The BC Liberals will review the province’s gaming grants, which used to benefit thousands of arts and community groups until the Liberals slashed a significant percentage of the grants in 2009.
“People across British Columbia rely on this funding to provide important services to their communities,” Premier Christy Clark said in a statement announcing the review on July 11.
“This review can help families and communities across the province by listening to their needs, looking at the system from top to bottom, and coming up with options that create certainty and sustainability for non-profit groups and charities,” she added.
Legislation, eligibility, funding formulas, the application process and the future role of the government in distributing the grants will all be examined in the review.
The review is scheduled to be completed at the end of October. In the meantime, Community, Sports and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong says the government “will continue to work with artists and cultural organizations through the BC Arts Council, our principal development and funding agency for the arts, to build on British Columbia’s well-deserved international reputation for artistic excellence.”
On July 7, the BC Liberals put out a press release announcing their intention to maintain funding for the arts sector.
“By restoring core funding for the BC Arts Council this year to 2008/09 levels, the province is standing by a government recommendation and a commitment from Premier Christy Clark to make funding of the arts a high priority in British Columbia,” the release’s background section reads. But the section also shows funding levels to the arts council have been steady at about $16 million since 2009.
The BC Arts Council confirms its funding has been stable for the last four years, albeit provided by different provincial coffers.
“There have been widespread reports that the BC Arts Council has been cut,” says Chris Gudgeon. “But our funding has been stable, but confusingly so.”
“Normally we get our funding from a direct allocation from legislature. But because of the economic issues, parts of our funding has come from different faucets,” Gudgeon explains. “But at the end of the day our funding has remained stable over the past four years.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development confirms the funding level has not changed from last year.
“We are really pleased that we can maintain the budget,” says Gillian Wood, BC Arts Council executive director.
“We will be moving forward with all of our programs,” adds Gudgeon.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” says Drew Dennis, of the government’s decision to maintain BC Arts Council funding. “But I think we have a ways to go in regard to actually investing in art and culture in BC.”
Dennis, the executive director of Out on Screen, which produces Vancouver’s annual Queer Film Festival, points out that while per capita BC continues to allocate approximately $6.54 per person for arts funds, the national average is approximately $26. If provincial arts funding were to increase to more than $30 million, it would “bring BC up to par with what other provinces spend on the arts,” Dennis says.
This year Out on Screen received $22,250 from the Arts Council for its operating costs — a seven percent drop from last year’s $24,000 grant.
But Dennis notes the organization also received a $10,000 special project grant towards its Celebrate Queer Vancouver programming this summer — a month-long showcase of film, visual art, guided history walks and public art plaques showcasing queer families for Vancouver’s 125th anniversary.
A $12,000 sustainability grant was also given to the festival, which Dennis says has helped the organization further invest in its fundraising capacity to ensure long-term sustainability in programming.
“It’s a bit of a shell toss,” Dennis says.