BC Artists Coalition
Scotiabank Dance Centre
September 27, 2010
Introduction by Judith Marcuse
Welcome. This meeting has been called to get us caught up with each other and to do some creative advocacy work together.
I’m delighted to recognize the wealth of perspectives and knowledge we have here all in one room. I am very hopeful that our different individual and collective ideas will enable us to move forward on the many fronts of our concerns about arts and culture in BC. And that this gathering will provide energy and action for positive change, both in the short term and into the future.
It’s just over a year ago that the BC government made the unprecedented, surreal and illogical cuts to investment in our 78,000-person-strong sector. Over the course of the year there have been some victories as a result of the extraordinary advocacy work that has taken place.
Indulge me here as I acknowledge and celebrate some of that work…in no particular order. The 10,000 letters that have been sent to politicians and others from BC citizens and from across Canada; the rallies, the dances, the Grey Square relay, the Solidarity photo project of miners, loggers, farmers holding signs supporting the arts; the postcards and the videos; the petitions; the hundreds of speeches at arts events across the province; the many press releases and media campaigns that got wide-ranging public coverage, local, national and online; the meetings with ministers and other government representatives; the presentations to the BC Budget Finance Committee, the toolkits provided by the Arts Alliance, now also being used by the informal coalition of BC arts service organizations that the Alliance is facilitating;.the publishers, music associations, touring council;—the list is here if you want to see it—the celebrity statements; the statistics and other data assiduously gathered to clarify confusing information from the government; the hiring of a lobbyist paid for by a coalition in Victoria and some of the large Lower Mainland arts organizations with the Alliance which has contributed thousands of hours of staff time; the resignation of the chair of the BCAC, Jane Danzo; the launch of new websites that are providing up-to-the minute news on the advocacy front; the promise by the Minister of a Day at the Legislature; the Alliance’s work to co-ordinate meetings with every MLA in the province. The ongoing initiatives of the Grey Square, PAARC, Stop BC Arts Cuts; the Alliance, the Assembly of BC Arts Councils, the lobbyist, Mark Marissen; and Arts Advocacy BC, which has a pan-provincial mandate. And many other initiatives. The list goes on and on. So many new conversations with new contacts, honing our positions and the languages with which to present them.
We have some short term and possibly-sustainable victories to celebrate. We now have a public commitment from the present government at least NOW, to the principle of arms-length investment in arts and culture, a critical position that we must be vigilant to ensure is imbedded both in the short term and in the provincial policy we hope to see created one day soon.
Some of the cuts were restored: $7 million was restored to the BC Arts Council and the outcry overthe Spirit Festivals changed some of the policy surrounding that program, but we have a long way to go. Many of you will know that some of the arts funding stats—nearly $40 per person in Saskatchewan, more than $20 in Alberta, for example, and in BC $6.45. Triple the BC budget, and we’re still at the bottom. There are serious inequalities between the various regions of the province, as well.
There are serious problems with the Embrace BC program which many arts groups are trying access. These.include issues of intellectual property rights. The Gaming situation, of core concern to many of us, is a morass of confusion.
We have begun to come to together as a community to recognize our strengths and our allies, our audiences, our boards, our children, educators, other civil society organizations, citizen groups, chambers of commerce, businesses, health and justice system individuals and organizations, and we are connecting in new ways with the private sector, which in fact, in Canada, outstrips the public sector in its investment in arts and culture. (We must reposition the words…not grants or subsidies.)
There will be an election in a few years and work toward that is much longer-term, but here are the starting point goals that the planning committee offers to you.
1. Increased and stable investment in our sector (e.g. three-year BCAC support programs like Canada Council). To include funding for operating, projects and individuals. A tripling of pre-cut levels, still would be lowest in Canada.
2. Guarantee of arms-length funding policy as part of the creation of an overall arts policy for the province
3. Restoration of clear access to Gaming revenues
4. Re-establishment of intellectual property rights specific to Embrace BC new rules
5. More equitable policies and actions for artists and organizations in rural areas of the province
[Judith then went on to describe the break-out groups which were to follow and report at the meeting’s conclusion.]