyond thanks to the hostile climate for arts in BC. We want to know how many are leaving as a result of the BC Liberals’ current cultural policies, including but not limited to: cutting gaming funds to arts organizations, cutting regular tax funding for the BC Arts Council, refusing to match Ontario’s tax credits to benefit the BC film industry, and cancelling the touring subsidies for BC musicians. Since most other provinces have increased rather than decreased these programs, we are extremely confused by this wholesale destruction of arts and culture infrastructure in this province. If you are leaving, or know others who are, please contact us. Arts professionals need to pay their bills and can’t wait around until Budget Day, March 2 to see if the BC government is going to reverse its position and start giving the cultural sector the same support it gives other sectors. Arts professionals want to work in a vibrant arts industry, not in a hostile arts climate. It’s clear that the brain drain has already begun and some of BC’s most innovative and highly-trained workers in film, music and the arts have already been lost to other regions, which is a terrible net loss for BC. Please help us compile an accurate list. Information will be kept confidential if you so desire – we just need numbers.

Thank you for your help. Email us here.


Face of the Arts – Vancouver


Vancouver has joined the “Face of the Arts,” a Flickr campaign launched by arts supporters in Golden, BC. to show the face of arts supporters and arts workers around the province. These photos were all taken at The Wrecking Ball, an evening of theatre, satire and protest on November 23, 2009 at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre. The photo session was organized by the group known as The Social Utilities, and you can see the whole set of photos on the Alliance for Arts’ Flickr. Great photo of award-winning choreographer Serge Bennathan directly below; translated from the French his sign reads  “Culture is important because creativity is the only possible politics.” And Amir is correct; access to culture is considered a human right. See also the Golden BC and Gabriola contributions to the Face of the Arts campaign.









The symphony that refuses to die, in Prince George, BC

An event by a string quartet from the Prince George Symphony Orchestra in support of the Salvation Army taking place at a local shopping mall in Prince George, B.C. Peter Hovestad for The Globe and Mail

Globe and Mail
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
By Jane Armstrong

Prince George’s struggling symphony orchestra shouldn’t even exist. It has a mammoth $250,000 deficit. It will lose another $95,000 when the B.C. government slices its arts budget. And last year, half the seats in the concert hall were empty during performances.

But the struggling orchestra in the hard-scrabble northern B.C. town refused to die. If the people wouldn’t come to the symphony, the symphony decided it would go to the people. It dispatched string quartets to malls, markets, and even the bare-bones Prince George Airport to serenade shoppers and travellers with Beethoven and Mozart in a bid to woo music lovers back to the symphony seats.

Then it trimmed its budget, pared its performance schedule and launched a massive fundraising drive to save the 39-year-old orchestra from bankruptcy.

Continue reading

Bring Back The Fire – stage your own bonfire event!

Bring Back The Fire is a winter bonfire event organized in Wells, B.C., to protest the cuts to arts funding that have hit Wells and other smaller BC communities so hard. The event’s organizer is Bill Horne, the photographer responsible for the amazing photos of loggers, miners, farmers, pulp workers and hunters protesting the arts cuts. It sounds fun! From the invitation:

“Just after sundown… I am inviting people to “Bring Back the Fire! – celebrating our culture and protesting cuts to BC non-profits & arts.”

For those who live too far away to join us this weekend, please consider organizing your own event locally so we can light up more places!

Since the government has left PACs, non-profits & arts organizations “out in the cold” by cutting arts funding and taking away gaming monies, let’s fight their frigidity with fire and show them we won’t be frozen out of the economy!

A night this close to the solstice is a great time to demonstrate how brightly the power of community and culture can glow in a place like Wells. Envision an Island Mountain Arts ( coffeehouse, but … outside!

BYO warm clothes and/or overnight gear, plus songs, poems, stories, skits, snacks, etc.
Cameo appearances are welcome for those who can’t stay the night ;-)”

Other communities should organize something similar! Wells, B.C. is well-named; it seems to be a bottomless well of great ideas.

Dame Judi Dench fears arts cash being lost to London 2012 Olympics

Via the BBC:

Dame Judi Dench has voiced fears that arts funding is being “siphoned off” to pay for the 2012 Olympics.

The 75-year-old said the state of the arts was “precarious”, adding she was alarmed about “huge cuts”.

In an interview with The Times, Dame Judi called for funding to be ring-fenced, saying she “mourned” the loss of a number of repertory companies.

The actress is due to appear on stage in Kingston next year in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Dame Judi said she was “doing my bit to keep [the theatre] open”, adding she was “concerned that they’ve taken a lot of the subsidy to the arts away for the Olympics”.

Film cuts

In April 2007, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell announced that the Arts Council England would lose out on more than £100m of its anticipated funding over the next four years to help pay for the London Olympics in 2012.

The move was criticised by Nicholas Hytner, director of London’s National Theatre, who warned that cuts would lead to lower standards.

But Oscar-winner Dame Judi, who plays the role of M in the recent James Bond movies, said funding cuts did not stop at the theatre but had also impacted on British film-making.

The UK film council, which help funds British films, has seen its funding slashed by 15 percent.

“Things are not being greenlit as much and it is more difficult for people to get work,” said the screen star.

Peter Ladner, publisher of Business in Vancouver, speaks out against the cuts

Here is the full text of Peter Ladner’s article, from its original source at Business in Vancouver:

Liberal-arts cuts are bad for B.C.’s economy
Friday, 11 December 2009

It’s hard to understand what the BC Liberals were thinking when they chose arts and culture to take such a huge hit in the struggle to keep the province on track financially.

Artists talking to businesspeople feel compelled to make the economic case for what they do. Although they’re a sideshow to the real contribution of the arts, those numbers are impressive: a payback of $1.05 to $1.36 for every dollar invested; $12 in economic spinoffs for every dollar spent on the arts. My experience is that the small amount of money contributed by the province leverages not just matching funding but thousands of volunteer and unpaid hours from people who care passionately about what they do, building the social capital that is vital to any place that purports to be “the best place on Earth.”

There is a bigger financial picture, too.

The arts are the infrastructure for a creative economy. Why would we be lowering taxes to attract new businesses and mobile employees, especially in the burgeoning new- media industries, while we undermine the performing artists and organizations that feed those industries and pull creative people into this province?

“By reinventing our province as a cultural centre in the world … we … effectively distinguish our cultural identity in the global economy in ways that would ensure B.C.’s continued prosperity,” said PUSH Festival director Norman Armour. “To the province’s young professionals – emerging artists, administrators and technicians – who are now considering, as I did 20 years ago, the difficult, life-determining decision of whether they should lay down roots here, stick it out or simply pack up and leave – what can I say?”

After touring the province, one of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services’ 49 recommendations was to “make funding of the arts a high priority in the 2010-11 budget by returning to overall actual funding levels of 2008-09.”

That would bring it up to 1/20th of 1% of the total budget.

The government argues that it gave the B.C. Arts Council $150 million last year in a big-burst endowment intended to provide stable funding for the future. The problem is that the proceeds, expected to be $7.5 million a year, are at half that amount because of low returns. The same problem is afflicting foundations that support the arts, with at least one liquidating its capital to keep money flowing to arts organizations that would otherwise disappear.

Provincial funding to the arts is down 50% this year. Approximately 85% to 90% of the cuts are scheduled for 2010-11 – from $47 million to $3 million – and that’s from a starting point of contributing only 7% of operating budgets of performing-arts organizations, the lowest in Canada, where the average is almost twice that.

The 2010 Olympic Games rings a hollow bell with its rich cultural festivities and promises to lure tourists, framed as they are by the gutting of performing-arts support.

Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman said his priority for gambling revenue is support for low-income, disabled and at-risk people.

“So often we talk about children at risk and the vulnerable in our society,” said Yulanda Faris, arts philanthropist, chair of the Vancouver Opera Foundation, honorary chair of Judith Marcuse Dance Projects, at a recent rally. “The arts have the force and the dynamism to help everyone across the board: rich, poor, sick, whomever. We have the tools and we are part of the solution.”

Bob D’Eith, executive director of the Music BC Industry Association, tells the story of Winston Churchill’s finance minister asking to cut arts funding to support the Second World War effort.

“Then what are we fighting for?” was Churchill’s response.

Peter Ladner ( is a founder of Business in Vancouver and a former Vancouver city councillor.


Peter Ladner’s article provides a great set of briefing notes for anyone willing to call or write their MLAs. Have you ever called your MLA? It’s surprisingly easy to do, and probably more effective than even writing a personal letter. Now that the BC legislature is out of session until late January, the MLAs are back in their constituency offices in their home ridings. You can call and talk to them, or go in and visit. If they’re not in, you can leave a message. They’re your MLAs – they must respond to you. Please make it clear to them in rational terms what these cuts are going to mean for your community, both economically and socially. Thank you!

“Arts are folding” – origami submission to the Arts Cuts Memo contest

"Arts are folding" by Joseph Wu, Vancouver

Fantastic origami submission to the BC-wide Arts Cuts Memo Contest/Protest by Joseph Wu, Vancouver. It’s hard to know whether to enter this one in the “Origami” or the “Title” contest category.