Forestry workers Michel Bernier and Jerry Krouzel are mad about what the BC government has done with gaming funds previously earmarked for the arts. (All of these photos were taken by Wells, BC photographer Bill Horne, whose information is at bottom. Link to this original photo is here.)
Bernier and Krouzel are currently working on a fuel management and fire protection program near Barkerville Historic Town in BC’s north Cariboo. Both are incensed about the negative impact of the gaming money grab on the hinterland’s culture and economy, because the resource sector provides so much of the province’s revenues.
“That money was meant to go to non-profits and the arts,” says Bernier. “They should give back ALL of it,” noting that although the government returned some gaming money, many non-profit and arts organizations weren’t eligible. “They didn’t say anything about this during last spring’s election.”
“Non-profits and arts groups are very important, especially in small communities in the hinterland, but they’re fragile. This funding can make or break them,” said Krouzel.
As one local example, gaming money has made up more than 10% of Island Mountain Arts’ annual budget in Wells. Its board is now struggling to make up the shortfall or cut its programming.
Prince George pulp mill worker, Denise Dauvin, loves her tunes and is unhappy about recent cuts to the arts in BC that affect the province’s musicians. (Link to original photo by Bill Horne is here.)
“Sarah McLachlan is one of my faves,” said Dauvin at the truck dumps, “and she’s right when she says the cuts are a tragedy.”
McLachlan has been speaking out against the cuts in the media recently and has said she thinks “arts and culture are a huge part of what makes our part of the world vibrant.”
Dauvin likes the music of Roy Forbes, too, and wonders what support there will be for budding musicians who come from far-flung corners of the province like he did (Forbes hails from Dawson Creek). As one example of the current crisis in the arts, Music BC faces cuts to its travel assistance program, operating funds, and the Western Canadian Music Awards.
She believes that music is an essential creative outlet for children, and as important as sports and education in a child’s growth and development.
“Why is our government cutting culture at a time when US President Barack Obama has just named 25 artists and educators to a national arts advisory committee, and the US Congress has increased funding the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities?” asks Dauvin. “If they think it’s smart to invest in the arts during a recession, why can’t we?”
Dauvin has been a heavy equipment operator at the pulpmill for over seven years.
Devlin’s Bench gold miners Rob Dakau and Dave Jorgenson are strongly opposed to recent cuts to BC’s arts budget. (Link to original photo by Bill Horne is here.)
“When government ministers try to pit artists against hungry children, that’s a false dichotomy,” says heavy equipment operator Rob Dakau. “It’s not an elite thing. Children in our region benefit from art classes at Island Mountain Arts in Wells. And they learn to think creatively.”
Jorgenson, Devlin’s Bench mine manager and a Past President of the Wells & District Chamber of Commerce, says “our culture and our economy are interconnected. Some of us at the mine host musicians during the annual ArtsWells Festival; others provide security; most of us try to attend. Events like ArtsWells bring much-needed dollars to our community.”
He believes the government ought to be investing in the arts during the recession instead of making drastic cuts.
Pete Wright, whose company operates the mine, says that in a small community like Wells, tiny investments in the arts generate a positive ripple effect in the local economy. “In my business, I have to look ahead and consider the global economy. Countries like Singapore are investing in the arts for long term growth – why aren’t we?”
Cariboo farmers Janet Allen and Murray Boal want the BC government to restore arts funding to pre-election levels. (Link to original photo by Bill Horne is here.)
Both farmers are angry that the BC government claimed that culture was the “second pillar” of its bid for the 2010 Olympics, and now has slashed arts funding by up to 90% over the next two years.
“We work hard producing nutritious food, but we know people also need the nourishment of books, art, dance, theatre and music,” said Allen.
“Our economy needs it, too,” she said. Allen notes that every dollar invested by the province in the arts returns between $1.05
and $1.36 directly to provincial treasuries through tax revenues. “Surely it makes sense to invest in this sector during the recession, especially considering the growing importance of cultural tourism for jobs.”
Boal says the government ought to be ashamed of devoting the lowest percentage of all provinces of its operating budget to culture in spite of having the largest percentage of its labour force in arts occupations. “We’re investing less than half the national average,” he says. “Québec invests nearly four times what we do. We need to narrow this gap, not make it worse.”
Dragon Mountain Farm was established in 1979 and has supplied 120 North Cariboo households with vegetables every summer since 1997. It is located 35 km southeast of Quesnel, BC on the Quesnel River.
As well as farming, Murray Boal has worked as a woodworker and a musician. He has recorded four CDs, the latest with Bob Campbell as the “wingdamramblers.” Janet Allen has a keen interest in social justice issues and is involved in local economic development. In her spare time she enjoys working with horses and border collies. For his part, Nick loves chasing the ball.
All of these beautiful photographs were taken by Bill Horne, Wells, BC, after arts in his region were devastated by arts funding cuts. For further information, contact Bill at Amazing Space Studio, Wells, BC, 250-994-2332, or email mazing at claireart dot ca.