Vision candidate proposes arts council

Vision Vancouver council candidate Geoff Meggs, backed by local arts promoters, says cultural funding from the city should be administered by an arm's-length Vancouver Arts Council. The proposal, which Meggs said will likely be featured in Vision's election platform, is supported by Vancouver East Cultural Centre executive director Heather Redfern and former director Duncan Low.

"There's a lot of paperwork and bureaucratic oversight of arts-granting processes that is gumming up the works, and it's causing a lot of frustration to people in the arts community," Meggs said. "By putting it with the arts council, we think that we would be able to create a peer-reviewed process or a juried process that would be respected by the arts community and produce better results."

Currently, all arts grants are administered by the city's office of cultural affairs, which is also responsible for developing and administering cultural policies, overseeing civic theatres, managing the city's public art, and advising council on arts matters. Reducing the office's role, Meggs said, would free up more money for other cultural investments, and diminish the threat of political interference in arts grants.

NPA councillor Elizabeth Ball, who sits on the city's Creative City Task Force, said she is not convinced. "Right now we're at the top of the heap in terms of [municipal] arts funding in Canada, so you go, ”˜Hmm, if it's not broken, and we're at the top of the heap, why would you want to change the model?' " she said. "I think we have the best of both worlds, where we actually hire and pay artists to jury the awards, so we don't have our bureaucrats deciding awards. We have our bureaucrats managing the administrative section."

The Cultch's Redfern noted that Vancouver is the only major Canadian city without an arts council. She noted that the current structure causes artists to second-guess themselves when dealing with politicians and city staff. "I think if you talked to some artists, they might fear for their grants if they were to perhaps stand up to somebody that somehow might influence their grants."