Statements by culture minister Kevin Krueger raise artists' ire

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      A recent radio interview with B.C.’s Culture Minister on Victoria’s C-FAX has raised the ire of the province’s arts community. In the July 5 interview, conducted by Scott Walker on his show Eye on the Arts, Minister Kevin Krueger, MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson was asked about the government’s three-year service plan, which is projecting cuts of up to 40 percent for arts and culture. In response, he stated: “I don’t think anyone is lighting their hair on fire about what is coming down the pipe....I see lots of optimism in the people that are representing the arts and cultural community.”

      In reaction, the Alliance for Arts and Culture put out a July 13 call for action to the arts community, resulting in a flood of letters and emails to Krueger’s office, as well as the creation on July 14 of a Facebook group titled Complaints From the Arts Community to Kevin Krueger, Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts. As of 4:15 p.m. today (July 16), the group had just over 200 members.

      Yesterday (July 15), the Alliance for Arts noted on its blog that “the heads of the seven largest institutions in the city have demonstrated leadership by composing a strongly worded letter to the Premier that will be co-signed by several dozen high-profile members of the business community and hand-delivered to his office by the end of the week.”

      The Straight requested an interview with Krueger after he was sworn into office. That request was declined on Monday (July 13). The Straight re-submitted a request today, and is awaiting a reply.

      In a call with the Straight, NDP culture critic Spencer Herbert, MLA for Vancouver-West End, accused Krueger of political spin. “It’s that same kind of process of spin, and trying to hide the story so people don’t actually know what’s going on,” he said. “To say that the arts community is pretty happy, that they’re unconcerned about the cuts, that he hasn’t heard any complaint, just kind of makes me go, well, where have you been? The complaints have been coming in since February, or since the budget was initially brought down, with emails to all MLAs, including Minister Krueger.”



      Carol Sawyer

      Jul 17, 2009 at 4:12pm

      I respectfully disagree with Mr. Krueger's comment that the arts community is not concerned about cuts to arts funding in British Columbia - on the contrary, we are very concerned and alarmed. Not only because many of us make our living in the arts, and these cuts will make it harder for us to feed our families, but because we passionately beleive that the arts are of fundamental importance to the communities of British Columbia, and any erosion of the funding for arts is a short sighted and misguided policy.

      Funding the arts is an investment that pays dividends far beyond the arts community itself. Grants to artists are spent on supplies and services in British Columbia - supporting small businesses and trades people. Grants to arts organizations support the dissemination and exhibition of new works, fostering dialogue and giving voice to the dreams and stories of people in our communities. The arts generate revenue for nearby businesses, for example restaurants near theatres. Tourism generated by the arts is substantial, with people traveling from outside the province and outside the country to see the incredible music, dance, theatre, and visual art that is made here. Artworks made here travel to other countries, generating interest in our Province. Despite historically low levels of funding compared to many other provinces, BC is famous worldwide for the high calibre of artwork that comes from this place.

      The province should reconsider these proposed cuts to arts funding. Maintaining or increasing existing levels of funding for the arts is the right thing to do.

      Carol Sawyer
      visual artist, singer, and arts educator

      Julie McIntyre

      Jul 20, 2009 at 11:11am

      Yikes, I can't believe Kevin Krueger's odd statement, "I don’t think anyone is lighting their hair on fire about what is coming down the pipe....I see lots of optimism in the people that are representing the arts and cultural community.” It is true that artists are not keen lobbyists simply because most are working other jobs and time to write a letter means losing ever more precious time from artmaking. For arts administrators who are already overworked and underpaid, they are simply trying to keep focused on carrying out their underfunded projects. As a professional visual artist myself, President of CARFAC BC and a member of 4 other provincial arts groups, I can tell you that all the artists I have spoke to we are scared and worried sick about these proposed budget cuts. It is difficult to gage how they will affect us, but any cut is a huge gash to our precarious incomes. Does it mean my rent will go up again at Malaspina Printmakers Studio and I'll lose a residency for a school project with Artstarts? Will CARFAC BC's campaign to have public galleries pay exhibition rights to artists seem impossible and artist will continue to be expected to bare the full cost of mounting and shipping a show to a gallery with a mandate for education, not sales? Will those rare BC public galleries that pay exhibition fees have to reduce the number of exhibitions and I will lose more opportunities to show?
      Now, there have been countless articles and letters proving the economic value of art, but the bottom line is it has always been artists who support the arts. Just because we love and feel compelled to do it, does not mean we should give it away or give it up. If an artist wants their work to get into the history rather than the pocket books, we have to look past the market-driven model for true value. There is no further boot tightening to do, and we may have to turn to more enlightened provinces like Ontario and Quebec who in this recessionary year, recognized the benefits of their cultural industries and raised their arts budgets significantly.
      Julie McIntyre,
      Vancouver, BC