Tom Durrie asks Assembly of B.C. Arts Councils to refuse to disperse spirit festival funding

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:


Vancouver, BC

Arts Advocacy B.C.

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.”

Sincerely yours,

Tom Durrie

Charter member, BC Arts Council (1996-99)



Robert Loblaw

Aug 25, 2010 at 8:57am

What a snob. What about the communities that want to do something arts based?

Tom Durrie

Aug 25, 2010 at 10:03am

Absolutely, communities that want to do something arts based should be supported by funding for operations, not for the creation of special, government approved, one-off projects.

Stewart Champion

Aug 25, 2010 at 1:05pm

Tom Durrie is entirely correct, and the real snobbery is imposing a Liberal-serving scheme on an arts and performing community that wants nothing to do with it.

Where did this rancid enterprise come from in any case? Can Rob Loblaw (sounds like a case of Arrested Development) name even ONE community that asked for these 'spirit' festivals? I would be astonished if he could.

We should name these events for what they really are...

THE BC GHOST FESTIVALS: no one wanted them, and they will disappear without a trace.

David Bloom

Aug 25, 2010 at 1:22pm

Mr. Loblaw,

This has nothing to do with snobbery and everything to do with ensuring that government does not turn arts funding into the propaganda arm of Tourism BC.

Art that is celebratory and community-based is a beautiful thing. Art that is funded by government bodies to only promote "good news" about a very troubled province is nothing more than Soviet-style evangelism.

Robert Loblaw

Aug 25, 2010 at 7:23pm

Wow. You're all pretty bitter, entitled and impotent here. Thanks for justifying my comment.

Stewart Champion

Aug 25, 2010 at 9:01pm

Ah, Bobby, in order to make a mediocre point you deploy all the shallowness you can summon. It doesn't work.

Those who are truly bitter are they who watch the world go by, and lack the talent and imagination to find a part in it. Impotent? Those unable to ignite a single original passion.

Entitled? Well, you might know something about that.

As for the rest of us, the arts are the core of what makes us -- wait for it -- truly Canadian. Through the arts, we as Canadians identify those properties which distinguish us from all other nations. Art has that power. Artists share that power.

There is no enterprise more patriotic, more self-defining, more proud than to make music, to dance, to make theatre or laughter or images, to make from one of us a sense of all of us.

I realize you do not understand this. I realize that, to you, this seems remote from your daily place in the world. Fair enough.

But look back, just for a second. Who was the Mayor of Vienna when Mozart lived there?

You don't know. No one does. No one cares. Not even you. All that matters is that genius lived, and flourished. You and the Liberals may not comprehend this, but the rest of us do.

Art is the name 'Canada' sung aloud. It is who we are. If you still don't understand this, ask your children. They will explain it to you.

Neil B

Aug 26, 2010 at 3:40pm

Just tested myself, using the old "How many can you name" tactic.
And just as can't recall the name of Vienna's Mayor circa Mozart.... I can only name eight Premiers of BC (I was suprised, I remembered Rita) , whereas BC Artists ... well over a miserable eight. And that's not including the Composers, Dancers, Poets, Writers, and Community based Arts groups that line up hat in hand for the paltry sums the government doles out (with restrictions). A world without Artists is a world with no soul or culture. But all you have to do is look at the Liberal track record to see that if you disagree with them, they'll cut your budget, tearup your contract, sell you off to the americans, or send the gestapo.... opps that last one just sneaked in, what was i thinking.


Aug 27, 2010 at 6:20pm

@ R Loblaw - i think you completely missed his point - he wants more community arts, properly funded, not something that will cover up the fact that they're not doing it. hello?

Jessica Nicholson

Aug 29, 2010 at 1:38pm

I think the government of BC should be grateful to have such a beautiful and diverse province full of artists and creators of unique ideas. Rather than trying to control what we do, what we say and how we express ourselves, not to mention where, when and how, why don't you all focus on sorting out the other problems residing in this province that need working out. Quit taking away from the very thing that can actually make BC vibrant and cultural...and quit using artists to make the rest of the world THINK that BC supports the me, everyone will be much happier if they can walk down Granville Street at night, and take in a good jazz band or some professional level street performance as opposed to a bunch of drunken 20 somethings that are being nurtured to ruin themselves weekend after weekend by the VPD who have so "kindly" allocated street barricades and police force to babysit all night. THAT is NOT culture. THAT is pathetic!!!

Caroline Farquhar

Aug 31, 2010 at 3:27pm

I'm sure that no artist or citizen of British Columbia is without a desire to participate in the Arts within their community - to enjoy and share in human experience and expression is as natural as breathing. It appears that Mr.Loblaw may not be aware that all communities - and community arts groups - across British Columbia have had access to several different funding options through the BC Arts Council and/or BC Gaming for activities, festivals, performances etc. since those funding agencies were created: arts in the communities of BC is not a new idea - nor are community festivals :-)

The unfortunate truth is that, with the deep, deep cuts to the BC Arts Council and the denial of access to BC Gaming, many of the community festivals, theatres, and events that are treasured by their communities are now failing due to lack of funding.

That is why so many artists and community members feel so strongly about this "Legacy" funding Mr.Loblaw: it appears that the legacies we have been building in our communities over all the years, are not nearly as interesting to the government of BC as the 2010 Olympics that put our province into debt.

I am sure many British Columbians were inspired by the 2010 Olympics - but we were inspired to act in our own lives TODAY - to strive to give our best to our communities through our arts: to look forward, not backward!