Excellent open letter to Minister Krueger, cc’d to Premier Campbell, from George Zukerman, internationally renowned musician and respected member of BC’s classical music community. He is the recipient of the Order of Canada and Order of BC in recognition of national and international performances. Mr. Zukerman lives in Surrey, B.C.
Hon. Kevin Krueger
Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts
9—111 Oriole Road
Kamloops, BC V2C 4N6
Dear Minister Krueger:
I want to express my grave concerns at the severity of the funding cuts recently imposed on much of the BC Arts Community.
Over the past thirty five years The BC Arts Council has worked in trusted collaboration with Arts organizations throughout British Columbia, assisting with annual operating expenses and investing in the essential task of building infrastructures to last for the benefit of future generations. The Arts Community learned to trust the Council even when funds were limited. Through the Cultural Services Branch, it became known as a responsive agency which maintained as even a hand as possible in its ongoing distribution of available monies.
The draconian cuts recently imposed coupled with the elimination of gaming grants for cultural organizations has left the BC arts world reeling. I recognize that when cuts have to be made, very often somebody down the line suffers inordinately. It is not always possible to make all cuts equally across the board. But I cannot believe that any government would knowingly wish to inflict such serious harm on some of the very organizations which it has nurtured for so many previous years. Did you know, for instance, that the Prince George Symphony—a vital Northern musical resources for the entire Northern region as well as for the City of PG—has been cut off from its entire 2010-2011 BC Arts Council operating grant? Your own Kamloops Symphony has been slashed to 43% of normal operating grant.
Curiously, this is all happening at exactly the time that the BC Government has announced its special $30,000,000 Legacy fund, designed (according to the declaration on Page 2 of the 2010 budget statement) to “enhance existing provincial arts investments in arts and culture.” There is even a side-bar with a smiling theatre-logo which adds “$30 Million for Provincial Arts Investments.” (We have little enough to smile about, these days!)
Bravo! The intent of Cabinet in its budget-plan seems clear enough. Investment. But somewhere down the line, the good intentions have become tangled in a morass of confused and confusing regulations. It appears that most of the new fund is linked to a series of time-limited celebrations of the legacy of the 2010 Cultural Olympiad.
It is a wonderful thing to celebrate our Olympic success. A good example is the Canada Line to the airport which leaves a permanent Olympic legacy. In the Arts we also want to celebrate with something permanent. There are more pressing needs than a glorious block party.
Public policy, as announced in the Budget Statement, cannot and should not be changed. But hastily devised regulations which specify how Arts funding should be distributed can—and should—be amended. At the same time this would reassert the crucial “arm’s length” separation between government and its funding agencies.
It really is not too late for your Government to alter these regulations, and devote at least some portion of the annual Legacy Fund to the BC Arts Council. This might begin to make up for some of the deepest and most injurious cuts. There are so many of them—and you’ve probably heard from them all! Think about it—in a simple move, much of the damage inadvertently inflicted on the arts community would be undone. The intent of the Budget statement would be fulfilled, and the Olympic memory would still live on!
I hope you might agree that it would be enlightened self-interest to allow the Arts to flourish with this small new investment. The alternative is that they will languish because of ill-advised cuts. Many of them will not survive. Who knows—with a move in the right direction, the Chair of the BC Arts Council, who recently resigned over this issue, might be persuaded to return.
George Zukerman, O.C. O.B.C.
c.c Hon Gordon Campbell
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2