In a move sure to interest B.C. arts groups, the Ontario government has decided the cultural sector needs to spend money to make money in this tough economy. Not only has it not cut arts-council funding, it’s now investing $27 million in new cash to help the sector boost fundraising and build audiences.
The plan runs in stark contrast to the strategy in B.C., where the provincial Liberals have cut core arts-council funding from about $19 million in 2008–09 to about $16 million for 2010–11, with long-term projections capping the amount at about $9 million through to 2012–13.
“It’s huge, it’s just wonderful,” John Brotman, executive director of the Ontario Arts Council, told the Straight about his province’s new Arts Investment Fund. “The government has been persuaded by the arts community that this is a very difficult time over the last two or three years, despite the relatively good government funding, in terms of fundraising and endowments.”
The money, scheduled to be handed out over three years, will help nonprofit arts groups generate revenue.
Artists in B.C. have struggled not only with fundraising and retaining audiences but also with the loss of gaming funds, which the B.C. government disallowed for most arts groups last year.
The Ontario Arts Council receives about $60 million from its government and has seen its budget steadily raised over the past seven years, except for this fiscal year, 2010–11, when it held steady—not including this new injection of $27 million.
In per capita funding, B.C. ranked last out of all the provinces in the most recent Statistics Canada survey, for 2007–08, when arts funding was higher than this year. It was pegged at $9.67 per capita, while Ontario was at $20.91 (third-lowest).