Kate Armstrong: GOT CULTURE? Um, actually no

16 Sep

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Fiesta Days in Point Grey

Fiesta Days in Point Grey

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Kate Armstrong takes on the Provincial Government over their brutal cuts to the arts. 

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B.C. Liberal government has cut funding for arts and cultural organizations by 50 percent this fiscal year, and by 92 percent for 2010–11.

Imagine a 92 percent reduction in your company’s income. How would your industry fare if that was implemented across the board?

The numbers are like this: 47.8 million (2008) down to 3.75 million (2010-2011)

Reasons This Makes No Sense Economically:
• B.C.’s arts and culture sector employs more than 78,000 people and contributes over $5 billion each year to the provincial economy
• Yes, billion.
• The B.C. government’s own research has demonstrated that for every dollar invested in the arts, $1.38 comes back in taxes
• Contrast this move with the response to financial downturn in Ontario: Ontario increased their core arts spending by approximately 130 million in this year’s budget

How Does This Affect You?
• Arts foundations, non-profits and galleries will close or reduce their programming or services. Example: Between the announcement Friday, August 28 and Wednesday, September 3, 2009, 2 Vancouver galleries have announced that they are being forced to close their doors.
• Creative people will leave B.C. in droves
• Drastically reduced opportunities for cultural exposure in the province for yourselves and your children
• Huge damage to the reputation of B.C. – do you want to live in and bring up your children in a cultural wasteland? Was there a reason you chose to live in a city and not in a closet?
• Everything you attend, view, take your children to, or see in a cultural framework is partly subsidized by provincial infrastructure. Arts Umbrella? Children’s Festival? Vancouver Art Gallery? Gallery openings? Ballet BC? BYE!

Common Misconceptions
• Artists are not spending their time at champagne soirees at the taxpayer’s expense. Artists are among the most underpaid professions in our society.
• Culture is an industry, not something that just “happens”. You’re thinking of people who make pictures of owls using bottle caps.
• Not a hobby. Don’t argue that running the Children’s Festival or arranging an international visual art exhibition is something we’re supposed to do in our spare time.
• Artists are not “fancy”. Art is a hugely important part of our shared culture. Were the cave paintings fancy? Do you like written language? Have you ever seen a movie or worn a nice shirt or walked through a public space?
• You cannot argue that the cultural sector must be commercially viable or die. A huge amount of heavy lifting in terms of ideas, social good and cultural visioning is performed by the creative industries and this does not neatly align with commercial engagement.
• These grants we’re talking about do not entirely pay for the operations of these cultural associations so forget the word “parasite” when you make your economic argument. They represent a small but crucially important portion of total support and income.
• Art is not about artists, it is about communities and culture.
• This discussion is not only art, it is dance, film, heritage, publishing, media, sound, music, design, theatre, social outreach, community festivals.
• People in these industries work hard, have jobs and have families too, and are already underpaid.
• A healthy arts sector is essential for healthy communities.

The idea that this is about supporting art vs feeding needy children is a shell game. We need to do both.

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If you have any interesting in preserving some basic quality of life in BC, you really should read the whole piece.  It’s here.

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