Letter to Premier Gordon Campbell calls for reinstatement of BC Arts Council funding

The Straight has obtained a copy of a letter hand-delivered to Premier Gordon Campbell by the executive directors and board chairs of the Playhouse, Arts Club, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver Opera, Ballet BC and Bard on the Beach.

The letter, cc'ed to culture minister Kevin Krueger and finance minister Colin Hansen, urges the premier to reinstate funding to the BC Arts Council, which faces a possible 37-percent cut in funding next year to $9.56 million from $15.1 million in 2007-2008.

The letter notes: "Your government honoured its 2001 election promise to protect and increase funding for the BC Arts Council, in spite of the fact that your first budget projected a deficit of $4.4 billion—nine times greater than the $495-million deficit projected today."

Here is the letter in full:

July 8, 2009

Dear Premier Campbell,

We are writing regarding an issue of vital importance to the social, cultural and economic well-being of British Columbia: provincial funding for the BC Arts Council, and the more than 1,000 organizations and individuals that depend on it.

The B.C. arts, culture, and heritage industry is a significant source of jobs, investment and economic activity, generating 80,000 jobs and $5.2 billion annually. For every dollar invested in the arts, the government receives $1.38 in taxes alone.

Your government has always championed the importance of a vibrant arts and culture industry, and we are very grateful for this past support. Your government honoured its 2001 election promise to protect and increase funding for the BC Arts Council, in spite of the fact that your first budget projected a deficit of $4.4 billion – nine times greater than the $495 million deficit projected today. You provided funding certainty by implementing three-year budget envelopes. The BC Arts Council has assisted arts and cultural activities in more than 224 communities throughout British Columbia. The creation of the Renaissance Fund and BC 150 Endowment Fund has further strengthened hundreds of arts and culture organizations throughout BC.

However, arts and culture organizations in B.C. now face a dire funding challenge. The Renaissance Fund has expired. The BC 150 Endowment Fund is expected to generate minimal revenue in the year ahead, due to the downturn in investment markets. And the government has imposed a 37% cut in funding for the BC Arts Council in 2009-10, from the $15.1 million provided in the three-year budget approved by the Legislature just one year ago, to $9.57 million. We truly appreciate the identification of supplemental funds to maintain funding levels for 2009-10, but are extremely concerned about the impact of this reduction taking place in 2010-11 and beyond. This cut in the three-year budget envelope has eliminated funding certainty, and reduced funding below the 2001 level.

A 37% reduction will cause significant hardship for arts and culture organizations, particularly at a time when many are already experiencing reductions in corporate sponsorships due to the economic downturn. Layoffs will be inevitable. Exhibitions and productions will be reduced or cancelled. And the economic and social impacts will be felt in many communities across B.C.

As you know, the arts and culture industry is not just an important source of jobs and economic activity in B.C., but also a great source of pride, renewal and growing opportunity for all British Columbians, including our First Nations communities.

Most importantly, arts and culture is a critical component of our social fabric, and what defines us as a province—or what Richard Florida has called the “creative class,” that helps drive commercial innovation and regional development in the new economy.

It is significant that, in spite of the current economic and fiscal challenges facing Canada, no other government has reduced funding for arts and culture—indeed, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and the federal government have increased their investments. As British Columbia prepares to welcome the world to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, a vibrant arts and culture industry will be essential for the government to reach its goal of doubling tourism revenues by 2015.

We thank you once again for your past support and ask you to review and reinstate funding for the BC Arts Council. Reinstating core funding will provide vital stability for arts and culture organizations, and ongoing economic and social benefits, at a time when it is needed most.



Bob Loblaw

Aug 6, 2009 at 7:41am

How can Jessica Werb have any credibility as a journalist by being both writer and organizer. You're creating your own news. Write op-eds instead so that at least your intentions are clear.

Jessica Werb

Aug 6, 2009 at 2:12pm

Hi Bob,

As the story makes clear, this is a letter written and signed by the major arts organizations in this city, as well as their board of the directors, and hand-delivered to the Premier. It is notable for a number reasons:
1) because of the public outcry related to projected 40-percent cuts over the next two years to arts and culture funding in the city
2) because the major arts organizations banded together in a show of solidarity
3) it was personally delivered to the Premier

This has nothing to do with being an organizer, but is providing information to the arts community that is relevant, timely, and useful. There is no bigger issue at the moment in the local arts community than the prospect of major funding cuts.

Orchid Ensemble

Aug 7, 2009 at 10:59pm

For those want to add you voice, I got this email from the Dance Centre:

The Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Art, Hon. Kevin Kreuger, is under the impression that the Arts sector is happy – he hasn’t heard complaints which to him means that the people are happy with what the government has put in place (including recent cuts and announced cuts to the arts sector). Unless you are happy with the arts funding context in BC, please send your thoughts on the negative impact that recent and announced future BC Arts funding cuts will have on you the artist, your organization and for the sector.

The Minister can be contacted:
Email: kevin.krueger.mla@leg.bc.ca
Mail (Office) Room 124, Parliament Buildings , Victoria BC, V8W 9E2
Phone: (250) 953 4226