Monthly Archives: February 2010

BC youth artists, organizers of the IGNITE! youth-driven arts festival, protest BC arts cuts

Every Monday a group of 20 young arts enthusiasts meet at The Vancouver East Cultural Centre (the Cultch) to organize IGNITE!, Vancouver’s youth-driven arts festival. For a week in May The Cultch becomes the epicentre of youth art in the city, as over 250 young artists take to the stage to showcase their talent.

This year, the group decided that they wanted to do something to protest the cuts to provincial arts funding. Together they have written a letter and had it signed by 380 young people from the Lower Mainland asking the provincial government to reconsider the proposed arts cuts. They have sent this to Premier Gordon Campbell and Ministers Hansen, Coleman and Krueger.

It’s hard not to look at his and not feel slightly more optimistic about the future of BC. Thanks to IGNITE! and the Vancouver East Cultural Centre for this project. Larger resolution version of this photo can be found here. For the text of their letter, click below.

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Artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, creator of the Vectorial Elevations searchlight piece, criticizes BC’s arts cuts

At this moment of general Olympic excitement some may feel criticism is unwelcome, but artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s remarks are also constructive and inspiring. They point to the many ways in which the arts are making this Olympic moment beautiful and interesting, even for people who did not, until this moment, consider themselves consumers of arts and culture. Lozano-Hemmer’s remarks also give a clear sense of how the arts feed and improve our communities and economies on an ongoing basis, and not just when we’re hosting international events. They do this by ensuring our uniqueness, innovation, thoughtfulness and creativity, and thereby allow us to compete globally for the best minds.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer lives and works in Canada and Mexico. Based in Montreal, he was once a Vancouverite. His piece Vectorial Elevations, a very visible public work involving searchlights in the Vancouver sky, is part of the Cultural Olympiad (the arts component of the 2010 Winter Olympics) and it has become one of the most popular Olympiad artworks. Explanation of the “9-11” remark in this video clip: Before Vectorial Elevations was launched, its energy use wasn’t fully understood and the piece was accused of being “an environmental 9-11.” Hence his mention of “9-11.” In fact, for its entire month-long run, the artwork uses the same amount of power as only 10 hockey games, so its energy use is dwarfed by the Olympics’ energy use. It’s interesting that art tends to draw fire where other expenditures – whether of energy or money – do not. Sports come immediately to mind in this regard. Yet as Lozano-Hemmer argues here, the benefit of arts to communities and cities, both economically and socially, is huge, and cutting the arts is folly.

Further background on this clip: In this video Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is participating in a Q&A after his keynote speech at a Vancouver conference called CODE: Dialogue. The conference featured many Olympiad artists involved in CODE, the digital component of the Cultural Olympiad. After Rafael’s talk, the moderator asked him to talk about why public arts are worthwhile, and he unexpectedly began to speak about the arts cuts. As it turns out, he is not alone; many artists who received commissions to produce work in the Cultural Olympiad are horrified that after the Games, there will be no public money for other artists. When they agreed to be in the Games, they had no idea the government would cut public funding for the arts by 50-90% post-Olympics – funding that was already the lowest in Canada. This puts them in a very awkward position.

Full transcript of the relevant section of his talk is below…

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“Fill Your Opening Ceremony with Arts, then Cut Them”

Emily Carr, 1936. Why the black eye? 90% cuts to the arts give BC – both its citizens and its artists – a black eye in the eyes of the world. To join the Black Eye campaign, click here.

By Mark Leiren-Young, February 15, 2010. Reprinted from The Tyee.

Thanks for the show, artists — now get lost. BC to slash 90 per cent of culture funding.

As k.d. lang mesmerized the world with her magical rendition of “Hallelujah,” I couldn’t shake the image of Gordon Campbell as the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, hearing the joyous carols from Whoville, his heart growing ten sizes as Leonard Cohen’s lyrics soared to the roof of BC’s giant marshmallow tied to a kitchen chair.

By the time the Alberta Ballet left the stage, WO Mitchell had been quoted, Ashley MacIsaac stopped fiddling, the spirit bear puppet took its bow, the First Nations dancers finally dropped from exhaustion and Shane Koyczan slammed out his last syllable about zippers and zeds, I hoped our Premier would realize what he’d been waving his flag for all month long, what was prompting this epic outpouring of hoser pride from Sea to Sea to Sea and why all those hearts around the world were glowing.

All the singing, dancing, drumming, pretty costumes, exotic designs and fancy words being intoned on the loudspeaker by Donald Sutherland is what government funding bodies call “arts and culture.” And that would be the part of the provincial budget the Liberal Government recently decided to brutalize.Ninety per cent cuts? That’s not “belt-tightening” — that’s premeditated murder by strangulation.

Artists came through

The next time a Liberal MLA — or anyone — goes on a rant about the value of arts and culture, skip the stats about how the arts return $1.30 to the economy for every government dollar invested. Don’t mention the fact that culture creation is genuinely green. Don’t bother pointing out that pretty much every other industry in Canada has some sort or subsidy, incentive or tax break attached to it. And forget the reality that if our galleries, museums and theatres start to close, our tourism industry will be about as inviting as a Stephen Harper smile. Ask them what Canada decided to show off when millions of people tuned in from around the world to find out what our country was all about.

Unless I missed something, there were no spectacular shots of our highways, no visits to mills or mines — and, with all due respect to our Greatest Canadian, Tommy Douglas, there wasn’t any footage of someone on the Olympic stage receiving affordable health care.

The Canadian heroes chosen to share the world stage with our Olympic athletes weren’t our politicians, lawyers, or civil servants and our military presence consisted of General Romeo Dallaire, who was introduced as an author. Oh, right, they also threw in an astronaut to represent non-artsy Canadians.

For the next few weeks we’re not showing the world our banks, our office towers, or our tar sands — we’re pointing at inukshuks.

If you took all the arts and culture out of the opening ceremonies — that would include the choreographed torch fun run as the hydraulics performed their scene from Spinal Tap — all you’ve got left from the scheduled event are a couple of political speeches, a thanks from VANOC, the athletes entering — without music — wearing non-distinctive, undesigned uniforms, and Wayne Gretzky in the getaway truck. I’m sure NBC would have loved that.

Not bashing the Olympics

I’m not one of the people protesting this party, pretending these are Gordon’s games when the torch was originally lit by three NDP premiers. I’m not buying the argument that every dollar spent on the Olympic Village was taken from artists, Downtown Eastside improvements and starving children. The Olympics brought in federal money B.C. never would have seen to fund projects B.C. governments have wanted to fund for years. All these skaters, skiers and snowboarders have the potential to generate tourism and investment dollars for decades, which is why leaders from Gordon Campbell to Larry Campbell were willing to sell out the stores on Cambie Street to bring the five ring circus to Vangroovy.

I spent two hours in line to watch the opening ceremonies on the big screen TVs at Livecity. I’ve mortgaged a kidney so I can watch Belarus battle for hockey gold. I’m not waving a flag, but I have no trouble wearing my “Team Canada” toque. As a result, I wasn’t looking to bitch about the games until I saw the man who decided B.C. didn’t need arts funding basking in the reflected glory of B.C.’s finest artists.

And since the artists participating in the Olympics aren’t allowed to publicly comment on anything beyond how much they enjoyed the show, I thought I’d say what I hope k.d., Sarah McLachlan, Nelly Furtado and most of those soon to be unemployed dancers, actors, designers, scenic painters, stage managers and technicians who did their best to make the show spectacular were thinking in those moments they weren’t demonstrating the artistic version of faster, higher, stronger — “Shame on you, Gordon.”

Stand up for our funding

What’s really tragic is that Campbell knows the arts matter — so why is he pandering to the pinheads in his party? Why isn’t he asking them if they were proud of their country when the world was welcomed to our province by artists who were nurtured by Canadian content rules, the Canada Council and the CBC — and also the B.C. Arts Council they’ve just ransacked.

Canada asked our artists to host this party — and Gordon Campbell told them to leave by the back door, change out of their good clothes, put on their waiter outfits and mop up after the guests go home.

It’s time for Premier Grinch to get on the bobsled to Whoville, reinstate the funding, address the impact of the HST and the gaming cuts, and admit that he’s not returning stolen presents. Arts and culture are “an essential service” because those songs, stories, dances and images are what make us proud to be Canadian.

Go Canada!

Chart offers clarity on B.C. Liberal arts cuts

Reprinted from The Georgia Straight, (virtually the only local media outlet consistently covering the near-elimination of all arts funding in BC):

By Charlie Smith
February 11, 2010
Since the last provincial budget was announced on September 1, none of the B.C. Liberal cabinet ministers responsible for arts funding has returned calls from the Georgia Straight to discuss this issue.
Finance Minister Colin Hansen, Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Kevin Krueger, and Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman have all gone into hiding.
Fortunately, the NDP Opposition has created a chart that paints a pretty good picture of arts funding in B.C.
The critic for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, Vancouver-West End NDP MLA Spencer Herbert, e-mailed it to the Straight today.
The next provincial budget is scheduled to be unveiled on March 2.