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British Columbians and Canadians speak out
against the BC arts cuts

 

Margaret Atwood, writer, Order of Canada, author of The Handmaid's Tale and Year of the Flood
Could it be true – as Denis Dutton argues in The Art Instinct – that art of all kinds, including narrative art, is an evolved adaptation that gave those that had it an edge over those that did not during the 80,000 generations we spent in the Pleistocene? Did their art unify groups, inspire them, teach them survival methods they needed to know, whether material or spiritual? If so, it’s not a question of whether people do art or don’t do it – they will anyway. It’s only a question of what kind of art they do, or whether someone else does it for them. Our stories are us, on a national and international level, as well as on a personal one.

Which sets the political hostility to the arts in a new light. What is it that power-hungry politicians want from artists? Control over the story through the annihilation of the former story-tellers? Is this the agenda behind the recent decapitation of arts funding in British Columbia, while mega-millions are poured into the Olympics? The BC arts community will retaliate, of course. Over the past 50 years they've put BC on the map, and now they’re being told that their sorts of contributions are without value. They’ve always been a scrappy lot: Watch that energy bite back at Mr. Campbell – that would be my guess.
[As usual, the always prescient Atwood was right.}
Source: Globe and Mail

Mark Achbar, Filmmaker, Co-director of internationally-acclaimed The Corporation, Vancouver
Where's the mandate? Our elected representatives' job is to enact the will of the public. Where, precisely, is this government's mandate to single out arts funding for 90% cuts? Where is the election promise that in a financial crunch it would disproportionately reduce funding to the arts? Where is even one poll demonstrating that the majority of people in British Columbia wish to see these cuts? The government cannot produce this evidence because it doesn't exist. There is no mandate. These cuts are a total betrayal of the public's trust. Kevin Krueger, Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, was telling the truth when he said, "This government's commitment to the arts is abundantly clear." The public's commitment to the BC Liberals will soon be just as clear.
Norman Armour, Actor, Executive Director of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival
Dear Minister,
I am a builder by nature and ancestry.
My cousin, the late Mavor Moore, was also a builder. He came from a long line of playwrights, directors, actors, Fabians, theatre critics, historians, arts patrons, doctors, businessmen, engineers and occasional world travelers. With other members of his generation who came of age in the 40s and 50s, together they pioneered the whole-scale development of a new Canadian cultural identity, founding countless institutions, creating indelible works of art, new artistic forms and innovative practices, along with establishing the infrastructure and public policies that would enable the distribution of Canada's artistic output to a citizenry in need of an authentic and distinct expression of their evolving identity-their sense of place, here at home, and in the world at large. read more

To this day, I remember the story he told of working in New York State on radio documentaries for the United Nations. The producer of CBS television's flagship drama series, Studio One, had offered him a job to become one of the show's in-house directors. The fee was to be $500 a week. Through a series of Mephistophelean offers and counteroffers, his agent and CBS settled on the kingly sum $1,500 a week. Now, remember this is 1950. As Mavor told it, each successive upping of the ante only served to "confirm his suspicion." Not soon after, he packed his bags and returned to Toronto, where he joined a colleague at CBC television, which was in the very early stages of preparations for its inaugural broadcast; he took up the position of chief producer for a weekly salary of $165 plus benefits.

Thirty years ago, I came to Vancouver to begin a new life-decidedly at good distance from my Ontario birthplace. I worked up north in the early days of the development of Whistler's Blackcomb Village, as a member of the Laborers' Union 902. Eventually the restlessness of youth got the best of me, and I traveled afar. Before long, I had returned to Vancouver to attend Simon Fraser University's School for the Contemporary Arts as a "mature student," studying in "temporary" facilities that to this day exist up on Burnaby Mountain. I made my way through a post-secondary education, in part, with weekend shifts driving cab and stints as a technician at the campus theatre. I graduated in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a considerable student debt.

For the next 10 years, I toured to and worked in various city centres across Canada. I also performed, directed and held teaching positions and creative residencies in various US cities: Albany, Boise Idaho, Boston, Sacramento, and at Atlanta, Georgia's prestigious Emory University. At the end of each and every sojourn, I returned here to BC. It was by no means a fait accompli. I could have chosen to settle down elsewhere in a larger urban centre-in say, Toronto, Montreal, New York, Berlin, or perhaps Paris. I had certainly considered it. Even Mavor Moore, of all people, living at the time in Vancouver, had confided to my mother that I might want to try making a go of it in Los Angeles' film and television industry. Though I chose not to head south, if you watch closely you'll catch me on reruns of The X-Files. Yep...filmed right here in BC.

Like many of my generation, who had studied and come of age professionally here on the West Coast, Vancouver was our home-a source of inspiration and sustenance. I chose to live here not because the city possessed an illustrious past (which it did), not because of the impressive nature of its cultural institutions (many of them were), not because of the city's performance venues (there were, and continue to be, far too few for a municipality of its size); nor did I choose to live here because there was a particularly large audience for alternative theatre (there wasn't), and I certainly did not stay because there was a surfeit of public funding in the region (there wasn't). And finally no, I was not drawn to Vancouver because of the mountains; the city's picturesque parks remain my preferred place of refuge.

I chose to live in BC because, at the time, I firmly believed there was a future for me here; I believed that the fertile creative ground that had been laid by the many talented and dedicated individuals before me held within it great possibilities.

BC was indeed a place of "possibility," a place where you were taken at face value, where one could gain respect and recognition for the work you did. Here you were expected to prove your worth; you had to gain the trust and faith of colleagues, of audiences, of the critics in the media, of public funding agencies, and of private sectors supporters. It was then that I put my trust in the belief that my efforts and those of the burgeoning arts community would, over time, be justly compensated.

It was particularly struck by the character of the people-both senior and junior-who defined the city's arts community. Ingenuity and innovation was the standard. Collaboration, industry-leading best practices and the sharing of resources were actively promoted. Generosity, compassion and curiosity were expected-indeed, these attributes were the norm.

Now when I travel the world, in my job as executive director of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, to London, Paris, Seoul, Shanghai, Adelaide, Wellington, Brussels, Bergen, Berlin, Paris, Seattle, Portland Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, St Johns, Edinburgh, Prague, Sydney and Glasgow, I am welcomed as an ambassador for an artistic community whose reputation needs no calling card. The energy and vision of BC artists, the caliber and relevance of their work, the skill and savvy of our arts administrators, production and technical personnel, marketers and graphic designers-their artistry and expertise is acclaimed world-wide and is considered to be on the leading edge of contemporary art practices.

The annual PuSh Festival plays an important role in meeting this export demand for BC's artists and their cultural products. The Festival and its PuSh Assembly trade market links Canadian artists and producers with foreign buyers. It prepares Canadian artists for export readiness and International market development. The Assembly identifies business opportunities for Canadian companies by encouraging new avenues for touring, co-production, creative residencies and cultural reciprocity. Visiting regional, national and International delegates attend performances, participate in roundtables, lead workshops, learn of creative projects in development and negotiate tours, commissions and co-productions.

We have sought a model for the five-day PuSh Assembly that reflects how genuine, long-term relationships are fostered, and ultimately how business is conducted. During the course of the past several years, the Assembly has inspired similarly mandated festivals and trade events to replicate and build upon the unique models we have employed. New York, Brighton and in Es Terni, in Italy are just a few examples of the trend-setting influence we now possess.

This commitment to new ideas, new practices, new forms and new approaches has helped put BC artists at the forefront of artistic innovation in both Canada and internationally. Numerous opportunities have opened up for our cultural producers through their exposure and networking at the Festival and the Assembly. Discussions and negotiations have been fostered between Canadian and International presenters, leading to significant new business and market development opportunities for countless BC-based artists and their counterparts elsewhere in Canada.

In today's world, the means of cultural production and dissemination are undergoing a fundamental transformation. If BC's performing artists are to remain competitive in the years ahead, we must ensure that our province's cultural sector remains an engine of growth. We must find ways to unleash the creative energies of our increasingly diverse population. We must work together to build thriving cultural industries. By reinventing our province as a cultural centre in the world, we need only appeal to the highest of civic and social values; we would then effectively distinguish our cultural identity in the global economy in ways that would ensure BC's continued prosperity.

Thank you Minister for today's roundtable. At this time in our collective history, conversation is more critical than ever. We are at the threshold of stepping up on to the world stage. Sadly, we are also teetering towards the precipice of collapse. Our province's artistic communities are facing unprecedented challenges because of recent changes to the disbursement of Gaming revenues and the proposed funding cuts to the British Columbia Arts Council. We face threats to the survival of countless organizations, to artists' livelihood and to thousands of jobs.

For the rest of the country (indeed the rest of the world), investment in arts and culture has been maintained or increased; surely, this is a testament to the fact that the arts are indeed a powerful engine in any healthy economy. In straight business terms, stimulus investments are an enlightened response to the current recession; they are key to an effective recovery strategy. For elected governments everywhere else, not investing in the arts is viewed as throwing up one's hands in the face of this recession. Here in BC, the very opposite is considered true.

Minister, like you I am a servant of the public good. I head up a registered, non-profit organization and report to an elected board of directors. I am held accountable by a voting membership that looks to me to stay true to the letter and spirit of the PuSh Festival's mandate-in both speech and deed. Like you, I am also a professional. My salary, though modest in comparison, I assume is like yours the source of my livelihood. Like you, I believe arts and culture are the basis of a civil society. And like you, I have dedicated myself to ensuring that the citizen's of British Columbia benefit from residing in a province for which affordable access to art is considered a fundamental right and an essential service, along with highways, public transit, a decent education, a roof over one's head, food on the table and medical care.

Like you, I believe the citizens of BC want a portion of their tax dollars spent on the arts-an amount equal to the arts' proven social, economic and cultural value. They want public funds invested into individual artists, institutions, organizations, infrastructure, human resources, tax incentives, and sector-wide capacity-building initiatives that ensure that arts and culture will not only survive but flourish in our province.

When I travel in late November to Budapest, funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, with a group of Canadian delegates to promote the vision, vitality and innovative spirit of BC and other Canadian artists, what should I say about the present state of British Columbia's performing arts communities? When I attend Krakow's Divine Comedy Festival, in early December-I have been invited to sit on an International jury to assess the "best" of Polish theatre with my travel costs covered by funds from the Hungarian government- what would you suggest I speak of?

Back here in BC, what do I say to artists wishing to be presented in the PuSh Festival, or to a local agent, or a producer wishing to respond with a "yes" to invitations to tour from out-of-town other presenters and festivals. What do I tell them, when it becomes clear that they may no longer be able to sustain their organizations here at home, let alone consider embarking on International tours of their productions. To visiting out-of-town presenters and buyers, what do I say to their offers of support for initiatives involving cultural exchange between BC artists and their respective countries, when I am no longer certain that our organization will be able to reciprocate with offers to present their artists back here in the PuSh Festival.

To a younger generation still immersed in a secondary or post- secondary arts education, who are at this very point asking themselves what the future holds for them, and should they dare to choose a career in the arts-to them Minster, what do I say? To the province's young professionals-emerging artists, administrators and technicians, who are now considering, as I had 20 years previous, the difficult, life-determining decision of whether they should lay down roots here, stick it out, or simply pack up and leave-what can I hope to say?

To my organization's 19-member board of directors who will donate thousands of dollars and contribute thousands of volunteer hours over the next 12 months, what do I say? To my 4 permanent staff and 15 seasonal contractors, to our organization's 100+ volunteers, to 30 some vendors who supply everything from trucks, lighting and sound equipment, venues, gaffer tape, paint, gasoline, airline tickets, hotel accommodation, food, beverages, ticketing services, and the like-what do I say to them? For our organization's 3,000 member e-list and the 10,000 distinct visitors to the PuSh Festival website amounting to over 1.3 million hits during the month of January alone, what spin should there be put on our weekly posts? For the 36,000 readers of our Festival's program guide and the 350,000 readers of our print ads each and every week for the next four months, how should the copy read? To local and national journalists, and to the hundreds (likely to be in the thousands) of foreign media that will soon descend upon our region for the performances, exhibitions, literary readings and other cultural festivities of the 2010 Cultural Olympiad and related sports events-what sound bites do you suggest I prepare for them? And finally, to the 20,000+ audience members who will attend this year's PuSh Festival during January and February-Minster, what should be the tone of our volunteers' nightly pre-show speeches?

I have poured several buckets of blood and sweat into my life as a professional artist. I have committed myself to the future of this city and this province. I have tethered my imagination to the task of fostering an artistic community whose work, strengths, assets, values and sensibilities could stand side beside any other contemporary arts milieu-anywhere in the country, and anywhere in the world. Believe me, I am not alone; there are thousands of us who have done the very same.

For the past twenty years, I have dedicated my energies to working with colleagues, with volunteers from the community at large, with government bureaucrats, private sector supporters and other stakeholders on building a social-profit arts sector that is founded not so much on bricks and mortar, but rather on human capital. And now the very existence of this human capital is at stake: a capital that has been caringly and passionately-with great diligence I might add-fostered in and by communities right across this province, a human capital that is honoured and acclaimed the world over.

On the evening of January 20th, 2010, I will return to my alma mater to address a 400-strong audience seated in the new Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at SFU Woodward's. The complex and its stunning facilities will be a permanent home for the University's School for the Contemporary Arts. The occasion will herald the rebirth of one of Vancouver's most treasured landmarks. This sneak preview will open a curtain on the next stage in an ongoing revitalization of the city's Downtown Eastside neighborhood. The event will also launch the sixth installment of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. The opening performance is a local adaptation of Paris-based, Jerome Bel's acknowledged masterpiece The Show Must Go On. The piece involves 23 community members standing in for the past, present and future of the Woodward's building, SFU, and our still vibrant performing arts community. For that gathering... please Minister, I fear that I may be at a loss for what to say.

This past Thanksgiving weekend, each and every one of the individuals sitting here today were hard at work considering what questions to ask of you and your aides, considering what needed to be said, in order to help bring about a reversal of your government's recent decisions.

Minister, I am at risk of losing my faith-the faith I have held so dear. I am at risk of no longer imagining the future I had envisioned a lifetime ago, a horizon that I was determined never to lose sight of. To me Minister, what say you?

Sincerely,
Norman Armour

Jann LM Bailey, Executive Director, Kamloops Art Gallery
Governments at all levels invest in the arts. Economically and socially, the arts enrich our lives and help to create vibrant communities that entice people to come live and work. They are also the infrastructure for a creative economy. The cultural community is lobbying against cuts that will significantly change the face of the arts in British Columbia now and into the future. We are advocating first and foremost for reasonable, competitive per capita expenditures on the arts in B.C. The Government of British Columbia comes dead last on the list of Canadian provinces in their per capita spending on the arts. The national average is $26.73 per person; in BC it’s $6.50. The Yukon is ranked number one, spending $268.52 per person on the arts. The arts play a significant role in the evolution of a civil society, and at a micro level, the wellbeing and development of our children. As Sir Kenneth Robinson, renowned author, speaker and international advisor on education states, "Creativity is as important in education as literacy".
George Bowering, Canada's first Poet Laureate, BC
In these last years of my writing life I would like to be proud of the place I call home, to see that British Columbia should not be laughed at as a backward bulwark against the coming of culture and its growth. We judge past civilizations according to their achievements in the arts, in architecture, sculpture and poetry, for examples. We should judge ourselves the same way. Who says anything about the GNP
in Greece of 500 BC? The Greeks this year opened a beautiful Parthenon Museum. In B.C. we close down literary magazines and theatre groups. Our political leaders get their pictures taken with businessmen making money out of the forthcoming "Olympics," while artists who live here rather than dropping by for a couple of weeks face funding
cuts. I wish that I could be proud of a place that has grown up.
Jay Brazeau, Artist, BC
I'm not an intelligent man. I have my Grade 11. And I'm not a rich man as people tend to think all of us actors are. So many actors live below the poverty line and we can't afford to go to the Olympics. But I am a lucky man. Because I am an artist. And this is the first time I have probably been able to say this in public. So this is a kind of "coming out" for me. I've always felt weird about telling people what I do. Because I thought they would never take it seriously. Or they would ask why I wasn't in Hollywood. But I am proud today. I am proud of all my my brothers and sisters who have joined together for this battle we have before us. read more
I am currently performing as "Man In The Chair" in Drowsy Chaperone and I have the pleasure of watching the audience every night. And I can see the joy and the tears that we all share and I think how blessed I am to be performing in a Canadian musical that has reached out across this globe and showed the world what artistry we have to offer. Vancouver was the first place to present this musical and that would not have happened without BC funds. People would not have come from across the country to see how successful our production was. And they would not be doing it in their theatres  now if it had not happened in our province first. Yes we were the first. And I am so proud of that. We must not give something and then take it back. I ask you to reconsider these cutbacks not just for us, but for our children. And our children's children. We cannot live in a world without art. I beg you not to let this happen. But I do warn you. If you do try to take our art from us you are in for one helluva fight.
Kim Cattrall, Actor from Vancouver Island, in her acceptance speech at the Canadian Walk of Fame
I would also like to thank the BC provincial funding for the arts, something that is lacking at the moment if you’ve read your local newspaper... Without that funding, I don’t think that I would be standing here this evening.

Douglas Coupland, writer, author of Generation X, and visual artist, Vancouver
People come to BC not just because of the pretty mountains. They come here because they expect a place where society is both different and better. Haven't you noticed that when you say 'Vancouver' to people, their eyes light up? For foolish short-term reasons we're killing that light, and all the money in the world can't buy it back once it's gone. We become a parking lot with mountains and it doesn't have to happen.

Brad Cran, Poet Laureate of the City of Vancouver
Even minor cuts to the arts have heavy reverberations in BC because our artists and cultural institutions work on already tight budgets, stretching each dollar as far as possible, often with a volunteer workforce and underpaid staffers who do what they do for the love of the arts and to make BC a more lively and livable place.

But we’re not talking about minor cuts: we’re talking about devastating cuts that will hamper our most robust organizations and festivals, bring down some of our smaller and fledgling organizations while destroying a funding structure that has been years in the making. The fact that this is happening on the eve of the Olympics (with culture as one of the pillars of the Olympic bid) is an added insult and a broken promise to British Columbians. To Mr Campbell, Mr Krueger and Mr Hansen: please come back to the table to rejoin the Federal Government and the City of Vancouver in supporting the arts and BC artists at a time when we need to show that the “pillar” of culture in BC is exactly that.

Atom Egoyan, Filmmaker, raised in Victoria
I owe so much to the development of my early career to support I received from the BC Cultural Fund, which provided me with a much needed scholarship. It is truly devastating to think that a new generation of BC artists can't rely on their provincial government for this crucial encouragement and vision. click for more information

Bob D’Eith, Executive Director of Music BC Industry Association (www.musicbc.org)
Music BC has over 800 paid members and 4000 subscribers to our weekly enews. Music BC brought the JUNO awards to Vancouver and is presently administering the $5.2 million Peak Performance Project for the Peak FM radio. Music BC faces cuts to the $100,000 MITAP travel assistance program, our operating funds of $45,000, and $80,000 in contributions to the multi-provincial partnership called the Western Canadian Music Awards (to be held in Kelowna next year). These funds are vital to the ongoing health of the music industry in BC. To put things in perspective, prior to the cuts the arts community received approximately 1/20 of 1 % of the overall budget. read more
Imagine the $40 billion budget as 40,000 million dollar trees. The arts community represented only 20 trees out of this. The new funding reduces this to 3 trees out of 40,000 trees. The rationale for the cuts is that the priorities in these tough times are health, education and social services. The reality is that these cuts make no significant impact on the overall budget. The BC government can’t see the trees from the forest. No other government in Canada, Provincial or Federal, has cut funding to the arts. In fact, many have increased funding to the arts, recognizing that investment in culture is important to stimulate the economy. Even the conservative Harper government renewed arts funding for five years. The BC government has failed to learn the lesson that the federal conservatives did in the last election. Cutting funding to the arts through the Trade Routes program cost the conservatives a majority government. Arts and Culture are an election issue. We won’t forget these cuts in the next Provincial election. During WW2, Winston Churchill was asked by his then finance minister to cut arts funding to support the war effort. His response was: "Then what are we fighting for?" Arts were not cut then and should not be cut now. Arts and Culture are too important to our society and to our economy.
Geoffrey Farmer, visual artist, Vancouver
While the current provincial government continues its duplicitous behavior towards culture in British Columbia, I will continue to live up to the cliché of being an artist by imagining and creating alternative worlds. Tourism and culture play an important role in the future economic and social well-being of our province. If the Liberal government is unable to understand the biology of this - that you can't wipe out a sector without creating a devastating domino effect - well then, we will just have to jazz-hands them out of office.

Yulanda Faris, arts philanthropist, chair of the Vancouver Opera Foundation, honorary chair of Judith Marcuse Dance Projects. From her speech at the anti-cuts rally in Vancouver:
I have been involved with the arts and culture sector in Vancouver since I arrived in 1974. And I would like us... to reflect for a moment on the role that arts and culture play in learning and development. How do we teach our children? ... We teach our children to sing, to dance, to paint. Is this less important as we grow older? No, it becomes more important. The world of creativity and of the image and imagination is what makes a vibrant civil society.

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And as you get the gray hairs - and mine are a bit covered up today - but as you get the gray hairs and you reach the stage of reflection, when you are facing loss and pain, and death stares you in the face, it's culture, it's  music, it's symphony, it's art that sustains and comforts. As I say, I have been in the trenches with a lot of artists for a very long time, 30-odd years. And besides the pleasure that I receive from being an audience member or a spectator, there is so much I have learned from artists. I have learned about passion, I have learned about tenacity, I've learned about facing adversity, and to me, these are the kinds of people I want to populate my world. These are the people that deserve our unfailing support and our deepest respect, for if we fail our artists, and we fail our creative minds, we are failing our society and we are failing the very fabric of what we are and what our potential can be. The creative force cannot be stilled and should not be stilled. The creative force does so much. And I will never go to the economic argument. Because we know: jobs, taxes, it's part of what the art sector is, as much as health and education. So often we talk about children at risk and the vulnerable in our society. Well, of course we agree, because we are part of the solution. The arts has the force and  the dynamism to help everyone across the board: rich, poor, sick, whomever. We have the tools and we are part of the solution. Arts and culture matters, and it's interesting when the coffers were filled and we had surpluses galore, the arts sector did not greatly benefit from those monies. And now we're being cut to the bone. It's not right; it's not fair. And I call on every one of you here, those who are not here, those who are in those gleaming buildings around us, those who have a say. Our governments are our leaders; they are not followers. They are leaders and they have to take a stand in making art matter. We are not disposable; we are essential. Somewhere along the way I learned that man should not live by bread alone. The mind, the world of the mind, the spirit, and the imagination is what matters the most.

William Gibson, writer, author of Neuromancer and Pattern Recognition, Vancouver
As a futurist, someone with some experience in long-range scenario-based corporate and municipal planning, I've seen my share of jaw-droppingly shortsighted proposals. But these proposed cuts to support for the arts in BC really take the cake. This is governance guaranteed to rot the fabric of our province's future. I encourage you all to do everything you can to prevent this disastrous proposal from going into effect. 
Jim Green, cultural and developmental consultant
Why do people go to Venice, Italy? Do they go there because they’re looking for a better Wal-Mart? They go there because the whole city is dripping in culture. Thirty-three percent of the economy of London, England, is based on arts and culture. When it comes to Vancouver, a lot of people who are not progressive in their thinking about tourism use the concept of the three Ms: mountains, moose, and Mounties.…But it’s not who we are. You can live in Vancouver and never see a moose in your life, but you can also go see Robert Lepage or you can go see Stan Douglas’s work or go to the Vancouver Opera. That is the calling card of cities.
Source: Georgia Straight

Lee Henderson, writer, author of The Man Game
I was disappointed to learn of the Liberal government's decision to cut back on what was already miniscule funding to the arts across B.C. This kind of deep cut to our cultural institutions, many of which have been receiving this funding for decades, seems to directly contradict the message of the bid to host the Olympics. The reasons why Vancouver received the honour of hosting the world during the Olympics have as much to do with our cultural capital as our fortunate surroundings. Our artists. Our stories. Our images. Culture is the year-long attraction. Next year we play host to the entire world, and what you've decided at this critical moment is to greet our guests with news that culture is no longer supported here. read more
At a moment when it counts the most, funding is cut, preemptively. BC's arts funding is not only disproportionately less than our lotteries can afford, it's also significantly less than provinces like Ontario and Quebec, whose reputation internationally is indisputable, and is supported in great part thanks to government support for the arts. There would be no billion dollar Cirque du Soleil without Quebec arts funding. There would be no Margaret Atwood without Ontario arts funding. Who is BC's Cirque? Who is our great world-renowned talent? How can we afford to cut our arts funding, it's like investing in treeplanting one year and expecting to log the same tract of land the next. At a time when we are supposed to look fresh and alive and attractive to the world, your budget cuts are stabbing our culture to death. The international spotlight is turned on this province. After the Olympics are gone, the impression that a city makes on people and that brings visitors back again, is the cultural capital of a place. We are losing ours thanks to your suggested budget cuts. Please, for the life of this province, do not make these budget cuts. Increase your support. Invest in the arts.

Veda Hille, musician, Vancouver
I have been working as a musician in BC for almost 20 years.  I was tempted to move a few times, to New York, to Europe, even to Toronto.  But every time I thought about leaving my home province, the place where I was born, I thought "no."  I thought "We have lots of songs from New York, from London.  We need more songs from the West Coast of Canada".  This is the place that inspires me, that I know too well to leave.  I am extremely disheartened by the recent cuts to the arts that the Liberal government has announced. 

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In more recent years, as I become a mature artist, this is also the place that has offered me the most interesting and challenging work.  I write songs of my own volition, but I have also written music for Theatre Replacement, the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, Vancouver Opera, the Leaky Heaven Circus, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, Mascall Dance, and many other integral Vancouver arts organizations.  I feel like I am at the doorway of a whole new section of my career, one that is linked to a huge arts community. This community hires me and also a whole posse of musicians and artists that I hire myself.  Arts funding has been an essential component of this vast interlocking group of cultural workers and our projects.  I can't imagine what the future of our city looks like now.

I think it is worth noting that in the last few years, while on tour in Europe, people have been very excited to find out that I am Canadian.  Our international reputation has had a recent surge.  If BC wants to continue to play on the world stage, in the arts or in the tourism industry that funds the province, we will need to have a continued commitment and support for the arts. 

Of course, in writing this letter, I will appear to be self-serving.  I have a very personal and direct need for arts funding.  It supports my work, my colleagues, and in turn my family.  People sometimes suggest to me that the arts should be supported by the market.  I remind them that this is a very recent idea, and that the great music and theatre and writing of our history was largely supported by patrons.  There is no shame in giving money to creative pursuits.  What kind of vibrant life could we have without Public Dreams, the Jazz Festival, the Fringe, all the myriad of small and exciting art galleries in BC? 

I hope very much that the government of BC will rethink this devastating decision.

Jay Hirabayashi, Executive director of Kokoro Dance
I think that most people take the arts for granted without really realizing how much it contributes to their quality of life. I think that everything—the clothes people wear, radio, television, newspapers—is coloured and influenced by the arts. And if there wasn’t that creative stream of artists feeding what we see all around us, it would indeed be like the grey square that we [protesters against the province’s cutbacks to arts funding] have adopted as the symbol of life without art.
Source: Georgia Straight

Karen Kain, Dancer, Artistic Director, National Ballet of Canada
Canada's long time support of its artists has helped them to achieve incredible heights both nationally and internationally in a variety of disciplines. For me personally, and for The National Ballet of Canada, government funding has allowed us to tour internationally and to keep our dancers and productions in the top tier of dance companies worldwide. Gaining this kind of acclaim on a worldwide scale, not just for our company but for our museums, symphonies, art galleries and artists as a whole, is critical to preserving Canada's place on the world map. Funding our own country's artists is beneficial to all Canadian residents on many levels. It pains me to see funding being cut to some of this country's most promising arts groups, including those in B.C. British Columbia is brimming with talent and the artists are in need of the funding that is their lifeblood. I encourage anyone who cares about the arts to speak up in support of preserving these national treasures.
Photo credit: Sian Richards
Alma Lee, Founder, Vancouver Writers & Readers Festival, CM, D.Litt (Hon)
Dear Premier Campbell,
What are you thinking?
You are a cultured man who is an avid reader and supporter of cultural events. What happened to your vision of BC becoming the most literate province in the country? What sort of Philistines are working with you in cabinet?

Obviously they have no idea of what arts and culture bring to our lives and to the economy of this province. Stating that the government is going to focus on poverty doesn’t cut it – many artists live on or below the poverty line. In the rest of the world Canada and BC are renowned for sending some of the most innovative and talented artists to perform in many high profile venues. There is a long list of British Columbian artists who are highly regarded abroad – that list could fill a page here.read more
The point is that many of these people got their start by being supported by government funding. You and your government should be proud of that, but instead you are denigrating the work of these artists, and in the process doing nothing for the economy with this short sighted and devastating slashing of arts funding.

You, Premier Campbell, appointed me to sit on the BC Arts Council. I was honoured to receive that appointment and I and my colleagues worked very hard to increase the core funding to the Council. All that was gained in the end was an endowment that today is realizing less than two percent, and it seems as though even that may be going on the block. I now I feel that six years of my life and my own creative energy were wasted.

I am proud of my accomplishment in founding the Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival. This is an event that you, yourself, have supported over the years. I believe I created a high quality event for the cultural life of this city and we all know it has gained an international reputation.

Please, I beg of you, stop this budget slashing before it’s too late.
Dan Mangan, Musician, Vancouver
Most of us would agree that art and culture are important to our identity and way of life in Canada. While we have a long history of "punching above our weight" on the world stage, producing a long list of highly successful artists in numerous disciplines, the reality for most in the arts community is not so glamorous. Many artists barely live above the poverty line. While they live materially sparse lives, their quality of life is enriched through giving back to their communities, teaching others, developing new skills and helping to shape the thought and identity of our country.read more

When someone makes the choice to pursue a career in the arts, it is often done with the knowledge that the odds of prosperity and financial security are stacked against them. While this type of informed decision may be used by some to justify cutting public funding to arts programs, the reality is that the work of people who are dedicated to the artistic heritage of our country benefits everybody both culturally and financially. Here's how:

My own experience on the matter is in the music realm, so that's where I'll start. Musicians are always the last to get paid. The money that artistic performances generate goes right back into the community. Managers, labels, agents, technicians, printers, promoters, manufacturers and everyone directly involved in the music industry get paid first. Millions more are employed by the arts in almost every sector of the economy. Concert halls, festivals, distribution houses, museums, theaters, pubs, coffee shops and every other type of venue for the arts employ people. When artists travel the country, often by car, they are generating revenue and income everywhere they travel, including the small towns that make up the rural backbones of our economy. It is a pretty safe bet that on any given night, there are dozens of bands spending the night in hotels in small regional hubs such as Thunder Bay, Golden, Brandon or Lethbridge. Even if the locals never go to a show, their economies see the benefit of touring bands. The livelihoods of gas station attendants, hotel employees, bartenders, waiters, mechanics and Value Village employees across this country are directly linked to the health of Canada's creative economy.

According to the government's own studies, every dollar spent on arts funding brings back more than a dollar in tax revenue. Investing in arts infrastructure is like investing in forestry - if we put public money in to it, it will stimulate industry and business growth in both pubic and private sectors - which will employ people and bring tax dollars back in to the system. Forestry investment creates jobs in tree-rich areas, arts investment creates jobs in arts communities.

Unfortunately, I think arts funding is sometimes sold to us as artistic welfare for a small group of self-important elitists - whereas I believe it is a deep foundational affirmation that our society believes that creative thinking is important. Would we rather our kids to watch television all weekend than to take music lessons? Acting classes? Pottery? Dancing? Are we more interested in reality television than we are in reality? Heaven forbid we should raise individuals that add to and affect the world around them, rather than simply be affected by it.

As I mentioned before, Canada has always punched above its weight in terms of the entertainment industry. The amount of worldwide superstars we've created (Bryan Adams, Celine Deon, Shania Twain, Nelly Furtado, Jim Carey, Mike Myers), not to mention critically acclaimed artisans that this country has spawned (Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, David Cronenberg, Margaret Atwood, Douglas Coupland) is simply astounding considering Canada's population size. This is not a coincidence. It is because we have traditionally fostered a society that promotes from within, that gives young minds the fuel, confidence and integrity to investigate whatever creative paths they seek to wander. The other thing to take in to account is that all of these people bring the world's attention back to Canada. It's like cultural advertising, influencing tourism and investment our way, pulling in international dollars.

It's hard to look long term or big picture with any issue, but Canadian heritage and culture are so dear to me and most people I know. Mr. Dressup, Anne Of Green Gables, The Logdriver's Waltz (any National Film Board cartoon, for that matter), Kids In The Hall, CBC 1/2/3, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Stompin Tom Connors, Farley Mowat, Leonard Cohen, Michael Ondaatje, W.O. Mitchell, Atwood, Coupland - all of these entities and more have shaped us to be a small country with big ideas, internationally respected for our diplomacy, our humour, our art, our resources and our way of life. I would feel so ashamed to lose that heritage of respect.

Sincerely,
Dan Mangan

Judith Marcuse, Choreographer, producer, educator, speaker, writer. Founder, International Centre of Art for Social Change
Arts and culture are essential elements of being human. Art provides us with potent ways to experience and understand each other and the worlds we live in. Making and sharing art creates dialogue; it nurtures the emergence of imaginative empathy and energy for positive action. At a time when innovation is urgently needed to address complex local and global issues, we look to creative voices around us in every sector to provide us with possible ways forward. Arts and cultural practices are core to our wellbeing now and in the future.

For the last 30 years, BC has been at or near the bottom of per capita investment in our culture sector, this despite the fact that we create financial profit for the government. One tenth of 1% of the province’s budget was allocated to arts and culture before the cuts. The announced three years of cuts totalling some 70% would have decimated our sector and has already created wide-spread damage. But this policy backfired when advocates from every corner of the province and the country came forward to protest. The partial restoration of funding is the first step in a longer process of advocacy and community-building.

Our constituency includes artists and their organizations, our audiences and supporters, our educators, non-profit community groups, our health, justice and business sectors, diverse First Nations peoples, new Canadians, elders, youth and children and the disenfranchised. This crisis has provided an opportunity for us to reach out to listen to each other and reassert the importance of arts and culture in all our lives. The work has just begun! Onward.

Sarah McLachlan, Singer-songwriter, Musician, Founder of the kids' music program at Vancouver’s Arts Umbrella
I think [the cuts are] a tragedy. I think that the arts and culture are a huge part of what makes our city, and our part of the world, vibrant. And I think it’s absolutely imperative that children, youth and adults have that cultural and artistic outlet, whether it’s doing it themselves or witnessing it... I certainly don’t know what the answer is, but I wish there were better solutions than taking away our emotional and creative outlets. As far as being well-rounded and full-bodied human beings, we need all those things in our lives.  Source: Vancouver Sun
Gregor Robertson, Mayor of Vancouver
The arts are at the core of Vancouver’s identity and spirit. Beyond that, arts and culture are a huge economic driver here.…Particularly right now, with the 2010 Games coming, the world coming to Vancouver, it’s critical for our cultural sector to be ready and poised to break through on the world stage. That was part of our [Olympic] bid, and there’s an expectation that our artists will shine alongside our athletes. The cuts will make that much more challenging. They may undermine the work of many great organizations that are supporting artists and preparing to make a big splash in 2010.
Source: Georgia Straight

Duncan Sinclair, Chair of the Yukon Arts Centre
I am a neighbor living in Whitehorse, Yukon and have family in British Columbia. Two of my children completed high school in your province. My undergraduate degree is in music from the University of British Columbia. I have served as Chair at the Yukon Arts Centre Corporation for six years. As a visitor of B.C. my family has enjoyed the thriving arts and cultural scene in your province. As part of arts organizations presenting music, theatre, dance, visual arts, etc., I have been honoured to support B.C. artists (and the B.C. economy indirectly) and enjoy their work, as have many Yukoners.read more

I am writing to advocate for increases to public investment by the Government of B.C. in the arts in British Columbia, rather than the current and proposed cuts to the BC Arts Council. These cuts are not only damaging to B.C. residents and its economic and social future, but to western and northern Canada. Such cuts will spillover to the Yukon and Alberta as B.C. musicians, artists, dancers, theatre practitioners are less able to support themselves by sharing their work in neighboring markets. And the Yukon in particular will be less able to present art work of all forms from elsewhere in Canada, as this often depends on organizing regional tours and shared investments with B.C. presenters that lowers costs and increases access for us both. The proposed cuts will drag Canada down. Surely, British Columbia needs to sustain a leadership position in supporting arts and culture, not dredge the bottom. This is so contrary to the leadership shown on tough issues like energy and climate change/ghg emissions.

There is a lot of substantive, credible research demonstrating that investments in the arts create jobs, have significant multiplier effects (local spending on goods and services, volunteer engagement, ability to attract other national/regional investments in the arts and culture), benefit communities small and large - economically and socially, contribute to regional economies through tourism (a major industry in B.C.), facilitate improved educational outcomes for students, help to solve social problems, and contribute to a healthy democracy and social cohesion in a multi-cultural province like B.C. The stable jobs and economic stimulus (not dependent on resource cycles, stock markets, or unpredictable international factors) created by the arts and cultural sector are a key part of the economy now and will be even more important the future. Such cuts are regressive policy that will guarantee dimmer prospects for B.C. going forward.

In the Yukon, the territorial government has SUBSTANTIALLY, AND SYSTEMATICALLY INCREASED funding for arts and culture over a period of many years. This investment is paying off in social and cultural terms, AND with an economic value in communities throughout the Yukon far beyond the nominal sums involved. Even a small jurisdiction like the Yukon is now EXPORTING home-grown arts and cultural product nationally and internationally. The Yukon government is making this investment based on hard-nosed economic and social policy objectives and quantitative research and analysis.

British Columbia has such a plethora of (human resource) talent. And the arts and cultural sector are among the entrepreneurial and community leadership so central to building and sustaining a vibrant economy throughout the province for decades to come. Why would a government want to throw this away? There is a huge opportunity cost. I respectfully suggest there are better choices.

Gordon Smith, painter, Order of Canada recipient, and co-founder with Marion Smith of Artists for Kids
Dear Premier Campbell,
At this time when we are all concerned about the economy, our culture and the arts in Canada are more than ever in need of financial support. Our artists - in literature, music, and the performing and visual arts - are recognized around the world. Funds must be made available to maintain these programs in the arts. We desperately need your government’s support.
Photo credit: Malcolm Parry
Michael Turner, writer, author of Hard Core Logo and 8x10.
The BC Liberal government’s recent cuts to arts funding confound at every level. Studies have shown that for every dollar spent on the arts, a dollar-thirty-six is returned to the economy. As for the argument that the poor should be prioritized, that too is specious, given that many of our province's artists and art institutions live and operate near or below the poverty line. The only conclusion that can be drawn from these cuts is that the Liberals are concerned with the optics of funding something that will have voters voting against them. But if that’s the case, then they have alienated not only artists and art institutions but all British Columbians -- because nobody's that gullible. The facts speak for themselves, in Liberal-friendly economic terms. What more does this government not want from us?
Photo credit: Brian Jungen

Scott Watson, Director/Curator, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, UBC
The arts are fundamental to civil society and one of the basic elements of a healthy economy. British Columbia is in a relatively remote part of the Western world with a small population; public support for the arts is all the more necessary. B.C. has never had a stellar reputation for arts support. We lag far behind Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. Now that reputation will be even more dubious.

It seems to me that the money being saved by arts cuts cannot possibly be commensurate with the damage being done to an already rather fragile ecosystem. I would also think that a community hosting an Olympics, for which culture is an important component, ought to be demonstrating its commitment to culture. It also amazes me that a person contemplating a fourth term as Premier would be so disregarding of his legacy, for there is no doubt that if these drastic cuts remain, this is all we will remember of Gordon Campbell.

Jerry Wasserman, head of the department of Theatre and Film at UBC
It’s the future of my students I’m worried about. We are training theatre artists, people who will be working in the cultural industry. This is not a positive sign for anyone planning a career in the arts industry in BC. From a perspective of educators, it is a public policy that is very discouraging to the students who might want to turn arts into a profession.

Dr. Jane Roskams, Professor, Life Sciences Institute and Brain Research Centre, UBC
As a parent in Vancouver, my children currently grow up in a city where they can hear the strains of jazz, classical, folk and rock music, which drive the pulse of the world they live in. As a neuroscientist working on the fundamental pathways that drive brain development, I know that every time a child is exposed to visual art, their brain physically and chemically changes so that that experience will be incorporated into their future way of thinking. Every new piece of music played by a child builds the part of the brain that will also enhance their math skills, and every time they read new stories, their language centres develop, which in turn encourages them to put their own thoughts down on paper.read more
We use our understanding of art, sound, plays and music as therapy for developmentally delayed children who cannot think in the way that many of us take for granted, and that kind of therapy is more powerful than any drug we can currently give to them. Imagine starving their world! Making our art community starve for funding darkens our world, makes our children's lives poorer, and all of our lives - artistic, musical, scientific and literate, now and in the future - duller with every single dollar cut. A world where only children from privileged homes who can pay fees get to have this experience, means we create a divided city. A city where a whole generation of children will have brains that never develop the creative pathways to drive their passion for art, music, compassion and to imagine the inventions of the future, and ultimately, a future generation of people who will keep making more of these kind of decisions that gradually starve our province of its beauty. I don't believe any of us want this.

 


More Prominent British Columbians join us to oppose the cuts:

Stan Douglas, Visual artist, Vancouver link
Ronald Wright, Massey Lecturer, author of A Short History of Progress, Saltspring Is. link
Brian Jungen, Visual artist, Vancouver/Fort St. John link
Liz Magor, Visual artist, Vancouver link
Ken Lum, Visual artist, Vancouver link
Amir Ali Alibhai, Executive Director, Alliance for Arts and Culture, Vancouver
Damian Moppett, Visual artist, Vancouver link
Jeff Derksen, Writer, Professor of English, Simon Fraser University link
Ian Wallace, Visual artist, Vancouver link
Helga Pakasaar, Curator, Presentation House Gallery, North Vancouver
Robert Kleyn, Architect and Artist, Vancouver
Sean Bickerton, Board/Advisory with Vancouver Recital Society and OlympicLegaciesNow
Hank Bull, Artist, Co-founder of the Western Front, Centre A, Vancouver
Eric Metcalfe, Artist, Co-founder of the Western Front, Vancouver link
Jeremy Shaw, Visual artist and international musician (Circlesquare), Vancouver
Christopher Butterfield, Associate professor of composition, School of Music, U. Victoria
Jean Baird, Writer, Founder of the Al Purdy A-Frame Trust
Dániel Péter Biró, Associate Professor, School of Music, University of Victoria
bill bissett, painter, poet link
Nicola Cavendish, Actor
Billeh Nickerson, Author and Creative Writing Department Faculty, Kwantlen Polytechnic
Elspeth Pratt, Artist, Art Professor, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver
Hilary Peach, poet, Founder/Artistic director of Poetry Gabriola Festival and Canada Speaks
Alexander Varty, Musician, writer, arts commentator
Antony Holland, Actor, Founder of Studio 58
Tom Cone, Playwright, Vancouver
Dennis Reid, Poet, President of the League of Canadian Poets
Garnet Rogers, Musician
Hal Wake, Executive Director, Vancouver Writers and Readers Festival
Stephen Osborne, Editor, Geist Magazine
Howard White, Order of Canada & BC, Stephen Leacock Award, Director Harbour Publishing
David Pay, Artistic Director, Music on Main
Ron Terada, Visual artist, Vancouver
Alan Storey, Artist, Vancouver link
Steve Dawson, Musician, producer, songwriter link
Colin Thomas, Theatre critic and playwright
Norman Armour, Actor, Executive Director of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival
Ivan Coyote, Writer and storyteller
Dianna Bonder, Illustrator, author link
Kari Gundersen, Director of Development, Vancouver International Dance Festival
Duncan Sinclair, Chair, Yukon Arts Centre
Nancy Noble, CEO, Museum of Vancouver
Heather Redfern, Executive Director, The Cultch (Van East Cultural Centre)
Rhona MacInnes, Executive Director, BC Association of Magazine Publishers
Walter Dexter, Clay Artist, RCA, Saidye Bronfman Award Winner
John Oliver, Composer, Musician
Reece Terris, Artist link
Atom Egoyan, Director, Filmmaker, Victoria/Toronto
Tim Lilburn, Poet, Essayist, Governor General's Award Winner, Teacher, U of Victoria
Lorna Crozier, Poet, Governor General's Award Winner, Victoria
Patrick Lane, Writer, Poet, Governor General's Award Winner, Victoria
José Verstappen CM, Artistic Director, Early Music Vancouver & Vancouver Early Music Festival link
Jann LM Bailey, Executive Director, Kamloops Art Gallery





For a full alphabetical list, click here

If you know anyone whose voice should be added to this page, please help us by asking them to contribute. Email us here. Please check back regularly - more names will be added as the weeks go by.

You can also let the BC government know how you feel about what they are doing to arts and culture. Government mail and email addresses and some sample letters are here, and please follow and re-tweet us on twitter.

 

 






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