The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

State of the Fringe: Ian Case August 2, 2010

Last month, an article in the Georgia Straight caught my eye. It was an interview with Ian Case, who runs The Victoria Fringe Festival. They have been hit hard by cuts to the arts, to the tune of $42,500.

I emailed Ian and asked him if I could interview him, and he kindly agreed. Then I thought I’d also interview David Jordan, the ED of the Vancouver Fringe. Then I thought about Jeremy Banks, whom I met earlier this year, and who has spent his summer traveling to many of Canada’s Fringe’s this summer.

Welcome to Fringe Week at The Art of the Business.

Here is my interview with Ian Case.

RC: Tell me a bit about the history of the Fringe in Victoria.

IC: The Fringe started in Victoria 24 years ago. It was started by a group of folks who wanted to see more local production and to take advantage of the newly established trend in Fringes popping up across the country. The festival has been very successful and grown significantly over the years.

RC: What has been your involvement with the Fringe in Victoria?

IC: I attended the second year of the Fringe when I was at University and was hooked. Since them I’ve produced and directed shows that have appeared at the Fringe in Victoria. I was hired 7 years ago as the General Manager for Intrepid Theatre, the company that produces the festival. The company at the time had a budget of roughly $250,000. While I’ve been working with Janet Munsil the Artistic Director, the company budget has grown to over $800,000 per year and the Fringe has more than tripled in size.

RC: What was your background prior to the Fringe?

IC: I am a UVic grad with a specialization in Acting and an BFA in English. I had run a student newspaper while at College and went on to found a private tourism based publication in the Okanagan Valley. I was hired as the administrator for Theatre Inconnu in 1991 for their first Shakespeare Festival in Market Square. I stayed on as General Manager at Inconnu for 4 years then went on to become one of the co-founders and administrator for the Victoria Shakespeare Festival. In 1998, I founded my own company called Giggling Iguana Productions which produced three shows in the McPherson Playhouse then went on to produce over a decade of site-specific work at Craigdarroch Castle. Iguana continues to exist and I recently produced and directed The Importance of Being Earnest on the lawns of Craigdarroch Castle.

RC: What is the Fringe looking like this year? How many participants, how many shows, etc?

IC: The Fringe this year is looking really exciting. We’ve secured 7 full time venues and a record number of artist driven Bring Your Own Venues. We have over 60 companies involved this year and will present over 350 performances. The festival will be the largest Fringe we’ve ever produced and build on our massive increase in attendance last year of 40%. This year is bigger and better than ever!

RC: What was the impact of the first round of cuts in Aug last year?

IC: We tightened our belt a lot this year. We ended 2009 with a provincial government enforced deficit of $30,000 when we were denied Direct Access Gaming funding. We were able to reduce the size of Uno Fest and our presenting series, two of our other programs in order to make our budget balance in 2010 and to safeguard the Fringe which is our flagship event. We have taken on increased fundraising initiatives and worked on developing our donor base all of which has been quite successful.

RC: What is the impact of current cuts?

IC: Less funding will mean less art. It’s as simple as that. We run a very tight ship here. Our staff is already overworked, under-remunerated and smaller than a company doing as much work as we do during the year should be. The average full time working artists in BC earns in the $24,000 per year range which is ridiculous. The only place we can afford to cut, without impacting the quality of the work we present and the work we do in our community is to simply do less. Uno Fest will be reduced again in 2011 if we are unable to secure additional funding to support it. Our presenting series will likely be further impacted. In the past few years we’ve been able to present some of the best and most exciting touring work available from around the world. We will not be able to continue to do this and will scale back the kind of work we present and the number of presentations we put on. This will deny our region the opportunity to see some of the best work available from around the world and leave our community less culturally rich than it has been.

RC: How are you coping, and how will you cope in the future?

IC: We’re cutting and being very careful with our spending. In the future we’ll continue to seek new sources of funding and work on further developing our donors, sponsor and fundraising activities.

RC: Final words?

IC: There seems to be a clear disconnect between what we do as an active sector in our province and how the government sees us. Every other industry sector receives massive support through tax incentives, fees, subsidies and other support. We are having this support torn away. This support was already minuscule in size and yet we have been able to leverage into a vibrant and active arts and cultural scene in our province that outperformed every other sector in the economic downturn. Now that we’ve had the much needed support of our province taken away, it seems highly likely that we will start to lose companies, artists and a great deal of cultural vibrancy from our communities. Just like recreation centres and public swimming pools which are subsidized to make them accessible and affordable to the general public, arts and culture requires support and subsidy to make it’s activities available to the widest possible audience. These cuts will take away that possibility and leave our communities the poorer for it.

RC: Thanks, Ian!

In Wednesday’s Part 2 of the series, an interview with David Jordan, ED of the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

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Alliance makes sense of yesterday’s budget March 3, 2010

Filed under: Finances,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:32 pm
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Overall, I heard so many people yesterday saying “what does this mean??” There’s this $10 Million dollars, but where does it come from? Who gets it? And how does the budget compare to last years’?

I just got this email press release from The Alliance for Arts and Culture, which helps to make sense of all the numbers.

Reality Check: Arts Funding Cut By BC Budget

Arts funding was not restored to 2008/2009 levels in yesterday’s budget, despite a unanimous recommendation by the government’s Standing Committee on Finance”, according to Alliance for Arts and Culture executive director Amir Ali Alibhai.

“In fact what we have seen are further cuts to core funding” said Mr. Alibhai, “for a total loss of 32.4 per cent from funding levels in 2008/09.

Here are the basic facts from the March 2 budget:

FACT: The BC Arts Council has been cut 53 per cent from 2008/09.This is funding used to provide core support for the creation of cultural experiences like those that thrilled audiences here and world-wide during the 2010 Olympics.

FACT: BC Gaming Commission contributions to the arts have been cut 58 per cent from 2008/09.This is funding used to make possible community access to the arts and culture through free public festivals and events.

FACT: A $10 million annual supplementary fund has been created, but we do not know how the funds will be administered or distributed.

FACT: Interest from the $150 million BC Arts and Culture Endowment remains the same.

FACT: The new budget includes $12 million for the BC Royal Museum. This support has remained the same for several years and is essentailly a transfer to a crown corporation; this has not traditionally been counted as part of the investment made through grants to the arts and cultural sector.

FACT: Total government investment in culture, including the newly announced $10 million annual supplementary fund, has been reduced by 32.4 per cent from the 2008/09 budget.

These numbers do not include cuts from other government sources to creative sector disciplines such as publishing, Music BC and others.

The following charts, Chart 1 from the government and Chart 2 from the Alliance, demonstrate the reality. You can see that the government numbers have been inflated by the addition of the $12 million for the Royal BC Museum.

“To win its bid for the 2010 Olympics, the BC government boasted about the British Columbia’s vibrant arts and culture scene, claiming that culture was the ‘second pillar’ of the Games. “We were hoping the government would continue to consider culture an important pillar of our society,” continued Mr. Alibhai.

“We look forward to working with the government in ensuring that the $10 million annual supplementary fund they have created is used to best effect,” Mr. Alibhai concluded. “And we shall continue to press for full restoration of arts funding to the levels the Finance Committee agreed were necessary.”

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The Face of BC Arts Cuts December 14, 2009

Filed under: Business of Arts,Finances,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 8:25 am
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It’s now been about four months since our community experienced a huge upheaval: major cuts to our funding in the arts and non-profit sector. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I’ve written about this topic extensively, passing along the word about rallies, protests, etc.

Today’s post is not about any of those things. I feel like we’ve been talking about BC Arts Cuts in more general terms: Presentation House Theatre, for example, one of my clients, has lost $38,000. That is a sizable chunk of change for a small organization, but how does it play out?

Meet Vanessa Melle. I did, last week, for coffee, in Gastown. Vanessa’s young–in her twenties–and just got laid off from her first “real” arts administration job: Director of Communications for Out on Screen. She lost her job as a direct result of BC Arts Cuts.

Here’s Vanessa:

I was the Director of Communications for Out on Screen, an organization that produces the Queer Film Festival and gives anti-homophobia presentations in high schools using independent film. The cuts to the Direct Access Gaming Grants left us with a $25,000 deficit and as we head into a new year we anticipate a further reduction to government grants by as much as $50,000. As a fiscally prudent and responsible organization, to ensure that our programs can weather the devastating arts cuts still to come, Out on Screen made the decision to lay off myself and another part-time staff member. It was a dream job and I will most likely have to go on EI before I find another one.

Gordon, Campbell, if you’re reading, I just wanted to let you know: by cutting funding to the arts, you are taxing the system by causing people to have to go on EI.

I have one more for you.

Recently, the City of Vancouver decided to close the Blodel Conservatory and the petting zoo at Stanley Park. It is my belief that this is because the Olympics are causing huge cost overruns, and the City has to figure out some way to make up that deficit. The Blodel Conservatory costs only about $400,000 to keep open. And closing the Blodel will have an effect on another young company that I work with: ITSAZOO Productions. Their biggest show of the year for the past two years is an annual, outdoor, promenade-style show that regularly sells out because it’s fun and takes advantage of a beautiful park setting in the middle of the summer.

Here’s Chelsea, one of the Artistic Directors:

If the Bloedel Conservatory closes ITSAZOO will no longer be able to perform in Queen Elizabeth Park. If any of you have seen and/or been involved with one of our outdoor summer shows in the park and you know how magical they are. It would be a great loss for us as well as for the community if we were no longer able to do this. It would also be a great loss for all of Vancouver, for many reasons, if the Bloedel Conservatory were to be closed down.

Chelsea asks that folks send an email to the mayor at gregor.robertson@vancouver.ca, asking him to please not shut down the Blodel.

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For more information on what you can do to help restore arts funding, click here.

 

The Wrecking Ball and beyond November 25, 2009

Filed under: Finances,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 8:38 am
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On Monday night, the Vancouver Theatre Community united at The Wrecking Ball.

It was a really fun night–for me the joy of going to these things is seeing my friends in person. There were some great acts. I particularly enjoyed the “ironic” ones: the guy that did a Kevin Krueger impersonation/speech, and Linda Griffiths. Also, Jim Byrnes singing Dylan’s “The Times They Are a’Changing” was a big highlight, and when Katharine Shaw of Studio 58 smashed her Gordon Campbell cookie.

I also really, really loved some of the new PSAs that had their debut. My favorite one was written by and stars the lovely and talented Peter New, and his partner Kathryn Dobbs. It’s directed by Mike Jackson, and entitled Movie.

But for me, some of the more powerful things that came out of the Wrecking Ball, didn’t happen until the day after. It has now been three months since the cuts. Some people have had their funding restored (for this year, anyway), and some have not. What I think the Alliance for Arts and Culture is doing right is they are not letting it go. I think much of the reason why some of the funding was restored was because of the huge outcry. So the Alliance is creating ways and methods of helping us to keep the fight going.

First of all, the Alliance launched its Creativity Counts website yesterday. It includes the Advocacy Toolkit, which contains all the numbers that were so aptly presented by Adrienne Wong on Monday night. It also contains suggestions and ideas for making your voice heard. A new contest has just been announced that requires folks to use post-its to create their message. Finally, you can get a shiny “Creativity Counts! Restore Arts Funding Now” badge for your website or blog, just like I have in the sidebar.

I’ll leave you with a few moments of Jim Byrnes…

UPDATE, 2 PM: I just got a note from Adrienne saying that there is going to be a flashmob tomorrow. Details below.

At 4:30pm on Thursday November 26th please come to Waterfront Station.
Sing “Standy by Me” in solidarity with members of Vancouver’s music community.
Have your voice heard.

Please come and disseminate invitation widely.
*We are inviting the MEDIA and the more the merrier – and more impressive*

Here are the details:
A WHAT? : some might call it a flash mob…
TIME: singing begins at 4:30 sharp, arrive a couple minutes early, blend in, then just go with the flow when the singing starts
LOCATION: Waterfront Station, find the crowd
WHAT: Stand by Me – sing along or bring an instrument!
SHOW YOUR COLOURS: write “music” or “theatre” or “film” or “dance” or “sculpture” on your shirt, or hold a sign
LOOK FOR: a banner that says “Stand by us and stop arts cuts”
AT THE END: disperse back into the city

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The Wrecking Ball: 2009 November 13, 2009

Filed under: Finances,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:16 am
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In October of last year, just before the federal election, a series of cabarets were held across the country. Organized by The Department of Culture, they were called The Wrecking Ball. Their purpose was to raise awareness in our community that we, as artists, are an important part of the greater political and financial picture here in Canada, and that our voice should be heard by the powers-that-be.

I attended the Vancouver Wrecking Ball, and it was a powerful experience. You can read that post here.

In light of all the recent (and forecasted) cuts to the arts here in BC, another Wrecking Ball has been organized. This one takes place Monday, November 23, 8 pm at the Vogue Theatre. I’ll be there. Daniel MacIvor will be there.  I encourage you to attend, as well.

Here is the information from stopbcartscuts.ca.

Vancouver’s theatre community joins actors, directors and designers from across the country in creative and satirical protest to the BC government’s mind-boggling and short-sighted plan to slash 90% of cultural funding, which will make it the only jurisdiction in Canada not to invest in culture.

In 2008, during the federal election, Wrecking Ball events across Canada helped turn the tide of public opinion against the Harper government’s planned culture cuts, and prevented a Harper majority. This time, events across Canada throughout the month of November will highlight the devastating arts cuts announced by the BC government in their September budget update.

Vancouver’s Wrecking Ball features some of Canada’s most nationally and internationally recognized actors and directors, including multiple award-winning actor/playwrights Daniel MacIvor (House, Twitch City) and Linda Griffiths (Maggie and Pierre), Leacock-winning writer Mark Leiren Young, Alcan Award winner Carmen Aguirre, Steven Hill of Leaky Heaven Circus, and Camyar Chai.wreck_ball32

Margaret Atwood asks, “What is it that power-hungry politicians want from BC artists? Control over the story through the annihilation of the former story-tellers? Is this the agenda behind the decapitation of arts funding in British Columbia, while mega-millions are poured into the Olympics? The BC arts community will retaliate, of course. Over the past 50 years they’ve put BC on the map.”

“It won’t just be a protest,” adds Wrecking Ball Spokesperson Adrienne Wong. “It’ll be a night to laugh and celebrate what we know – that British Columbians care about culture.

“And it’s not just arts and culture,” Wong adds. “Cuts to Gaming investments in many sectors indicate to us that this government is looking for ways to subsidize its corporate welfare, low-tax environment on the backs of civil society organizations that provide essential services to British Columbians. It seems that they don’t think much of activities like culture and sport and places where people come together for reasons other than profit. They call it a frill. We call it democracy.”

Wrecking Ball
Vogue Theatre, 918 Granville Street, Vancouver
Monday, November 23, 2009, 8:00pm
By donation

www.stopbcartscuts.ca/thewreckingball.html

Media contact: Ellie O’Day, O’Day Productions
604.731.3339 / ellie@oday.org / cell 604.313.7902

Vancouver Wrecking Ball Associate Producers: Diane Brown, Kim Collier, Sean Cummings, Bill Devine, Katrina Dunn, Brenda Leadlay, Donnard MacKenzie, Patrick McMullen, Michael Scholar Jr., Caroline Sniatynski, Adrienne Wong, Jonathan Young.

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Update on BC Cuts to the Arts October 16, 2009

Filed under: Finances,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:47 am
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First off, I’m excited to say that a profile piece on me was published yesterday in The Vancouver Observer. Alfred DePew interviews me about the recent cuts to the arts, and how Social Media helped us to organize our protest against it.

Click here to read it.

Secondly, yesterday a delegation of 25 representatives from the non-profit and arts worlds affected by the recent cuts to the arts met yesterday with Kevin Krueger, the minister of arts and culture. It’s my understanding that not much positive came out of that meeting. So…. another rally has been planned. Similar to the one on September 9 at the VAG, this one is called The Grey Rally. It’s happening all day on Wednesday, October 28, all over the city. Here’s the information from the Facebook page (speaking of using social media to organize):

The Grey Square Grand Plan

A minimum of 16 people, dressed in GREY, walk single file SILENTLY and make a grey square SILENTLY on a city corner.
Someone in that group will be designated timekeeper.
After 15 minutes, led by the timekeeper, they walk single file to another city corner and make another square.
This goes on all day, all around the city.
People can be funneled in and out once the route and times are ascertained.

We need: people to form grey squares; volunteers to hand out leaflets; volunteers for communication and organization tasks.

This is not a protest. This is about art and artists taking their space.

Participants are asked to donate an hour of their time on Oct 28. If you are interested in participating, please contact movingjac@gmail.com.

Finally, The Alliance For Arts and Culture has created an Advocacy Toolkit. Please download it, read it, and create some action!

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Dandilions and Firelighters September 9, 2009

Filed under: Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 4:38 pm
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I went to the Art Strike this afternoon.

It was like the weather was on our side, because it was a grey and rainy day. We were instructed to wear grey–the colour of a world without art, and the weather also showed up in shades of grey.

Arts Strike at the VAG: this is a world without art

Arts Strike at the VAG: this is a world without art

The steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery, from the top right down, through the whole courtyard, all the way out to the fountain were covered in a mass of grey people and umbrellas. These were all cultural workers, artists, and those in non-profit organizations who were affected by the recent government cuts.

Mo Dahliwal reflected on how the arts were like electricity–you don’t notice it when it’s there, but if it’s gone for some reason, you really miss it. Later, picking up on that same theme, Nadia Chaney called us, as artists, firelighters, and said “all of us are that spark. Pass it on.”

As the rally drew to a close, Nadia had us imagine a dandilion in its seed state. She released us out into the world again, each person a seed, a firelighter, to infect and inspire others.

After, over a coffee with some friends, we talked about that passion, that spark that we all posses. We know it’s powerful. After all, it moves us every day to do what we do for long hours and little pay. But in order to make our voices heard, we also need to speak the language of the lawmakers and financiers. We need to convince them that the arts are not a charity, but a business that is a good investment.

Moving Forward

If you have not yet done, please express your concerns to your elected representatives.

And have a read of this article by Charles Campbell at The Tyee.

For further updates and information about what is being organized to protest these cuts, continue to check The Alliance for Arts and Culture.

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