News from the arts world

Funding recommended  for arts council

The legislative committee on finance and government services has recommended that the government consider allotting more money to the British Columbia Arts Council , the provincial arts-funding body, following a campaign by the coalition Arts Future BC. Made up of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, Pro Arts in Victoria, the Assembly of British Columbia Arts Councils, the British Columbia Touring Council, and individuals from other arts groups, the coalition had lobbied for an annual increase in B.C. Arts Council funding in the 2008 provincial budget, from $14 million to $32 million.

While the legislative committee's report does not specify a monetary figure, it does call on the government to "consider additional funding to the B.C. Arts Council and to all British Columbia's artists and cultural organizations such that B.C.'s total arts funding from all government sources is not less than third highest amongst the Canadian provinces."

"At the moment we're fourth from the bottom [out of 10] when it comes to arts councils [funding], at less than $3.50 per capita," noted Andrew Wilhelm-Boyles , executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture.

Last year, the legislative committee made a similar recommendation to the government, but it was not acted upon.

> Jessica Werb

VAG's proposal raises expectations

Members of the Concert Hall Arts Complex society–once known as the Coal Harbour Arts Complex society–insist a performance hall could share land with a new Vancouver Art Gallery on the former bus depot site at the corner of Cambie and Georgia streets.

Last week, the VAG publicly confirmed its intention to move from its current 157,000-square-foot home on Robson Street to a 320,000-square-foot, purpose-built facility on the city-owned land, to be completed in 2013. The City of Vancouver is currently engaged in studies to determine the capacity of the site, and is expected to approve the VAG's presence in early spring of 2008.

When asked whether the gallery's plans leave room for the Concert Hall Arts Complex, Michael Audain , chair of the VAG's relocation committee, told the Straight , "I think there will be room for some other uses on the site." Kathleen Bartels , executive director of the VAG, added, "What and how much, we just aren't sure of at this point."

David Pay , board member of the CHAC society, told the Straight that his organization's proposal for a facility encompassing an 1,800-seat hall and a 400- to 600-seat theatre is still viable.

"We do have a $20-million endowment earmarked for the arts complex," he said. "We've started to receive significant pledges toward the fundraising."

The CHAC was originally approved and funded by the city in 2001, but was bumped from a prospective site at the north end of Burrard Street by the Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Project.

Other local arts groups have had a mixed reaction to the VAG's planned move to the heart of the cultural-precinct site.

"I think that the VAG is one important aspect of the visual arts in Vancouver, but....diverse cultural activity should be equally recognized and supported," Melanie O'Brian , president of the Pacific Association of Artist Run Centres, told the Straight . "One branded precinct is perhaps not the most productive way to understand and promote a vibrant culture in this city."

Calls to the City's office of cultural affairs were not returned by press time.

> Jessica Werb

Director leaving Pi theatre

Pi Theatre is searching for a new artistic director following the announcement that the current holder of that post, Del Surjik, has accepted a position as artistic director of Saskatoon's Persephone Theatre. Surjik told the Straight the move has enabled him to return to the province where he started his career, and to work with excellent resources.

"It's a 420-seat cross-arch theatre with a fly tower, plus a 100-seat second stage with all the rehearsal halls and productions facilities....and it's situated not off, tucked away to gentrify some corner of a city, but right on the riverbank, in the heart of the city," he said. "They own the land and the building. There's no mortgage sucking the life out of the operations of the theatre."

In Vancouver, he said, "It is draining fighting for the spaces....I've had my shoulders to the wheel here for many years."

Surjik's wife, Johnna Wright, will also be leaving her position at as co-artistic director of Vancouver's Solo Collective. Pi Theatre has already put out a call for applications to fill Surjik's vacated position, with a deadline of December 22.

> Jessica Werb

The case for trophies

The 2007 Governor General's Literary Awards were announced on November 27, and the results represent a near-shutout of B.C.'s literary scene. The contingent of five nominees from this province boasted only one winner: Iain Lawrence of Gabriola Island, who garnered the English-language award in the category of children's literature (text) for his story Gemini Summer. Lawrence will pick up his prize at a ceremony in Ottawa's Rideau Hall on December 13.

As if to atone for this cultural dissing, the two winners of the nationwide Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award were honoured in Ottawa on the same day, one of them being acclaimed Vancouver-based conceptual artist Ken Lum . Besides this recognition of his work at mid career, Lum receives a prize of $25,000.

The Hnatyshyn award and the foundation behind it are named after Canada's 24th governor general, Ray Hnatyshyn, who died in 2002.

> Brian Lynch