The dismal economic climate continues to rain down on local arts groups. ArtStarts in Schools has announced it’s cancelling next year’s spring showcase as a result of uncertainty regarding provincial arts funding.
“Zero dollars have been allocated for grant programs through the B.C. Arts Council for the upcoming fiscal year,” ArtStarts executive director and founder Wendy Newman told the Straight. “It will affect all of us—artists and arts organizations—and the way we work. But we won’t find out how much it will affect us until probably May. How can we put on an event in April if we’re not going to know whether the funding is there?”
Newman emphasized that ArtStarts in Schools, whose showcase helps artists and performing groups land gigs in schools throughout the province, has not yet suffered any cutbacks. But given the state of the arts sector’s financial affairs, now is the time to be prudent.
“We do not want to get ourselves into a deficit situation,” she said. “The writing is on the wall. Money isn’t going to be as forthcoming as it has been in the past, so we need to do something about it now.”
Other factors contributed to the decision to cancel the long-running three-day conference, which gives school representatives and community arts programmers the chance to see dozens of diverse troupes and costs about $50,000 to mount. The event would have taken place during some districts’ spring break as well as close to Easter.
Newman said ArtStarts’ staff will have direct contact with B.C. communities to handle booking. The organization books more than 2,000 shows every year.
Among the hundreds of groups that rely on ArtStarts to help them tour schools are Aché Brasil, Rupinder Sidhu’s Metaphor, and Sand Northrup’s One Woman Circus. Those who will be most affected by the showcase’s hiatus are new artists, Newman noted, who need the auditionlike event to get known.
“To them I apologize,” Newman said. “But I do believe we have to do things differently this year.”¦It’s a strategic move so that we can come back stronger in 2011.”
Spencer Herbert, Opposition critic for tourism, culture, and the arts, said the event’s cancellation reflects the impact of the B.C. Liberal cuts to the arts.
“I am really concerned that we will continue to see closures of companies”¦and the loss of the unique voice and vision B.C. artists bring to us every day,” Herbert told the Straight. “I have spoken with teachers, parents, and supervisors at school districts all across the province who are telling me because of cuts to arts groups”¦the kids of their community will have zero engagement in professional or community arts at their schools this year.”
Despite the decision to cancel the showcase, Newman maintains that it plays a crucial role in raising the profile of the arts. “Nothing replicates live performance.”