Cuts to arts funding “a kick to the stomach

A local art organization is one of the casualties of the government’s planned cuts to arts funding.
Kamloops’ Arnica Artist Run Centre wasn’t approved for a grant this year, making the organization’s future uncertain. Arnica is a non-profit, artist-run organization supporting Kamloops’ emerging artists.
The service plan announced in September by Minister of Tourism, Culture and Arts Kevin Krueger revealed a reduction of arts funding from $19.5 million for 2008-2009 to just over $3 million for 2009-2010. B.C. Arts groups say they could face up to 92 per cent of funding cuts in the next few years.
Krueger was unavailable for an interview.
In addition to reduced B.C. Arts Council grants, the government has also limited gaming grants that funded many community arts and culture programs. As a result, applications from many organizations were turned down, including Arnica’s.
“It was a kick in the stomach,” said Elaine Sedgman, organization’s treasurer. “We got grants from the last two years, but this year it was denied. We used that money to pay our rent. We’re all volunteers,” said Sedgman, explaining that the grant was their only operating budget.
The organization plans to cover this amount through fundraising. Revenue from projects has been earmarked for the organization’s expenses, said Sedgman, but this amount will only cover about three month’s worth of rent.
Kathy Humphreys, Kamloops Symphony’s general manager, said “The communication (from the provincial government about funding) hasn’t been very clear; it hasn’t been timely.”
“It’s difficult to plan ahead and figure out a true vision of what’s possible for the future of an organization if so much is at stake and so much is uncertain.”
Humphreys said grants from the provincial government make up a small but significant amount of their operating budget each year.
“Any cut would be very difficult for us to absorb . . . our costs are already barebones,” she added. Cuts would mean less income for professional musicians, staff and community programs. In smaller cities like Kamloops, there are fewer opportunities for sponsorship to replace the amount, explained Humphreys. Kamloops Symphony can only raise ticket prices up to a certain point before losing sales.
Arts groups in B.C. are questioning the government’s decision to cut arts funding when other provinces are increasing, instead of cutting, money allocated to the arts.
Kamloops Art Gallery’s Executive Director Jann Bailey emphasized that the revenue the arts sector gives the government far exceeds what the government provides in grants.
“According to the City of Kamloops Cultural Strategic Plan developed in 2003, the arts and heritage sector contributes $9.2 million in revenues to the Kamloops economy and another $7.4 million in purchases of goods and services,” she said. Jobs along with indirect and direct expenditures also add to the industry’s economic contributions, she added.
But the arts are important not just because of revenue for the government. “By nurturing creativity and fostering enjoyment and appreciation of artistic accomplishments we develop a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us, expand our capacity to be thoughtful and compassionate, encourage imagination and critical thinking and contribute to healthy, vibrant, and economically sound communities,” Bailey explained.
Despite the impending cuts, Bailey expects the art gallery to survive thanks to dedicated community supporters.
As for smaller centres like Arnica, the future remains grey.

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