Arts-cuts casualties piling up in Vancouver

Faced with massive funding shortfalls, arts groups across the province are dealing with cuts to gaming grants by closing their doors and cancelling events. Artist-run centres are being hit particularly hard, noted Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture. “You can walk into any artist-run centre, and there is no admission fee and there are fewer revenue-generating kinds of operations going on there,” he said.

The artist-run Helen Pitt Gallery lost 50 percent of its operating budget when it was denied its annual $34,000 Direct Access grant this year and has given notice for the end of October to its landlord, according to director-curator Paul Kajander. “What we had to do is essentially determine that we must move from the existing gallery space and hope to find donated hosting elsewhere,” he said. “It’s a real bleak moment for us historically.” Kajander added that 2009 could mark the final Swarm Festival of Artist-Run Culture, an annual event that launched the gallery season on September 10 and 11.

The artist-run Or Gallery, whose now-defunct annual $30,000 gaming grant covered 16 percent of its budget, has been forced to cancel all its programming between October and January. “We have to now raise as a board $20,000 by Christmas and the remaining $10,000 by February,” said the gallery’s board chair, Lindsay Brown.

Other groups making sacrifices include the EDAM dance centre, which has cut its season in half and eliminated an administrative position, and the Victoria Symphony, which has cancelled its annual New Currents Festival of Music.

Meanwhile, confusion regarding the future of B.C. Arts Council funding continues. There is no provision in the government’s service plan for arts-council grants next year. This year, those grants are being distributed through Direct Access gaming accounts, which has raised questions as to whether those funds are subject to the same restrictions as gaming money.

On September 13, the arts council’s executive director Jeremy Long, associate director Gillian Wood, and chair Jane Danzo met with members of Vancouver’s arts community to address concerns. In a phone call, Long confirmed that the council is still working out logistics but stressed he is confident funding will be available for 2010-11. “It [the service plan] doesn’t have any grants budget at the moment, and we probably won’t know what that is until the budget gets tabled next March,” he said. “There will be some. We don’t know what level it is yet.”

Long urged members of the arts community to inform the arts council about the impact of the current funding cuts. “We promised the arts community we’re going to do everything we possibly can to make sure there is funding for arts and culture,” he said. “One of the things we can do is get real information.”¦to the government on what the real impacts, the reductions would be.”¦We will collect and collate that information and make sure it gets to the government.”




Sep 18, 2009 at 1:55am

"There is no provision in the government’s service plan for arts-council grants next year."

Thank you, I'm glad to see this spelled out so clearly, along with the real impact these cuts are having to the arts in BC. Taking funds from Gaming revenue that are allocated to other arts and culture grants, and using them to fund the BCAC grant programs is not only a massive cut to arts funding in this province, but also likely costing the government money to deal with the logistical mess. Nice one.


Sep 18, 2009 at 2:39pm

Even more confusion to note:
*Some organizations who did not qualify nor ask for a Gaming Grant, but rec'd monies from BC Arts, are being asked to open a Gaming Grant bank account (specifically dedicated to Gaming Grants) in order to receive their BC Arts grant. Two completely different programs. This rings rather suspicious;

*Lecacies2010 is now on hold: one of the excuses the government used for reneging on promised grants was that Legacies/Innovations would be picking up the slack, but a recent memo went out to arts groups saying, "September 29 Innovations application deadline on hold: Innovations was designed to introduce new arts activities into communities where those activities did not exist. We are reviewing the program objectives and guidelines taking into consideration recent changes in funding at the provincial level and the challenges facing the arts sector. We understand and appreciate the urgency with which a decision must be made. We will communicate changes to the program and new application deadline for Innovations funding on our website ( and through our email list."

Something (further) stinks in the state of Campbell...