As arts groups attempt to come to grips with the loss of close to $20 million in Direct Access gaming grants from the Ministry of Housing and Social Development, confusion is swirling regarding follow-up letters about B.C. Arts Council funding.
Hundreds of organizations across the province received letters via email on Thursday (August 27) and Friday (August 28) informing them that they had been denied their gaming funds. A day or two later, some organizations received additional letters stating they will be receiving their B.C. Arts Council funding directly from B.C. Gaming. On the community gaming grant application status Web page, these organizations have been listed as recipients of a “Special One Time Grant”, with no reference to the B.C. Arts Council.
“Thursday night we got an email from gaming, saying: No money, you’re on your own and here are our priorities,” David Pay, artistic director of Music on Main, told the Straight. “Friday night, we got a letter from Jeremy Long, head of the arts council, emailed...saying that we did receive a grant. And then on Sunday night, [we got] an email again...from gaming, and in the upper right corner it says that it’s regarding our community gaming application. Then inside the letter it says, ”˜This is through the B.C. Arts Council. It’s your B.C. Arts Council grant that was awarded.’ So they’re going to deposit it into our gaming account. It does seem just a strange process.” Pay said he had requested $38,000 from gaming, and received $10,000 from the B.C. Arts Council.
Daune Campbell, co-artistic director and managing producer of Shameless Hussy Productions, said the government’s handling of the grants was befuddling. Her organization was denied a gaming grant for the first time since 2000, and approved for a $7,000 arts council grant. “I’m completely confused about how this is working,” she said. “One letter says it’s a gaming grant, one says it’s the B.C. Arts Council, one says it’s both.” She added: “Considering we were hoping to get both B.C. Arts Council and gaming grants, it’s not even a third of what we applied for.” She also said she was being asked to put logos of both the B.C. Arts Council and the B.C. Government on publicity materials.
A representative from the Ministry of Housing and Social Development confirmed to the Straight that the B.C. Arts Council is giving out money to arts organizations from gaming grant funding, and that all 521 organizations selected to participate in the three-year multi-year funding project in 2008/2009 were denied funding this year. The representative also suggested Direct Access grants will be eliminated entirely for arts groups, noting: “Moving forward, the dual application process will be eliminated and replaced with one application to the B.C. Arts Council, to ensure funding priorities are fairly applied and distributed.”
Details of the B.C. Arts Council budget for this year will be unveiled tomorrow (September 1) when the province presents its interim budget, but early indications suggest it will be significantly reduced. Some groups who received letters regarding arts council funding say their grants have been reduced, and that the letters reference the surprise one-time supplemental funding that was distributed last year.
“Our B.C. Arts Council grant was diminished by 60 percent,” Cindy Reid, the Vancouver East Cultural Centre’s managing director, told the Straight. “We got a supplement last fiscal [year], and when we got the supplemental funding, they never said what it was for. So we thought, ”˜Okay, this is supplemental funding.' We really needed it in that fiscal year and we spent it in that fiscal year. And now, today [August 31], we just received a letter informing us of our B.C. Arts council grant, and it’s 40 percent of what it was. And the letter says that the supplemental funding from months ago was offsetting this year’s operating grant.” Heather Redfern, the Cultch’s executive director, said the organization would normally have received $95,000 to $100,000 in gaming grants, and that the news of the gaming money’s cancellation comes three months into her fiscal year.
NDP culture critic Spencer Herbert said the loss of gaming funds will overwhelmingly impact smaller community-based arts organizations. “There’s a number of folks who got gaming funds and were not and cannot get onto the B.C. Arts Council,” he said. “The B.C. Arts Council, its focus is on professional work. So it’s not about a community group getting together and having a fair or those kinds of things. To think of one example, the Korean Dance Festival, they would be able to get gaming [funds], but because they rely so much on volunteers, they were not able to get B.C. Arts Council funding.”
The Straight requested an interview with Housing and Social Development Rich Coleman, and was told he was unavailable.