Former B.C. Arts Council member Tom Durrie has written an open letter to the president of the Assembly of B.C. Arts Councils. Durrie wants Joan Richoz to refuse to disperse funds for B.C. spirit festivals to be held in the month of February.
Durrie's letter appears below:
TOM DURRIE, BA, MA, MMus
August 23, 2010
An open letter to the Assembly of British Columbia Arts Councils
Ms. Joan Richoz, President, Assembly of B.C. Arts Councils
PO Box 92 Station A
Nanaimo, BC V9R 5K4
Dear Ms. Richoz:
I am writing to urge you to decline the participation of the Assembly of B.C. Arts Councils in the dispersing of B.C. Spirit Festivals funding.
We have recently heard Ms. Jane Danzo, former chair of the British Columbia Arts Council, decry government involvement in arts funding and the erosion of arms'-length arts policies and decision-making.
“Arms' length”, as I understand it, means that government allocates a budgetary amount for the arts, and that money is administered by an independent body, in our case the British Columbia Arts Council, using peer-assessment juries.
Responsible and progressive arts councils will often fund artists whose activities are not necessarily popular or supportive of government policies. If we look at the history of art, it is clear that there are sound reasons for this.
Our current government seems to be shying away from subjecting itself to the possibility of a lively, invigorating, and challenging arts scene.
Freedom of expression is the essence of art. Would you want to support officially determined limits to this freedom?
In my opinion, the B.C. Spirit Festivals program is a blatant political project designed to make artists and arts groups throughout British Columbia promote and support the government’s agenda. In other words, the government is offering funding to arts groups that will, as Minister Kreuger put it, “”¦ bring(s) together artists, cultural organizations and all British Columbians to celebrate the spirit of B.C. in our communities.”
While “celebrate the spirit of B.C. in our communities” is open to interpretation, one immediately suspects a very strict limit on what artists are permitted to do.
To make this even more clear, the application guidelines specify: “A limited number of grants are available to assist community, regional and Aboriginal arts organizations with programs that support the vision of the 2010 Sports and Arts Legacy and the BC Spirit Festivals.” [Emphasis added.]
Peer juries, in determining awards, will, of course, have to abide by the guidelines.
In light of the fact that artists and arts organizations throughout the province are reeling from severe cuts to their funding, it seems ironic—I’m tempted to say offensive—that the ministry would now come up with an idea of a celebratory festival. What is there to celebrate?
With this in mind, I urge you to take a strong but polite stance and simply say “No thank you, Mr. Kreuger.”
Charter member, BC Arts Council (1996-99)