BC arts groups are calling the BC government’s announcement of $7 million in funding to the BC Arts Council a shell game.
Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Kevin Krueger announced Sept 1 that the BC Arts Council would administer the funding through the BC government’s 2010 Sports and Arts Legacy.
“This will increase the council’s budget to just over $16 million for the current fiscal year,” Krueger says in a news release.
In the last budget, the provincial government cut funding to BC arts groups from about $14 million to $7.9 million.
Out On Screen’s executive director Drew Dennis says the announcement could mean the government has listened to the outcry over arts funding cuts. However, Dennis also encourages people to become involved in provincial consultations about next year’s budget to make sure the government keeps listening.
“Arts groups are still cut out of gaming grants, which is bad news for some organizations,” Dennis adds.
In the wake of the cuts, the provincial government introduced the 2010 Sports and Arts Legacy in its March budget, providing $60 million over three years split between arts and sports programs. That’s $10 million for arts per year.
Former BC Arts Council chair Jane Danzo, who resigned last month over the cuts, said there was no council consultation by the government on the new legacy fund.
Earlier this year, Krueger was quoted in an arts council release saying $3 million was being spent to promote so-called Spirit Festivals as part of the Legacy project.
That Spirit Festival program was to be administered by the Assembly of BC Arts Councils, with support from the BC Arts Council. But in an Aug 23 letter to assembly chair Joan Richoz, former BC Arts Council member Tom Durrie urged the assembly not to cooperate in dispersing the $3 million.
“The BC 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,” Durrie wrote.
Krueger said last week’s funding announcement demonstrates the government’s commitment to a strong arts community, even in difficult economic times.
It’s not new money for the arts council, Dennis says, adding, “it’s very obviously a shell game.” No one knows what the funding criteria are for the Spirit Festivals, Dennis says.
“There’s no application process.”
Xtra’s attempts to reach Krueger were unsuccessful up to press time.