Adult-based arts organizations are once again eligible to apply for Community Gaming Grant funding, Premier Christy Clark announced Wednesday afternoon.
A press conference was held at the Port Moody Arts Centre, a location which many saw as a good indicator that funding could be restored, as promised during Clark’s election campaign. In the brief conference, Clark praised arts organizations in particular for “weaving the community” together.
A large number of community groups lost their gaming grants in 2009, when the eligibility criteria changed. The list of groups affected by those cuts were adult arts and sports organizations, environmental groups and animal welfare agencies.
That funding cut will be restored almost immediately, Clark said. There is now a special intake application process for groups previously affected by the criteria change. Applications can be submitted starting January 16, with a February 13 deadline, and a March 31 notification date.
That’s a shorter, sooner deadline than the usual application process, which will provide notifications to groups anywhere from August 31 to November 30, depending on their group type. Multi-year funding has also returned, ensuring groups don’t waste time reapplying each year.
Included in the funding shuffle is the Harrison Festival of the Arts, a group that has received up to $80,500 from gaming in the past.
It was bittersweet information for Phyllis Stenson, executive director of the Harrison Festival Society.
“it’s very encouraging news, it means we are again eligible to apply for funds,” she said. “I guess my concern is whether we’ll be funded to the levels we previously had.”
The Festival of the Arts was going ahead with or without funding this year. But there was much concern that it would be the last of a popular festival that has enjoyed more than 30 years of success.
Clark stated that the reinstatement includes “certainty” for groups into the future, as the funding is now “baked into the budget for the next three years.”
Last year’s funding to the groups in question was initially $120 million. In March, a further $15 million was added to that funding after Clark became premier, out of year end monies. That total of $135 million is the new base number that will remain in the budget for the next three years, Clark said Wednesday.
But Stenson said that is still short of the 33 per cent that was promised in a memorandum of understanding that was signed in 1997.
She said the festival will continue to plan a full 10-day festival for this upcoming summer, regardless of what sort of funding is approved.
It’s a necessity, to get the festival’s logistics worked out well in advance.
“I’m just going to have plan this year’s budget on a wing and a prayer,” she said Wednesday, after the press conference. “I have to have things planned by May, I have to have things in place.”
This hasn’t been the only financial concern for the society.
The Canada Council Festival Programming Grant program has been cancelled, taking anywhere from $12,000 to $17,000 out of their budget.
This will be their second year operating without that money. Last year, that funding was earmarked to help pay for the Aboriginal Collaborative at the festival. When the money didn’t come, the society had to work the cost into their budget.
The society also relies on a grant from the BC Arts Board, an arm’s length extension of the Province.
They receive $22,000 to $23,000 from that source for their operating budget.
“But I’m not sure where that stands either,” Stenson said.
It’s a lot of financial concern for an organization that helps inject millions into the economy each year.
But Stenson said that it’s a sign of the economic times.
“I certainly think that all three levels of government put value in the arts,” Stenson said. “But I think with the way the global economy is, it is one of the first things that may not be seen as important.”
As arts festivals face permanent closure across the country, due to all manners of funding cuts, the opportunities for artists to make a living is diminishing, she added.
“If the funding is drying up for festivals, where are these artists going to work?” she asks. “(Now) they can travel around the country and get steady work, but the opportunities for artists to make a living are drying up.”
Review process heard
The decision to reinstate the funding levels to so many community groups was a direct result of the Community Gaming Grant Review, conducted by Skip Triplett.
He collected information through numerous means last fall, including public forums, a blog, and written submissions.
He submitted the information in late October, and community groups have been waiting to hear whether their voices were heard. In total, 1,700 people responded through his review.
He put forward a number of options for the government to consider, and said Wednesday that the best options were being acted upon.
Triplett said he is “delighted” to see the reinstatement of the lost funding.
To find out more, visit www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/gaming/grants.