Arts Preview 2010
When we examine the arts, we generally talk in terms of vision, of creativity, even entertainment value. Sometimes the arts thrill us. Sometimes they infuriate us. Hopefully they make us feel. What we don’t often talk about, or even think about, is arts and culture as a component of the business sector and the economy. If we do stop to think in terms of dollars and cents, the image of the starving artist comes readily to mind. Indeed, many artists live close to the bone, often supplementing their art-derived income with low-wage menial jobs. Few embark on a career in the artistic realm with visions of wealth dancing in their heads.
Yet recent cuts by the provincial government have brought the financial aspect of the arts to the fore. Arts groups, galleries, festivals and arts-related organizations across the province are mired in uncertainly and despair over massive cuts to their operating budgets. Some have folded already, others are considering whether they can continue on in the current financial climate.
It is ironic, then, that this sudden crisis and focus on arts funding is taking place in the midst of a cultural explosion. The 2010 Cultural Olympiad, the cultural component of the 2010 Winter Game, is underway, bringing with it a mouth-watering feast of performances and events for every taste.
The question is, what will this explosion leave behind once the dust has settled . . . a legacy of increased audiences and funding for the arts for locals arts groups? Or a blackened wasteland devoid of life, with the current wealth of performances, exhibitions and events but a distant memory?
With budgets to be drawn up and grants to be applied for, arts organizations are not passively sitting by, waiting to find out what their futures hold. Instead, they are actively lobbying the government, forming advocacy groups, and urging audiences and members of the public to contact their government representatives to restore funding. They are not looking for charity. Rather, they are trying to drive home the fact that the cuts to the arts are both short-sighted and misguided, ignoring the reality that arts and culture, rather than sucking money from the provincial coffers, generate much-needed dollars for the economy and the government.
In an August 2009 letter to Plank Magazine (www.plankmagazine.com), Jann LM Bailey, Executive Director Kamloops Art Gallery, writes about the financial benefits of a funded arts community: “Like any business, the arts sector is fundamental to a robust economy. It is a large, labour-intensive, cost-efficient, high-growth industry representing approximately 2.4 per cent of the gross domestic product. Government of Canada statistics indicate that Canada’s heritage institutions, including historic sites, art galleries and museums, zoos, planetariums, observatories and botanical gardens, attracted 35 million visitors in 2004, while not-for-profit performing arts companies attracted 12.9 million visitors in 2006 (2 million in British Columbia alone) and earned $1.2 billion dollars the same year. The arts in Canada represents the fourth largest industry in terms of employment, supporting over 260,000 core jobs (2001 statistics) and are a source of pride in communities from coast to coast to coast.”*
Artists are a resilient lot. Given a lifetime of scraping by, most are experts at turning a sows ear into a silk purse, if not an entire evening gown. Still, the current cuts are a deep blow that threaten the livelihood of many working artists. As Jay Hirabayashi points out on page 5, for some artists the alternative will be unemployment and social assistance.
It is amidst both this financial uncertainty and the bounty that is the Cultural Olympiad, that we present our Spring Arts Preview, showcasing some of the performances coming up over the coming months.
These artists and their creations are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the incredible creative forces at work in studios and rehearsal halls, galleries and workshops across the province. They are part of an enormous and dedicated workforce that work endless hours out of love for what they do, and we are all the richer for it.
* to read the complete article, visit: www.plankmagazine.com/feature/bc-arts-cuts-gaming-money-evaporates-effective-immediately
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