Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Call your MLA: new arts coalition urges British Columbians

'BC has the least arts funding per capita in Canada, which is appalling,' Dennis says

The Assembly of BC Arts Councils, the BC Touring Council, the Vancouver-based Alliance for Arts and Culture and the ProArt Alliance of Greater Victoria are joining forces to encourage members of BC’s legislature to push for greater government support for arts and culture.

It’s an initiative that’s being welcomed by queer arts groups who’ve felt the touch of the recent cuts to arts funding.

In the last budget, the BC Liberal-led government reduced the BC Arts Council’s funding by almost 50 percent, cutting its distribution amount to BC arts groups from about $14 million to $7.9 million.

As of early September, the government said its arts contributions were $16 million for the current fiscal year.

The Creativity Counts initiative is recruiting community arts champions in each riding to take the case for public investment to their local MLAs. Collectively, the organizations represent thousands of artists and community arts groups.

The goal is to tell MLAs about the benefits to society that a thriving cultural sector brings, and the vital role played by a long tradition of public support, ensuring accessibility for all British Columbians.

“Our goal with the Creativity Counts campaign and this Community Arts Champions initiative is to demonstrate the depth and reach of the arts sector in every community in BC,” said Alliance for Arts and Culture executive director Amir Ali Alibhai in announcing the launch of the campaign. 

“According to Statistics Canada, BC spends by far the least per capita on public investment for operating grants for arts organizations, compared to other provinces.  After the recent cuts, BC’s per capita investment in the arts is $6.54, while the most recently available figure for the national average is $26.73,” says Nelson-based BC Touring Council’s executive director Joanna Maratta.

The Greater Vancouver Alliance for Arts and Culture is calling on Minister of Housing and Social Development Rich Coleman to reinstate all the gaming funds previously used to support community services provided by charities and non-profits.

Out On Screen, the producer of Vancouver’s Queer Film Festival, is one of many queer groups that has been affected by the gaming grant cuts.

Executive director Drew Dennis says having people approach their MLAs is good grassroots action that the government might listen to.

“BC has the least arts funding per capita in Canada, which is appalling,” Dennis says. “Arts funding is not a subsidy; it’s an investment. It needs to be viewed as a growing sector. I feel we are going to have a creative drain in this province.”

Victoria promised there would be Olympic legacies for the arts, Dennis notes, adding the government is falling short on those promises.