Vancouver via Alliance For Arts – The arts and cultural sector in British Columbia is facing an imminent crisis. The Service Plans for the next two years show a 40% reduction in funding for the BC Arts Council. The BC Arts Council is the largest funding body in the province; last year, more than 224 communities throughout British Columbia depended on it for support.
“The impact to the province will be devastating,” said Amir Ali Alibhai, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Arts & Culture. “The BC Arts Council supports a sector that employs 80,000 people and generates $5.2-billion annually. It is bigger than the forestry and fishing industries combined. At a time when the government is doing everything they can to create and retain jobs, why are they implementing measures that will trigger layoffs and cause organizations to reduce programming?”
According to Ministry’s own research, for every dollar invested in the arts, the province gets back $1.38 in taxes. There are also countless studies that show that arts and culture creates healthy communities, enhances education, and helps to shape our cultural identity.
The government has defended the cuts as a necessary and discretionary, but artists and their communities are unconvinced. “No other government in the country has reduced funding for arts and culture during the recession,” said Minna Schendlinger of the PuSh Festival. “In fact, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and the Government of Canada have all increased their investments.” In their estimation, arts and culture are clearly valued and recognized as an important area to invest by other governments – they are not seen as discretionary nor a frill; they are core investments.
During a recent interview with Scott Walker of ProArt Alliance in Victoria, the new Minister for Tourism, Culture, Kevin Krueger, characterized the arts community as unconcerned. “I am not hearing complaints at all from the arts and cultural community,” he said. “I think people are pretty happy with what we’ve done.”
“The arts community is genuinely grateful for the past support that the Liberals in BC have given to arts and culture,” said Mr. Alibhai. “However, the proposed cuts take us back to much older funding levels. The effect will be a costly creative drain in this province, and it will be next to impossible to regain the ground lost.”