Gaming Branch cultural grants a vital lifeline for smaller arts groups

“Funding cuts will devastate local theatre: Gaming Branch cultural grants a vital lifeline for smaller arts groups”

BY CLAYTON JEVNE, TIMES COLONIST
13 November, 2010

Clayton Jevne has been the artistic director and manager of Theatre Inconnu since its inception in 1978. He has been involved as an actor, director or designer in more than 80 productions with the company. He has also performed as an actor

It is good news that grants from the B.C. Arts Council have been partially restored.

But a host of provincial arts groups have not been significantly supported by the council. Over the years, they have established ongoing funding through the B.C. Gaming Branch cultural grants. Those grants have been slashed.

Theatre Inconnu, among others, remains financially devastated as gaming grants have been stripped from cultural programs, promised gaming revenue has been taken from charities and outrageous criteria changes have rendered most cultural groups ineligible.

Those groups that previously received significant operational funding from the B.C. Arts Council are able to breathe a bit of a sigh of relief.

We other groups look forward to extinction, knowing that decades of commitment, service and contributions (both financially and socially) to the community have no recognized value for the government or the public voices focused on the drama unfolding around B.C. Arts Council funding.

Theatre Inconnu has been producing theatre in Victoria and B.C. since 1978. Since our incorporation nine years later as a nonprofit/charitable organization, we have produced 96 plays. We have toured productions in six countries. We have seen hundreds of young theatre artists showcase their talents on our stage; many have gone on to national and international fame and fortune.

And we continue to serve as a valuable stepping stone between the training institutions and the fully professional world.

We have managed two “home” venues (10 years in Market Square and almost seven years in Fernwood) that have been available at minimal cost (easily the cheapest in town) to other small cultural groups, who would not otherwise have been able to afford to mount their productions, thus further fostering the development of young talent in the region.

Our entire budget, since incorporation 24 years ago, has been $2.4 million — not a lot by professional standards, but quite an achievement for a small alternative company.

During these years, we have paid out $1.1 million in wages and artist fees. Our annual applications to the B.C. Arts Council have succeeded in bringing us an average of $2,300 per year, while our Gaming Branch application success has yielded $18,930 on average.

With 19 per cent of our budget covered by the Gaming Branch, we are able to leverage the remaining 79 per cent ($79,900 annually) which is channelled back into the community through wages and fees and the purchase of production supplies and services.

If the current Gaming Branch funding situation is not rectified, that contribution will be lost. Instead, one unemployed staff person will be applying for employment insurance.

Ironically, this elimination of our Gaming Branch funds comes at the conclusion of a successful six-year joint lobby effort with the Fernwood Community Association to pressure the City of Victoria into honouring a commitment to renovate our current home, the Little Fernwood Hall, into a multipurpose cultural gathering place ideally suited for small performing groups.

In a fair political environment, having contributed 24 years of cultural, social and financial service to the community, Theatre Inconnu might expect the reward of an offer of — at the least — a partial restoration of these lost funds, just as those groups funded through the B.C. Arts Council have experienced.

Currently, Theatre Inconnu is looking for a miracle to somehow survive the damage inflicted upon us by the province.

The focus has been on arts council funding issues.

But hey, the rest of us are dying out there too!

If there are no public voices speaking out on behalf of the numerous arts groups facing extinction due to the government’s grab of gaming funds, this province will lose an essential element in the ongoing development of artistic practice and arts appreciation in our society — groups, like Theatre Inconnu, who may not be fully professional but adhere faithfully to a mandate that encourages the growth of young talent by offering professional standard mentorship as well as financial reward, while developing audiences through the presentation of affordable, innovative and exciting theatre.

Theatre Inconnu’s most recent production, the Canadian première of Kyle Jarrow’s Kills, garnered

Love critical praise and played to standing ovations. In December, we will be producing the Canadian première of Stephen Mulrine’s Moscow

Stations. It is our hope that this will not prove our swan song.

Theatre Inconnu, like other groups, is racing against the clock to find ways to meet the shortfall caused by our total loss of gaming funds. Every bit of time and effort that should, at this point in our history, be directed towards producing a quality product is now being compromised as we scramble in an effort to interest our patrons in additional fundraising events (as is every other small theatre company in Victoria).

If there are any sympathetic voices out there, please speak up in favour of the restoration of cultural funding through the Gaming Branch. The political representatives need to be pressured and embarrassed on all cultural fronts, not just the highest-profile one.

Theatre Inconnu is Victoria’s longest surviving alternative theatre company

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One response to “Gaming Branch cultural grants a vital lifeline for smaller arts groups

  1. Funding cuts to the arts are outrageous! Considering the increasing revenues to the province through gambling, pardon me, gaming, are able to subsidize an increased number of gambling venues, thus exponentially increasing the revenues again, renegging on promises with regard to the movement of funds into actually valuable community avenues leaves me actually shaking my head.

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