Letter to Kevin Krueger from the Vancouver International Fringe Festival

The arts community has been rallying together in confronting the new arts minister Kevin Krueger over recent statements and the government's plan to cut arts funding by 40 percent over the next three years. Facebook groups have been set up, along with calls to flood Krueger's inbox with mail.

Here's an example of the kind of letters the minister has been receiving, courtesy of the Vancouver International Fringe Festival:

Dear Mr. Krueger,

The Vancouver International Fringe Festival is celebrating 25 years of Theatre for Everyone. And when we say everyone, we mean everyone. We offer the opportunity to anyone to perform in the festival and select the participants at random.

I know it sounds crazy, but it’s been working now for 25 years because people are participating. We offer this diverse cross section of performing arts (over 400 performances in 11 days) to our audience (up to 30,000) for $10 for a regular ticket. This ensures that EVERYONE is able to participate as audience members.

Also our 400 volunteers who run the festival are often economically disadvantaged and gain access to this major cultural even by volunteering. We anticipate that the festival will be a recession friendly cultural experience and hope to see as strong an audience as we did last year. Last year we increased revenue returned to artists by 20% (almost $200,000).

We return 100% of the regular box office revenues to artists in the hopes that this still somewhat meager sum will encourage them to keep working as artists. As I am sure you are aware the average artist’s income is below the poverty line. And yet”¦these are the people we look to to enrich our lives.

A 40% cut for us will mean 8 fewer performing groups will have an opportunity that they would not otherwise be given. There will be 50 fewer performances and 2500-5000 fewer people will see a play. And our small staff of 2 and a half year round employees will struggle to make do rather than planning for growth and development.

We have not received an increase in our provincial grant in over a decade. Show me another industry with that amount of tenacity, resourcefulness and love for the citizens of this province. We must be doing it for love, because it’s not for the money.

Please do not continue with this regressive cut. Take us forward.

Yours truly,

David Jordan
Executive Director
Vancouver International Fringe Festival

Comments

6 Comments

Tanya

Jul 20, 2009 at 11:08pm

There is no "Recommend" button to recommend this story (usually found at the end of an article to the left of where it says "4 reads have recommended this". Please fix. This is a critical issue for the arts community in BC, and I'd like to recommend this story to your readership.

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Travis Lupick

Jul 20, 2009 at 11:54pm

I see a "Recommend" button. I'll have the tech guys look into this for you, though

Note: If you have already clicked the "Recommend" button, you may not be able to click the button again from the same computer.

Appreciate your interest.

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Deb Pickman

Jul 21, 2009 at 3:05pm

Can you add a note right at the bottom of the letter with the email address for people to send their own letters ie Krueger's email

kevin.krueger.mla@leg.bc.ca

... and hey - send a copy to his face book page via Direct Message! http://www.facebook.com/kevin.krueger?ref=mf

Am I the only one wondering if this guy is any relation to Freddy?

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Reader via e-mail

Jul 21, 2009 at 3:43pm

To the Honourable Kevin Krueger,

According to the <em>Vancouver Sun</em>, you earn $124,508 a year in your capacities as an MLA and cabinet minister plus expenses. Will you also be taking a 40 percent cut over the next two years to reflect the global economic recession or is it just we artists that are "silently" accepting to contribute our salaries to balance the government's budget? If you did take a 40 percent hit, how would you cope with the $49,803 loss in income?

Would you be just as productive as you are now or would you have to curtail the time you had to spend on your legislative responsibilities so that you could make your mortgage payments, look after your kids' educations, and care for your aging parents? How do you imagine we will cope with a 40 percent hit in our British Columbia Arts Council funding?

In a B.C. government fact sheet from September 22, 2008—less than one year ago—deputy ministers were given an average salary increase of just over seven percent to bring their average salary to $217,758, while assistant deputy ministers now average $157,608 per year, representing a 21 percent increase in salary. Will they now be asked to take a 40 percent cut or is it just us artists that are being sacrificed to maintain national standards of compensation for the workers that you actually value?

The average salary for artists is about 26 percent below the average salary for all workers according to a study compiled by Hill Strategies Research Inc. In May 2009, the average wage was $790.22/week or $41,091.44/year or $19.76/hour. The average salary for artists, therefore, can be estimated to be $663.78/week or $34,516.81/year or $16.59/hour. If we were to take 40 percent off of that salary, we would leave the artist with an annual salary of $20,710.09 (or $517.75/week or $8.77/hour).

After 32 years as a professional artist, I earn $20/hour for 40 hours per week, $0.24/hour better than the average. However, my job requires that I donate another 20 to 30 hours a week without compensation. If I take a 40 percent cut in my salary, I can look forward to earning $12/hour for those hours that I am paid, and unfortunately I do not have the time to get another job to supplement my artist's salary because I am already working evenings and weekends as a volunteer in service to the organization that I started. I do not have mortgage payments because I do not own a home. I do not have RRSPs either, however, so I cannot really afford to retire. I am 62 years old and these cuts come at a point when I should be thinking about retirement. If I have to retire because of these cuts, I have nothing to look forward to except social assistance.

<em>Continued in comment below ”¦ </em>

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Reader via e-mail

Jul 21, 2009 at 3:44pm

<em>Continued from comment above ”¦</em>

Lest you think that my logic is incorrect because our British Columbia Arts Council grant is obviously not our total source of income, let me explain what "resourceful" means when the word is applied to artistic practice. Kokoro Dance Theatre Society is a nonprofit charitable organization that produces the annual Vancouver International Dance Festival. We annually pay wages and fees to over a hundred artists, technicians, and administrators. Every dollar that we receive from the BCAC is multiplied 16 times in terms of the amount of funds that we return to B.C.'s economy. However, every dollar that we are short in balancing our budget can come from nowhere other than my salary. I cannot ask the already impoverished dancers that we hire to take a wage cut. Unlike our provincial government, we lead by example so when we are hit by obscene and heinous cuts to our grant from the BCAC, we take the hit personally.

Mr. Krueger, you have not had the ministerial responsibility for culture for very long and you seem to know next to nothing about the arts and its relationship to the society in terms of its benefits to both the economic and social wellbeing of the province of British Columbia. I wish to inform you that we need a champion for the arts in this government and you have the opportunity to be that champion. I encourage you to learn more about what we do and how we make a huge difference in the quality of life for all British Columbians. I encourage you to speak up for us in cabinet meetings and to work to rescind the draconian cuts to the arts that seem punitive and pernicious since similar cuts do not seem to have been applied to other sectors of workers.

If you would like more information on what it is like to be an artist in British Columbia, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Jay Hirabayashi
Executive Director, Kokoro Dance and the Vancouver International Dance Festival

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Tanya

Jul 21, 2009 at 8:09pm

Thank you, I see the recommend button now!

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