The cultural component of Vancouver’s 2011 North America Outgames is in jeopardy after the organization’s application for a Vancouver 125th anniversary grant was turned down.
The Outgames met the eligibility criteria but like other unsuccessful applicants “didn’t articulate their plan to the degree that other applicants did,” says Margeret Specht, director of the grants, awards and support programs at the city’s cultural services department. An independent peer assessment committee made the grant decisions.
“I’m sorry the committee felt that way,” says Outgames chair John Boychuk. “I’m more than disappointed that the committee didn’t see the importance in this one-time event that would bring the communities of Vancouver together.”
Vancouver city council approved a second disbursement of 125th anniversary grants on May 19, while the first phase of grants were approved last December. Outgames organizers initially applied for the city grant last winter but were told their $100,000 request was too high. They lowered their request to $35,000 but were again denied.
The grants program was established to support excitement, pride and enthusiasm for Vancouver’s 125th birthday. More than 200 applications were received and 70 were selected. The total amount for both phases of grant distribution is $1.4 million.
If the games application had been successful, the funds would have gone directly toward the event’s various culture-focused activities planned for the celebration site at the Plaza of Nations during the week of the event, which runs from July 25 to 31.
“But now the culture programs are challenged,” Boychuk says. The funding shortfall means the location for the opening ceremonies is also in question. While the closing ceremony is still set for the Plaza of Nations, Boychuk says it could now be too costly to use the space for the opening ceremonies if it can’t be used throughout the week for events.
“We are looking for other sources of funding, but it’s not looking very optimistic at the moment,” Boychuk says. He remains hopeful that the cultural component will be saved and says that the human rights conference and sporting events are still a go.
About 1,000 athletes are expected to participate in the Outgames.
“We’re not giving up; we’re not stopping,” he says. “We’re looking for that guardian angel that wants to step up and support the cultural component of the Outgames.”
Following the announcement, gay city Councillor Tim Stevenson told Boychuk he would talk with the mayor’s office to see if there were any other options for the event, which as of May 20, is 66 days away.
But Stevenson says any appeals made by organizations that didn’t get funds have been turned down by the city, which found it impossible to allow one appeal without granting others.
He suggests Boychuk look to the queer community for greater support.
“The gay community is full of wealthy, wealthy people through business and inheritance,” Stevenson contends. “These games are for our community, so our community can contribute; if we can’t find people to contribute, it says a lot about our community.”
Moreover, the city has already provided support for the games, Stevenson notes.
“It’s not like our community has had the city turn their back on it,” he continues, pointing to the $100,000 sport-hosting grant the Outgames received through the Vancouver Parks Board. “That’s a big chunk of dough,” he says.
Specht agrees. “You can’t say the queer community isn’t represented; it’s well represented – just not through this organization.”
Queer groups receiving Vancouver 125 celebration grant monies are Out on Screen Film Festival Society ($30,000), Screaming Weenie Productions ($15,000), Bob Loblaw Queer Arts Society ($5,000), Sad Magazine Publishing Society: OURSTORY The Queer History Issue ($7,700) and the Bold Old(er) Lesbians and Dykes Society ($4,000).
The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) had also applied for a grant in the amount of $10,000, but that request was turned down, too. “We give the Pride Society $20,000 annually for Pride weekend and the parade,” says Specht. “There’s a limited pool of money and more applicants than we can fund,” she adds.
The Outgames has put in a request for federal funding to support three student works program positions during the games. By early next week, it expects to hear whether the province will provide funding for the event.