B.C. Arts Council boosts advocacy

In light of the recent economic turmoil, the B.C. Arts Council has vowed to enhance its advocacy role for the arts.

Council chair Jane Danzo, who made the announcement in an October 20 letter to arts groups, told the Straight that advocacy has always been a BCAC mandate—albeit one that has been neglected. “It’s our responsibility to deliver the funding allocations from the government to the arts and culture sector,” Danzo said. “It’s also our responsibility to support research, advocacy, and public education.”

One way the council plans to boost its activism is by hosting a series of community forums. The informal gatherings—which have already taken place in Vancouver and other locations, and will continue throughout B.C. until December—are intended to “correct misinformation”, hear artists’ concerns, report those concerns back to the government, and encourage groups to network and spread the word about funding cuts.

Danzo added that the government supports the emphasis on advocacy. “Minister [Kevin] Krueger, in particular, has encouraged us to use our independent voice,” she said.

She acknowledged, however, that although the B.C. Arts Council is an independent agency, it’s “totally dependent” on the government for money. “Nevertheless, our commitment as council is to the arts and culture sector of B.C.,” she stressed.

Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, said he applauds the council’s augmented advocacy but he questions just how far the organization can go, given its financial reliance on the government.

“It’s welcome for the B.C. Arts Council to take a stronger leadership role in advocacy,” Alibhai told the Straight by phone. “I’d be concerned that staff would be in an awkward position if they’re criticizing and suggesting different actions than those taken by the government.”