Liberals clarify B.C. Spirit Festivals plan to arts groups

The province has confirmed details about the controversial new B.C. Spirit Festivals it is funding out of the $10 million arts Legacy money in its last budget.

In an announcement released today, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts said $3 million will be directed toward the February festivals.

The events are meant to "renew the pride and excitement British Columbians experienced during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games," arts and tourism minister Kevin Krueger stated in the release.

The program will be administered by the Assembly of BC Arts Councils, with support from the BC Arts Council. Grants will be handed out based on population, providing up to $50,000 to produce festivals in communities. Applications will be chosen through a "peer-review process", according to the release.

Those applications will be accepted from August 1 to October 6, 2010. There is also a hint in the release that any leftover money may flow to festivals already in place: "after this initial intake, support may be available for festivals that embody the vision of BC Spirit, and take place throughout 2011."

Word of the festivals has raised the ire of the arts community, which is facing drastic funding cuts.

Aside from seeing the loss of almost all funding from gaming, local arts groups are also seeing major cuts to core funding. In the provincial budget at the beginning of March, it was announced that there would be $10 million given to arts as part of an Olympics legacy. But because the announcement came at the same time as cuts to core funding and gaming grants, arts groups have called for the $10 million to be given to the arm’s length B.C. Arts Council to hand out to groups.

When he got wind of the Spirit festivals, NDP culture critic Spencer Herbert Chandra noted the irony of funding such new events when so many festivals are suffering from funding cuts. “They’ve eviscerated the B.C. Arts Council by cutting them by 50 percent, they’ve decimated gaming funding. People just want stable funding for the arts, distributed by a jury process,” he told the Straight. “I hope these are not going to be government propaganda festivals." (See story at

Full details on the program are at



Keith Higgins

Jul 27, 2010 at 4:34pm

Although it's good to have a clarification of sorts, this statement does not address the underlying problems of this funding approach. To begin with, the government is apparently unwilling or unable to explain why core responsibilities of the BC Arts Council cannot be funded properly, but programs conceived by politicians can apparently be funded generously.

Secondly, the statement that new funding will be given to programs that "embody the BC Spirit" is highly problematic. Exactly who is responsible for determining what the spirit of the place is? This is apparently a directive which is being given to the Arts Council and its juries, compromising their independence. Is the "spirit" that of a group of plutocrats who disproportionately reap the benefits of expensive public spectacles? Or of politically-directed public relations efforts to gloss over the damage that is being done to the BC public through the destruction of assets such as BC Rail, and the rapacious and careless expansion of gambling, and the enforcement of poverty in the "best place on earth"? Clearly in Kevin Krueger's mind those of us who do not feel "pride and excitement" at the evisceration of our province do not have the right "spirit".

Here's a suggestion: why doesn't the cabinet resign en masse, and we'll put on a real celebration, with dancing in the streets and a band on every corner. I guarantee we can do it for a fraction of the cost overrun on the Olympics.

Don Robinson

Jul 27, 2010 at 6:05pm

This gets better and better all the time. More money to mismanaged starting festivals while existing festivals are getting the royal screw job. Childrens festival (around for 33 years now) will be a shadow of itself next year as they are being FORCED to cut costs due to this stupidity, move locations and scale back.

Kreuger needs to resign and go back to taking candy from babies or whatever other stealing he did in the real world. This is unmitigated garbage. Gross misappropriation of funds and a huge slap in the face to working cultural professional.

This is how I make my living and pay taxes you foolish tool of an individual and you are "saving" 1% of your overall budget crushing an entire sector of tax payers. Then the money which you have already stolen is being redirected to a pipe dream to pretend you are actually doing something cultural when clearly you are not.

How long are we going to let liars like this pull this kind of stunt?

Julie McIntyre

Jul 28, 2010 at 8:20am

I suppose this is the government's olive branch towards the arts and culture sector. Before our relationship with the government disintegrates further, perhaps we should reach out, say thank you and try building a meaningful dialogue again. I might even call it "a win" if Minister Krueger stopped quoting scriptures to our sector.

Katey Wright

Jul 28, 2010 at 10:53am

If you go to the BC Arts Council's website and read the BC Spirit Festival material (just posted yesterday I think), you'll find that only associations that are Aboriginal Friendship Centres, Aboriginal cultural organizations, band councils, or members of the Assembly of BC Arts Councils. On the Assembly's website you will find these membership criteria: "There are two kinds of membership. Anyone, where an individual or an organization, non-profit or for-profit, may join the Assembly as an associate member. Associate members receive all benefits except eligibility for Arts and Culture Week grants and voting privileges. Full membership is currently only available to arts councils and similar umbrella community arts organizations in BC." I guess it remains to be seen whether "Associate Members" will be eligible for Spirit Festival grants.

My point is that this is nothing to be thankful for. Mr. Krueger, whose background is as a road safety manager for ICBC, presumes to wade into the cultural industry sector and tell us, on behalf of all citizens of BC, that we must join the Assembly and re-tool our creative programming in line with what he perceives to be the "excitement and pride" generated by the Olympics - while simultaneously dismantling the cultural sector's support structure and telling us that we "have to learn to be sustainable."

I speculate that Mr Krueger is deeply suspicious of any "art" that is professional in nature, and feels comfortable only with community-based, non-professional arts activities. We all love to see our kids in the band concert but that's no reason to shut down the Prince George symphony.

Robert Loblaw

Jul 28, 2010 at 1:47pm

Don't take the money.

W. Kibble

Jul 28, 2010 at 2:58pm

"Word of the festivals have raised the ire of the arts community, which is facing drastic funding cuts."

I live in the UK and am observing the extraordinary story of the arts cuts and BC Spirit Festivals unfold from afar. If the government here took comparable steps of disabling the Arts Council, cutting funding from cultural organisations large and small (there have been large cuts here too), and THEN injecting a huge sum of money into a tokenist national festival that serves their own agenda, a lot more people than those in "the arts community" would be protesting.

My questions are: what do the rest of British Columbians think about the Spirit Festivals? Are most British Columbians aware of and upset by this controversy? How prominent have these events been in mainstream media, including television news?

Because while "the arts community" are clearly screaming as loudly as they can, Cassandra-style, the rest of BC will need to get on board to take their government to task. A prime-time Panorama style investigative documentary is needed I think, presented by a British Columbian everyone knows and loves - Sarah McLachlan? Michael Buble? Kim Cattrall? This issue needs to go mainstream.

Heather Redfern

Jul 29, 2010 at 3:03pm

It is very important when governments are using tax dollars to play political games that the arts community remain united. The Assembly of BC Arts Councils is a good and worthy organization and it's members should be funded just as all of the arts should be in small and large centres. This is an attempt to create a divide between populated urban areas and smaller communities with few resources for arts and culture. Don't go there, we are all better than that. We are stronger working together. I am still waiting for definition of a Spirit Festival and why this is any different from what we are already doing in the arts in BC, not just in the arts but all year round in big and small centres.