Massive province-wide gaming grant cuts leave arts community reeling

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      It appears that arts groups waiting for their frozen gaming grant money to flow are out of luck. Numerous arts groups across the province have received letters via email from the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch informing them that their Direct Access grants have been denied, including organizations who had multi-year funding commitments.

      Miscellaneous Productions, a Vancouver-based performing-arts group working with at-risk youth, received notice this morning (August 28) that its $20,000 multi-year grant has been denied, despite the group having been informed in writing last year that the funding was secure until 2010-2011. Elaine Carol, the company’s co-founder and artistic director, said the amount represents approximately 15 percent of the organization’s budget. Read an open letter from Carol to Gordon Campbell, Minister Rich Coleman, and the B.C. Liberal government.

      “It’s a big blow,” she said. “We use that money to feed the youth that come starving to our rehearsals, literally. We use that money to support them with all kinds of art-making and training and attention that they’re not getting otherwise....We’re going to have to cut back in every area.”

      One area in which she is unable to cut back, said Carol, is on the company’s fall production. “We are obligated to do our next show in November... because of the other funding agreements that we signed.”

      She noted that it was because of the promise of gaming money that she was able to secure additional funding: “We make photocopies and we send these letters off to our other funders and say, ”˜Hey, look, gaming has guaranteed us funding for three years. So will you give us funding?’...We’re going to have incredible cash-flow problems.”

      The Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival, which had a three-year funding commitment for $30,000 per year until 2010-2011, also received word today that its funding was being axed, confirmed general manager Camilla Tibbs. "It's too late for us to do anything," she said. "Everything's in place for the festival, we're going on-sale with tickets in a couple of weeks. It just puts us into a more difficult position for the future."

      Other groups to have been denied gaming funds include the Canadian Music Centre, which has received $20,000 annually for a number of years; musica intima, which was expecting $11,000; the Vancouver Cantata Singers, which was expecting $27,000; and Intrepid Theatre in Victoria, which historically has received at least $20,000 a year, and is in the midst of presenting its 23rd annual Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival. The Alliance for Arts and Culture, which normally receives $35,000 a year from gaming, was also denied its funding.

      “Like most organizations, it puts us in a terrible situation, especially when, in most cases, commitments have been made for the upcoming season,” said David Carlin, general manager of the Cantata Singers. “What it does is forces us to go back and reevaluate everything for the upcoming season. For us, there are some big productions that are very costly that are going to be really difficult to manage. It’s not likely that we would be able to drum up an extra $30,000 in donations. We’re already stretched pretty thin.”

      Janna Crown, musica intima’s general manager, said the news that the group would be losing five percent of its operating budget comes just three days before the start of its new fiscal year. “We obviously have to make cuts,” she said. “We’re not sure yet where those cuts will be happening, but obviously it’s a significant chunk of our revenue. And finding out with three or four days’ notice [before our fiscal year] is unbelievable.”

      Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, said it was a sad day. “I haven’t heard from a single group that has said that they were successful and received their funding. Everyone has said that they were unsuccessful,” he reported to the Straight. “It seems like an entire sectoral kind of cut....I think there are organizations that are going to have to shut their doors entirely as a result of this. And it’s going to be province-wide.” He also condemned the government’s handling of the matter. “It’s really draconian, and the manner in which this has been done is very disrespectful,” he said.

      Alibhai said the Alliance would be developing a plan of action and is in the process of organizing community forums to address the issue.




      Aug 29, 2009 at 9:23am

      This is harsh, but disrespect is a two way street. It's a common practice for arts groups to inflate the number of members at their AGMs to secure these funds.


      Aug 29, 2009 at 9:39am

      not fair


      Aug 29, 2009 at 12:12pm

      Yet another last minute funding cut announcement. If the Province was short of cash they should have been able to predict this rather than cause all kinds of last-minute problems for everyone. The govt is either incompetent or dishonest.


      Aug 29, 2009 at 12:43pm

      I always saw gambling profits going to the groups that have a positive influence on our communities as being part of a kind of social contract. Now the government has decided to take that money to pay for its operations that they have mismanaged. I would like to see how well Gordon Campbell reacts if we one day told him he could not be paid for the work he does for BC. He would sue the province. Hey, there is an idea.


      Aug 29, 2009 at 1:14pm

      The Culture portion of this also includes the many volunteer heritage groups throughout our province who depend on funding to cerry out their many projects.

      alan s.

      Aug 30, 2009 at 10:29am

      these cuts show a complete lack of forward thinking on behalf of this government. Not only are they cutting support for today's already way under valued cultural workers, but they are also systematically slashing the cultural and economic future of this province. This kind of short-sightedness is also evident in the way they are puling the rug out from under our heathcare program, our students, and our environment. Somebody change Gordos glasses prescription.


      Aug 30, 2009 at 11:42am

      This is the way fascist governments work. First: if you can't kill your opposition, offer them a bribe like being an ambassador to the USA, or try to punish and scare groups with funding cuts... effectively silencing them into submission. If the Arts community had the guts they would shut down all venues now in protest.


      Aug 30, 2009 at 10:54pm

      Thank goodness my daughter, a musician, just moved to Europe to teach and perform. She was so relieved to move to a country where the arts are supported and appreciated. She knew that there was no future for her in BC. Common sense dictates that thelast thing to do in a recession is to cut back spending. Spending stimulates the economy, cut backs kill it. These cut backs are all directed at people for whom Campbell has no respect, artists, union workers and seniors. He needs to go before he drives the province evven deeper into despair and destitution.

      Steve MacLean

      Aug 31, 2009 at 1:50pm

      One has to wonder how much money would flow back into the arts in a more direct manner if gaming itself were cut (licenses revoked, establishments closed). I think an appropriate response would be a boycott of gaming establishments. Spend the money you would have lost on arts events and objects instead.

      Jamie Griffiths

      Aug 31, 2009 at 4:56pm

      from the BC Alliance for the Arts Website...

      Among the groups reporting that their grants have been denied are:

      * Alliance for Arts and Culture
      * Blackbird Theatre
      * Cantata Singers
      * Carousel Theatre
      * City Opera Vancouver
      * DreamRider Theatre
      * Flamenco Rosario
      * Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre
      * Presentation House Theatre
      * Musica Intima
      * Ptarmigan Music & Theatre Society
      * Rumble Productions
      * Shameless Hussy Productions
      * The Canadian Music Centre
      * The Dance Centre
      * Vancouver Celebrates Diwali
      * Vancouver International Writers Festival
      * Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra
      * and more ”¦.