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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kudos to Minister Chong!

Kudos to BC Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Ida Chong for providing the second-highest level of funding ever to the British Columbia Arts Council: $16,831,000, equal to the amount funded in 2008-09 before the drastic funding cuts to the BC cultural community.

This is a very good sign for the new Premiere and her team. The Alliance for Arts and Culture responded by stating,
“(the government’s) efforts and attention to this critical issue, at a time of great challenges, is much appreciated by our hundreds of members in the Lower Mainland. I am sure that the millions of British Columbians that comprise our collective audiences, communities, and families are equally grateful.”
Minister Chong stated in the announcement,
“Arts in British Columbia enrich families and support careers, while infusing creative and economic energy into communities in every region of the province. We will continue to work with artists and cultural organizations through the BC Arts Council, our principal development and funding agency for the arts, to build on British Columbia’s well-deserved international reputation for artistic excellence.”
I am particularly happy to hear the Minister say that the BC Arts Council is the “principal development and funding agency for the arts,” as there have been many times in the recent past when such sentiment was not expressed and presumably not shared by provincial government officials. I have observed the work of the BCAC close-up and know that it employs a far superior mechanism for funding cultural grants than does the direct involvement of politicians.

The BC Art Council’s $16.831 million 2011-12 budget consists of $7.931 million from the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, $2.150 million from the BC150 Cultural Fund (a $150-million interest-generating endowment fund), and $6.75 million from the 2010 Sport and Arts Legacy (visit the BCAC site for more info.).

From 2001 until March 31, 2011, the BC Arts Council granted $152 million to artists and cultural organizations in British Columbia. Vancouver Opera is a beneficiary of grant money from the Council, but only after we pass a rigorous review by Council staff and an independent peer advisory committee. There is no assumption that, because we received funding in a given year, we will be equally awarded in another year. I have served on grants panels in the past, and can attest to their rigor, fairness, and dedication to the task.

I hope that Minister Chong’s support, along with our Premiere’s announcement of a gaming grant review, signals that the government is willing to open a new and necessary dialogue with the province’s arts and culture community. We are not a greedy community; we know as well as anyone the financial challenges facing the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, and we want to be at the table helping to craft creative solutions. Restoration of funding to the 2008-09 level is an excellent beginning to the dialogue.

- James W. Wright, General Director

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