Tag Archives: BC Arts Council

Some Spirit Festival” money directed to BC Arts Council, but little & late

If you haven’t seen the text of Minister responsible for the arts Ida Chong’s announcement on July 7, view it here.

The government has used some money from the $60M “Sports And Arts
Legacy Fund” established in the 2010 budget to keep the BC Arts
Council at a “stable” level in terms of its grants budget (although we
understand there may be a shortfall in money for BCAC-related staffing
at the Ministry). This is an achievement of sorts, as the mis-named
“Legacy Fund” was meant to provide money for politically-advantageous
initiatives, theoretically in the amount of $10M a year over three
years, and was not meant for the BC Arts Council, which some members of Caucus
see as a non-advantageous delivery mechanism. So, to have acquired
part of this budget (again, similar to last year) is not a small
thing, and congratulations are no doubt due to the BCAC Board and to
people at the Ministry.

However!

It is apparent that there is little will for either replacing the
investment formerly made through Gaming Direct Access (a poor delivery
mechanism, but one which compensated for the fact that the BCAC has
never had a budget adequate to fulfill its mandate), or for increasing
cultural investment at the provincial level in way which will enable
us to leverage and increase other sources of cultural investment,
enable us to bring more art to more publics, and enable us to create a
better working environment for artists and artists’ organizations.

The manner in which this year-to-year budget “stability” has been
achieved is also troubling. The BCAC started this budget year with
about half of the previous year’s grants budget, and with no apparent
commitment to increasing that budget during the year. It was not until
the evening of Thursday July 7 that the actual grants budget seems to have been
finalized. This is not conducive to proper planning: one quarter of
the year has gone by, a quarter in which projects have been juried
and assessed and funding allocated to them based on a plan containing
question marks where there should have been figures.

BC’s arts and culture industry needs, as other sectors need, stable investment if we are going to produce the kind of vital sector that attracts residents, good jobs, tourism, and general social health to the region.

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Letter to Premier Campbell from the Canadian Conference of the Arts

The full text of an unprecedented letter from the Canadian Conference of the Arts to Premier Gordon Campbell (courtesy The Alliance for Arts and the Georgia Straight):

August 20th, 2010

Dear Premier Campbell,

Re: Cuts to the BC arts sector

I am writing again to you today on behalf of the Board of Governors of the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) to express our deep concerns about the devastating cuts of provincial support to the arts and culture communities of British Columbia, as well as about the resignation of the widely respected BC Arts Council Chair, Ms. Jane Danzo.

As the largest and oldest Canada-wide organization in the arts, culture and heritage sector, the CCA does not often intervene in issues of provincial concern. Founded 65 years ago, the CCA’s mission is to be the national forum for the sector and to document and promote the development and implementation of cultural policies at the federal level. Our goal is to encourage and foster the health and growth of this important sector within Canada and to enhance the cultural life of Canadians.

However, we cannot remain silent when we hear how your government abandons its support to arts and culture organizations in British Columbia, many of which are members of ours. Past investments by BC governments, while for decades amongst the lowest per capita in Canada, have yielded remarkable results. Your province ranks amongst the first in Canada for the number and the quality of its artists and creators, notably in the visual arts, who have gained your province and the country an international reputation.

Last year’s success of the BC Scene event at the National Arts Centre was a clear illustration of the incredible talent and creative power of your province’s artistic community. And if further proof were required, all three levels of government recognized the importance of arts and culture by investing considerable sums of money to showcase Canadian and British Columbian talent at the Cultural Olympiad during the very successful Winter Olympics, thus confirming the contribution the arts make to Canada’s image abroad.

It bears repeating once again that the arts and culture sector is at the vanguard of the shift to a post-industrial economy which must be strategically guided by Canada’s various levels of government. According to documents produced by your own Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, BC’s arts and culture sector employs close to 80 000 people and contributes over $5 billion to the provincial economy. BC has the largest percentage of its labour force in arts occupations and, as such, ranks first amongst the ten provinces. The arts are a growth sector in most Canadian cities and Vancouver boasts the third largest concentration of professional artists in Canada.

Moreover, British Columbia’s population represents much of the cultural diversity that increasingly characterizes Canadian society. As such, investing in the arts and culture sector should be a strong component of your government’s strategy to tap this inexhaustible natural resource to advance creativity, boost the economy, lead to greater social cohesion and contribute to our identity as a nation.

In this context, we are appalled to hear the extremely severe financial cuts that BC arts organizations are being hit with further to your government’s decisions, both through cuts to the budget of the BCAC and through the elimination of support from gaming grants. This is made particularly dramatic given the fact that like the rest of the arts and culture sector across the country, those organizations still have to feel the full impact of the recent recession.  We are equally concerned that major policy shifts, made without consultation with the BC Arts Council, have set irresponsible and indefensible precedents.

On that front, we want to reassert the importance of the arm’s length relationship which must exist between governments, politicians and cultural granting agencies. Arts and politics do not mix well: this is why so many countries, including Canada and most provinces, have established independent Arts Councils and rely on peer jury systems as the best possible way of granting money to artists and cultural organizations. This is a characteristic of healthy democracies and remains the best way to encourage innovation and creativity in a nation. Like our colleagues in BC, we applaud Ms. Danzo’s courageous decision to resign in protest of both the drastic cuts imposed by your government and the fact that BCAC does not possess the independence normally given to such granting agencies.

For all those reasons, we find it ill-advised that provincial investments in the arts and culture sector be drastically and unfairly cut to help balance the books. With all due respect, we submit that this is a strategic error that will have negative impacts not only on tourism and economic development but also severely compromise the role your province plays in defining Canadian identity at home and abroad.

The Canadian Conference of the Arts therefore urges you and your government to think of the long-term interests of British Columbians and to reverse the current policy regarding the arts, which can only be described as short-view and contrary to the interests not only of British Columbians but of all Canadians. We also submit that the BC Arts Council should be restructured on the model of other Arts Councils in Canada and in other countries and enjoy the independence which is necessary to a thriving arts community.

Yours truly,

Kathleen Sharpe

President

CC
The Hon. Kevin Krueger, Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts
The Hon. Colin Hansen, Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier

The Province
The Vancouver Sun
The Georgia Straight
The Victoria News
The Times Colonist

PAARC’s Statement on Jane Danzo’s Resignation from the BC Arts Council

Following is the press release from the Pacific Association of Artist-Run Centres (PAARC) on Jane Danzo’s resignation letter from the BC Arts Council. Thanks to PAARC for letting us reprint the release:

18 August 2010 – For Immediate Release

In recent months, the B.C. Arts Council has been subjected to an unprecedented amount of political interference, something former Arts Council chair Jane Danzo called attention to in her letter of resignation, made public yesterday evening. This political interference, taking the form of a direct assault on the arms-length nature of the council, should be of concern to all British Columbians. The B.C. government has disproportionately cut funding that used to support cultural activity and services in our communities (overall, by 50% to 70%), and now seeks to replace that money with politically-directed money from a Legacy Program. Not only will no money will be saved by this action, the democratic nature of cultural expression will be significantly impaired.

It is widely suspected in the arts community that this interference is an attempt by government to convert the arts and culture in B.C. into a tool to be mobilized for partisan political ends, rather than an essential outgrowth of, and benefit to, our communities. Furthermore, it is believed by some that this attempt to manage culture directly by political fiat originates in the office of the Premier.

It is incumbent upon the Premier and the government caucus to refute this theory, not by mere denial, but by demonstrating a strong commitment to arts funding at arms-length from political operatives, and by reversing the disastrous, reckless and wasteful decisions identified in Ms. Danzo’s letter.

Keith Higgins
President, Pacific Association of Artist-Run Centres

A copy of Ms. Danzo’s resignation letter can be found here: https://stopbcartscuts.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/jane-danzo-chair-of-bc-arts-council-resignation-letter/


Jane Danzo, Chair of BC Arts Council, resigns with damning letter

Here is the text of Jane Danzo’s letter of August 16, 2010 to Kevin Krueger, BC’s Minister of Tourism, Culture & the Arts. Stop BC Arts Cuts today makes a renewed call for Minister Krueger’s resignation. Danzo’s devastating letter outlines the Council’s loss of arms-length independence from government and makes clear the degree of political abuse of arts funds. It should be noted that “arms-length” in British Columbia has never been strong – a colleague called it “wrist-length” today – and now it’s virtually nonexistent. The BC public has lost faith in its provincial government’s ability to protect BC arts and culture, not to mention in its ability to refrain from using arts money for political gain. The government MUST remove arts money from the “Legacy” fund – a highly suspect ministerial discretion fund – and put it back into a properly constituted BC Arts Council.

See also Marsha Lederman’s article in the Globe and Mail.

Full text of Jane Danzo’s letter:

Dear Minister Krueger,

Thank-you for your kind words in last week’s press release that announced my resignation from the British Columbia Arts Council.

I was very proud to have been appointed to the BC Arts Council and even more so to have been appointed Chair. I consider it a privilege to have been asked to serve the government for the past four years.

While my resignation may have seemed sudden, I had been considering stepping down for some time.

With respect and with regret, I felt obliged to resign in order to have a voice. In my opinion, the work of The B.C. Arts Council Board, has not been supported by government on a number of different levels.

According to the Arts Council Act, Council is defined as not more than 15 members, appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The Charter of the BCAC further identifies the appointees as “the Board”. The Act stipulates that the Board’s main purpose is to provide support for the arts and culture sector in British Columbia. In November 2009, Council (board and staff) made a submission to the Committee on Finance and Governmental Services regarding BCAC funding for the following year. Council recommended that the government return to an appropriation for the BCAC and restore its funding to 08/09 levels. This recommendation, which was echoed by the submissions of artists and arts organizations province-wide, was supported by the government’s own committee who brought it forward for consideration in the March budget. The government rejected its committee’s strong recommendation for restoration. The devastating impact of that decision is now being felt by artists and arts organizations throughout the province as they receive notification of substantial cuts to their core funding.

Instead of restoring the funding to the BCAC, the government announced the establishment of an Arts Legacy Fund- a surprise as much to the Board as to the arts community. Even after the announcement, the Board was not consulted for input, nor was it permitted to know the details as they were developed by ministry staff over a four month period. Meanwhile, the arts community struggled, some members with life-threatening uncertainty, as they reduced their programming, laid off staff and made poignant appeals to patrons and donors for further support. And the Board remained awkwardly silent until the government released more information about the Arts Legacy Fund.

The Act also specifies that the Board support arts and culture through advocacy. This responsibility is virtually impossible to accomplish because the Board’s relationship to government is not at-arms–length. It has neither its own funding nor its own staff. It is dependent upon budget allocation for funds and ministry employees for human resources, both managed by a government employee. Furthermore, it has recently been made clear that the Board does not have a voice independent of government. The only independence the Board has from government is defined by the granting process.

The Board members of the BCAC are chosen for, among other qualifications, their areas of expertise and their knowledge of the sector. Collectively, they represent a broad range of board experience that includes not-for profit, public sector and corporate boards. Given the issues I have identified, it would not be surprising if such capable volunteers were to become frustrated, even disillusioned. I believe that unless government is more consultative, and makes significant organizational changes, it will be difficult to attract and retain qualified candidates for Board positions on the BCAC.

I strongly recommend that the government and the Board review the models used in some of the other provincial jurisdictions where their arts councils are at arms–length from government; where they are respected for their expertise and judgment and where, as a result, the arts and culture sectors are better served. Surely such co-operation could produce only beneficial results for the B.C. arts community.

Minister Krueger, you have been a strong advocate for increased funding to the BCAC , and, more broadly, for the arts and culture sector of British Columbia. I am very grateful for that support, and, on behalf of the community, I thank-you very much.

Yours very truly,
Jane M. Danzo

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.