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New arts funding nice but not enough: queer groups

"What arts organizations truly need in this province is long-term stability."

Queer groups are welcoming the BC government’s Dec 9 announcement of $1.15 million in grants to the province’s arts and culture sector, but they say more consistent support for the arts is needed.  

“Any restoration of funding after the draconian cuts to the arts we’ve seen recently is to be welcomed,” says Rachel Iwaasa, vice-president of Pride in Art, which presents Vancouver’s annual Queer Arts Festival.

“But we are cautious,” she says. “What arts organizations truly need in this province is long-term stability and a dedication to consistent support for the sector.”

“What arts and culture organizations need in the province is full-time support in core program funding,” echoes Drew Dennis, executive director of Out on Screen, which produces Vancouver’s annual queer film festival. “Arts funding hasn’t been able to keep pace.”

The new funding comes from a $60 million 2010 Sport and Arts Legacy Fund, of which $30 million is budgeted to support the BC arts sector over the next three years.

The province has allocated $750,000 in grants to the BC Arts Council, while the Assembly of BC Arts Councils, a not-for-profit organization supporting the central role of the arts in BC communities, will receive $400,000 to disburse.

Junko Sakamoto, executive director of the Assembly of BC Arts Councils, says her organization will be distributing grants to arts groups in Vancouver and Victoria.

“The idea is to distribute as many as possible,” she says. “Anyone and everyone can apply. We’re casting the net as far and as deep as possible. There is no exclusion whatsoever.”

The only criteria: arts groups must use the funds in collaboration with Spirit Festival events planned for February 2011 to commemorate the 2010 Winter Games. Each organization will be eligible for up to $20,000.

In contrast, the BC Arts Council says its $750,000 will help support annual festivals throughout 2011.

“This [money] is for our existing festival clients,” says BC Arts Council spokesperson Chris Gudgeon, adding that new arts organizations in the province may also apply if they meet funding guidelines.

“The arts council grant program is really focused on professional, established artists and arts organizations,” he notes.

Gudgeon also says the organization has allocated nearly $17 million in funding this year.

Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for Vancouver-West End and NDP arts critic, says the government’s decision to put the majority of funding into the hands of the BC Arts Council was a smart one. “It’s the right thing to do, it’s what I’ve been calling for, for months,” he says.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” agrees Dennis, who says Out on Screen has applied to the BC Arts Council for a $24,000 grant this year. “But we need to do more.”

Xtra‘s attempt to speak with Community, Sport and Culture Minister Stephanie Cadieux was unsuccessful prior to posting.

But a spokesperson for the ministry sent Xtra this email: “Despite the recent global economic downturn, the provincial government has maintained funding for the BC Arts Council. That fact should not be overlooked. The province is providing over $30 million directly to artists and art organizations in 2010-11.”

“We’ve provided unprecedented support to the arts and cultural community – more than $500 million since 2001,” the email adds.

The deadline to apply for the Assembly of BC Arts Councils grant is 1pm on Dec 22, 2010. For information see assemblybcartscouncils.ca.

The deadline for the BC Arts Council grants has not been announced, but application guidelines will be posted on the organization’s website in mid-January.