Response to the 2014 BC Budget and Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development 2014/15 – 2016/17 Service Plan

Apr 16, 05:14 PM

To the Honourable Coralee Oakes
Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development
Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia

Dear Minister Oakes,

The Pacific Association of Artist Run Centres (PAARC) addresses you the present letter in response to the recently announced 2014 BC Budget and published Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development 2014/15 – 2016/17 Service Plan.

PAARC represents artist-run centres in British Colombia. Artist-run centres are non-profit organizations working in visual and media arts that present non-commercial and experimental artwork, and work towards the benefit of the practicing artist. Artist-run centres support artists at all stages of their careers, pay professional artist fees, and employ cultural workers and administrators. PAARC currently counts 30 active organizations in its membership, which are located in Vancouver, Victoria, Kamloops, Kelowna and Nelson.

We consider the $60M that the province has dedicated to arts and culture funding for 2014-15 as a testament to the current government’s belief in the importance of maintaining public support to the cultural sector by directly funding arts organizations and artists. While we are grateful for the 2014 Budget’s stability in regards to cultural funding, we regret to observe that the government has not taken the opportunity to rehabilitate pre-2009 arts and culture funding levels, and has not followed the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services’ recommendation to “provide additional funding to the BC Arts Council and for organizations eligible for Community Gaming Grants when finances permit.” [1] The $175M projected surpluses for the 2013-14 fiscal year indicate that the 2014 Budget could have provided increased funding to the cultural sector through the aforementioned channels. We hope that, at the end of the current fiscal year, your Ministry will work towards ensuring that portions of the 2013-14 actual surpluses will be redirected to benefit artists and arts organizations in the province.

Effectively, we consider that the stagnation of the BC Arts Council’s budget to $24M and of the Arts and Culture Community Gaming Grants’ funding levels to $17.5M is at odds with the strategies identified in the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development 2014/15 – 2016/17 Service Plan under Objective 3.1: “Creative People, Places, and Experiences exist throughout B.C.” [2] It is our opinion that the following strategies identified by your Ministry call for increased funding of the BC Arts Council’s annual budget and for an augmentation of Community Gaming Grants allocated to Arts and Culture: “Build capacity for creative economic activities through improved public awareness; training; and support for artists, creators and creative organizations” and “invest in a healthy not-for-profit cultural sector through the BC Arts Council and Community Gaming Grants.” [3]

BC is the Canadian province with the most artists per capita, yet it is the province with the lowest cultural funding per capita. We strongly believe that, in order to ensure the sustainability and health of the province’s cultural sector, public funding to the arts needs to be increased, at a minimum, to be on par with the Canadian national average. Increasing cultural funding in BC can be done with minimal impact on the province’s global budget. From our calculations, less than 1% of provincial surpluses predicted until 2016-17 could serve to progressively increase the BC Arts Council’s annual budget by $3M, raising it from $24M in 2013-14 to $28M in 2016-17. [4] Of course, these calculations only serve to illustrate how minimal public funding reallocations can be maximized to benefit the artistic community, and we hope that your Ministry will make the case for increased public funding to the cultural sector regardless of anticipated surpluses.

British Columbians actively participate in art and culture activities. For instance, British Columbians visit public galleries more than any other Canadians; there has been a 13% increase in public gallery attendance in the province between 1992 and 2010. [5] This statistic is exciting from the point of view of our organization, which represents a membership composed of non-profit visual and media art galleries. However, combined provincial and federal funding to our member organizations does not reflect the fact that non-profit visual art galleries are better attended here than anywhere else in Canada. In fact, recent studies have shown that artist-run centres in BC receive on average $11,238 less public sector revenue than the Canadian average. [6] The lack of adequate provincial funding to the cultural sector creates a climate of precarity, which puts additional strain on the daily operations of non-profit arts organizations like artist-run centres. The organizations we represent operate with less paid staff than required, and often have to shut down or reduce their program of activities due to lack of financial, human, and material resources. Emerging artists and organizations particularly struggle to sustain their activities, and the lack of access to adequate support takes the wind out of the sails of those who are actively shaping the future of British Columbia’s cultural sector.

In the past year, the BC Government has demonstrated its commitment to making art and culture accessible to the next generation of British Colombians, and to ensuring quality higher education arts training. The development of youth-oriented and early career development programs offered through the BC Arts Council combined with significant investments in the new Emily Carr University Campus testify to this. We salute these initiatives as they directly support the development of emerging arts practioners in the province. However, we denounce the fact that these initiatives, which are aligned with the BC Creative Futures strategy, do not primarily aim to foster the development of the next generation of British Columbian artists and cultural producers. As outlined in the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development 2014/15 – 2016/17 Service Plan, these measures aim to develop “the next generation of skilled workers who will be creative, collaborative and innovative thinkers” [7] in accordance to the BC Jobs Plan.

Effectively, The Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development 2014/15 – 2016/17 Service Plan draws direct connection between the Creative BC strategy and the success of the BC Jobs Plan. Yet, the BC Jobs Plan does not identify the cultural sector and the creative industries as key industry sectors. [8] In this context, we fear that the value of quality artistic education and its potential impact on the development of the cultural sector are sidelined by the current government’s strategy to capitalize on artistic skills and creative intelligence to fuel the growth of non-creative industry sectors. Without concrete support provided for the development of professional opportunities in the cultural sector, it is difficult to conceive that newly created youth-oriented programs “were produced to help prepare youth for rewarding careers in the creative industries.” [9] We fear that, if no incentive measures are set in place to retain the next generation of trained artists and cultural workers in the province (i.e. increased opportunities for artists to produce and showcase their work in the province, and increased employment opportunities in cultural organizations), British Columbia will lose its young artistic labour force and, with it, potential to benefit from a growing creative economy. We urge the government to start planning ahead increased subsidies to the cultural sector in response to the expansion of trained artistic and cultural workforce that measures of the BC Creative Futures initiative will foster.

In closing, we would like to express our support to MLA Lana Popham’s proposition to instigate a Select Standing Committee on Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy. We believe that non-partisan province-wide consultations of the cultural sector’s stakeholders would generate insightful knowledge of the sector’s actual needs. We believe that this measure would facilitate the development of proactive cultural policy frameworks with benefits percolating beyond the scope of the cultural sector’s activities.

We thank you for your time and consideration.

The Pacific Association of Artist Run Centres


[1] Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services Report on the Budget 2014 Consultations. November 2013. 38.

[2] Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development 2014/15 – 2016/17 Service Plan. 18.

[3] Ibid. 18. [Added emphasis].

[4] This measure would consist of increasing the BC Art Council’s budget of $1M a year over the next three fiscal years by redirecting 0,57% ($1M) of the 2013-14 predicted surpluses), 1,08% ($2M) of the 2014-15 predicted surpluses, 1,45% ($3M) of the 2015-16 predicted surpluses, and 0,88% ($4M) of the 2016-17 predicted surpluses. In total, the artistic community would directly benefit from an $10M, which constitutes 0,98% of the provincial surpluses predicted until 2016-17.

[5] “British Columbians’ Arts, Culture and Heritage Activities in 2010,” Provincial Profiles of Arts, Culture and Heritage Activities in 2010, Statistical insights on the arts, Hill Strategies, Vol. 10 No. 3, March 2012. Table 4, p. 12.

[6] The Distinct role of Artist-Run Centres in the Canadian Cultural Ecology, MRD Burgess Consultants, Commissioned by the Canada Council for the Arts, 2011. Figure 18. p.44.

[7] Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development 2014/15 – 2016/17 Service Plan. 9.

[8] Identified sectors include: agrifoods, forestry, international education, mining, natural gas, technology, tourism, and transportation. Source: “Industry Sectors.” BC Jobs Plan.

[9] “Message from the Minister and Accountability Statement.” Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development 2014/15 – 2016/17 Service Plan. 18.