Text of the letter that has just been sent to the BC Minister of Culture and the Arts by ARCA

September 17, 2009

Honourable Kevin Krueger
Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts
Government of British Columbia
cc. Honourable Gordon Campbell, Premier
Honourable Rich Coleman, Minister of Housing and Social Development

Subject: Arts and Culture Funding in British Columbia

September 17, 2009
Honourable Minister Krueger,

Last week, your government announced unprecedented cuts to Arts funding in the province: Up to 92% over the next few years, according to many critics. Our organization is profoundly shocked by these cuts, which are threatening the vitality, not to mention the mere existence, of many Arts organizations across British Columbia.

The Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference is a federation of regional associations of artist-run centres, active across the country in 53 cities. Our Conference consists of nine member associations that represent nearly 175 artist-run centres. One of these members is the Pacific Association of Artist-Run Centres, representing some 20 artist-run centres in visual and media arts in the province of British Columbia.

British Columbia is one of the major sites for the Arts in Canada. Its artists and arts organizations have made significant contributions over the years to the enviable artistic reputation that our country has developed internationally. In the field of visual arts, Vancouver artists and Arts organizations draw considerable international attention. Lack of proper funding will result in a rapid deterioration of this reputation that has been painstakingly built over the course of many years.

British Columbia artist-run centres have been amongst the precursors of this very strong Canadian movement, providing places and contexts for artists to produce, exhibit and discuss their work. Within the network of artist-run centres in British Columbia, these cuts are catastrophic. A number of organizations, some in existence for decades, will likely be forced to close their doors. This would be a terrible loss for our network, and for Canadian culture at large.

These cuts are even more shocking considering that investment in the Arts provides, according to numerous studies, a very high rate of return. This is not money wasted on superfluous activities, it is money that contributes to the very fabric of a society. This money represents an investment that supports employment, education and the general well-being of a people. The Arts shed light on a society. They also attract tourism and raise the profiles of communities. The Arts sustain a population in difficult times, and celebrate its joys in better days. In the current economic crisis, administrations as diverse as the government of Canada and those of Québec, Ontario and Newfoundland have chosen to increase their support for the Arts in order to stimulate their economies. May we remind you that Arts funding in British Columbia currently ranks amongst the lowest in Canada on a per capita basis?

Drastically reducing the budget for Arts and Culture on the pretext of better supporting “more important needs” is a fallacious choice. Artists and cultural workers are citizens —and voters— as any others. Their income is amongst the lowest of all employment groups, frequently falling below the poverty line. Moreover, supporting the Arts propels the wheel of the economy. Arts organizations are not working in a void: They rent space, they hire specialized and unspecialized workers, they give contracts to advertisers and printers, they employ writers and critics, and so forth. Support for Arts organizations builds a healthier economy by providing work for some of the poorest groups in society.

British Columbia is spending billions of dollars on the upcoming Olympics. A substantial part of this budget is devoted to culture, and we wholeheartedly salute the initiative of your government on this front. Despite this exceptional international event, however, it must be acknowledged that Arts and Culture do not exist for only two weeks every now and then. Arts and Culture must be supported on a continual basis, as part of the ongoing construction of a society’s identity. Does British Columbia want to show the entire world that next to the Olympics events exists a provincial artistic scene that has been deprived of its basic resources, as well as a social fabric that has been weakened because artists do not have the means to produce their work, and cultural workers are unemployed because their organizations have been shut down?

We are convinced that this is not the kind of society you want for the citizens of British Columbia. The Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference urges you, Honourable Minister Krueger, to reconsider these decisions and to re-establish the means necessary for the full development of the Arts in British Columbia. Yours sincerely,

Daniel Roy,

The Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference comprises seven regional and two culture-specific
Pacific Association of Artist-Run Centres (PAARC)
Alberta Association of Artist-Run Centres (AAARC)
Plains Artist-Run Centres Association (PARCA)
VERRUE (Manitoba)
Artist-Run Centres and Collectives of Ontario (ARCCO)
Regroupement des centres d’artistes autogérés du Québec (RCAAQ)
Association of Artist-Run Centres from the Atlantic (AARCA)
The Aboriginal Region / La région autochtone
Association des groupes en arts visuels francophones (AGAVF)

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