Tuesday, March 02, 2010

WASN'T THAT A PARTY—BC ARTS, THE OLYMPICS—WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?

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The Olympics are done. Budgets are about to be put down (I'm seeing a beloved old pet here, purring or wagging its tail, about to get the needle) and neither of them—BC or Federal—are likely to be overly generous to Arts and Culture.

Here's an open letter I sent to the Premier of British Columbia last month. I borrowed a couple of key points from a form letter that came around from one of the Petition sites, and then I personalized it. Have to say I appreciate the ease with which one can send such letters these days. So far, the only response I've had is from Katrine Conroy's office. She's our MLA (NDP). She included a number of sites with good information on arts-related issues. "Important Links", she calls them. I think so, too.

Dear Mr. Campbell:

Here we are, in the midst of funding cuts that have arts communities reeling. Given the support being withdrawn both federally and provincially of late, I had concluded that arts and culture is not something Canada and British Columbia consider important. And then I watched the opening ceremonies of the current Olympics, and given the number of artists who were chosen to perform their dancing, music, songs, and poetry to show us off to the world, it appears my conclusion was wrong.

This sector of the economy is one that visitors and immigrants are aware of from the moment they set foot here. I'm thinking of the visual feast of art that greets people arriving at the airport in Vancouver. I'm thinking of the murals in Chemainus. I'm thinking of Word on the Street. And I'm thinking about how difficult it is to produce these kinds of things when the government of the day tells us they're not important enough to be supported.

As part of the public consultations for the 2010 Budget, the Legislative Assembly's Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services issued a unanimous recommendation: that government funding for arts and culture be restored to 2008-2009 levels. I am asking today that at the very least you accept this bipartisan recommendation, and that it be reflected in the upcoming Budget. I'd really like it if you'd restore funding even more—I'm thinking about how budget cuts have affected the Federation of BC Writers, for example. I'm remembering the BC Festival of the Arts, once an annual multi-disciplinary event that was held in different communities throughout the province.

A jaw-dropping amount of money has been spent on the Olympics while costs relating to education and health care soar. Improvements to the Sea-to-Sky highway gobbled a lot of that money. In my own neck of the woods, a 6.5 million dollar passing lane is about to be constructed west of Nelson because, we're told, the money has to be spent or it will be lost. How? Will it evaporate like morning fog over the Castlegar airport? Will it be stuffed in a furnace and burned? We're told it's not fuel-efficient to travel at high speeds and at the same time we're encouraged to go faster. But there's no money for the arts. No wonder.

I ask you to give BC's arts and culture sector the support it needs and deserves, or perhaps next time there is an important function or occasion to promote there won't be any artists left to do it for you.



(The following info is quite BC-centric).

Important Links (from Katrine

The Alliance for Arts and Culture

Facebook Group against Campbell's cuts to the arts

Blogs that have been providing excellent coverage of the BC Liberal Arts & Culture Cuts

Straight.com

Plank Magazine

Stop BC Arts Cuts is an excellent site with great videos and links to help you send a letter to your MLA and to a petition you can sign over at The Alliance for Arts and Culture

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