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.