Cuts to arts hitting here

  • Nov. 27, 2009 9:00 a.m.

By Heather Ramsay–Provincial cuts to arts funding have raised protests around the province and will have an impact on the islands. Haida Gwaii Museum director Nathalie MacFarlane said she’s already gotten notice that the Skidegate facility’s BC Arts Council grant will be cut by 60 percent and other arts groups say that the budget update in September shows the province will slash arts funding by 92 percent by 2011. The province funds arts organization through the arms-length BC Arts Council and through funds raised through lotteries and casinos. In 2008/09 the two funders provided $47 million to arts groups, in 2009 it dropped to $35 million but by 2011 that total will drop to $3.675 million. Ms MacFarlane says BC already had some of the lowest levels of arts funding in the country. “We’re now below Newfoundland,” she said. Many believe museums and art galleries across the province are funded directly by the government, but other than institutions like the Royal BC Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which receive yearly allocations, most struggle by competing for shrinking pots of money. The cuts to the BC Arts Council leaves the Haida Gwaii Museum with a $20,000 shortfall. “It’s pretty serious. We have to do everything we can to raise the money elsewhere and we have already initiated that,” she says. “But it’s hard to find money for salaries, heat, light and basic operating costs to keep a place open.” The Haida Gwaii Museum also receives funding from the Canada Council, the Regional District, Gwaii Trust and others. As for the gaming funds, she says the province has recently changed its priorities for these dollars, and arts and culture are now sixth on the list. Many groups used to get Direct Access grants that helped cover operational costs, but Ms MacFarlane says she doesn’t know of any arts organizations that are even going to apply now the budget has been cut. The islands two other museums, in Port Clements and Masset, do not receive BC Arts Council funding, so will not be affected by this cut, she says, but the QCI Arts Council will be. QCI Arts Council spokesperson Fran Fowler said she sent in the group’s BC Arts Council application in September as usual, and doesn’t know what the result will be. She said the group has already received its performing arts grant for the coming season, which comes out of a different pot. Their BC Arts Council grant is $4500 or 40 percent of the total budget of the group. “It supplements everything we do,” she says. Ms Fowler says last year the arts council unexpectedly got an extra amount from the BC Arts Council. “They said they didn’t know what was going to happen and that we should sock it away,” she said. The arts council on island is run by volunteers and puts on or collaborates with other groups on a dozen performing arts and theatre events, several literary events, and visual arts events, including the All Island Arts Show each year. “We’re not worried. It’s the following year that would be in jeopardy,” said Ms Fowler.