The Art of the Business

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

Local arts community rallies in the face of massive cuts August 29, 2009

Filed under: Business of Arts,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:23 am
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This always happens when I take a vacation. Something big.

The arts community, including many theatre companies here in Vancouver, rely heavily on gaming for funding. What that means is, non-profit organizations (which includes many arts organizations) get grants for operating and projects from revenue that the goverment makes off of lotteries, bingo and the like.

On August 14,  the government instituted a freeze on this money, pending a review. This freeze was lifted on August 24, but yesterday, many companies learned that grants that they were relying on for the next year or two have been cut.

You can read more about this story:

The Georgia Straight

The Westender

The Alliance for Arts and Culture


A press conference/rally has been called for tomorrow at Spencer Hebert’s office (Spencer is the opposition’s Art critic).

Here’s the information, courtesy of Jessie Van Rijn, who’s the GM at Carousel Theatre, and yesterday’s letter from Spencer:

A press conference will be held Sunday Aug. 30 at Spencer Herbert’s office. He would like as many people there as possible – arts organizations, arts lovers of all kinds, and particularly those who were on multi-year Direct Access agreements. If you are on a multi-year agreement and would like an opportunity to speak at the conference, please come a half hour early. And please pass this information along to everyone you know.

SUNDAY AUG. 30, 12:00 NOON
923 Denman St (btw Barclay and Haro)
Doors open at 11:30 a.m.

28 August 2009

Dear Friends of Arts and Culture,

Today is black Friday for our province’s arts and culture industries.

We are learning today that most arts and culture organizations who did not receive their gaming grant before the BC Liberal’s instituted their unannounced freeze will likely be getting zero dollars this year.
For some groups that can mean they will lose up to $100,000 in funding, and the money will likely not be there for organizations next year either.

Some groups will fold, others will go into massive debt, and others will lay off staff and cancel programs.
Some organizations had been guaranteed 3 years of funding by the government, and were waiting for the second year of funding after spending on the programs the government guaranteed them would be funded – and are now told they won’t receive it, and will have to re-apply.

This has come about because of the government’s budget lie.

They said the deficit would only be $495 million before the election despite top economists, and the Official Opposition’s warnings and now after the election acknowledge it will be much bigger.

One month before the election campaign kicked off I asked the Minister responsible about the province’s commitment to arts and culture and he said ‘there is no reason for the member to suggest that funding that has taken place in the past is somehow or other in jeopardy in this next fiscal year. It is not in jeopardy. This is assured funding during very, very challenging times.’

He also said in response to my first letter to the arts community about the government’s
plans to cut arts funding by 50% ‘The member goes on to say in this letter to the arts and culture community: “After the election, the budget will then decline by about 50 percent.”

That also is just wrong, and the member has no substantiation for saying that.”

The Minister’s statement is now proven to be a lie, and a lie that will cost us all economically, socially, and culturally.

From government reports we learn that BC Gaming’s investment in arts and culture is going from 19.8 million to somewhere in the area of 10.9 million, although none of this will go to people who have applied to gaming as it’s being used for the first time to pay for the BC Arts Council’s usual programs whose funding has been cut.

The government’s direct Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and the Arts budget is set to decline 50% next year, and possibly more depending on what comes out in the budget on Tuesday. on the whole it looks like a nearly 75% cut to arts and culture investment in BC. We’ll know more on Budget day, and I will let you know when I hear anything.

Can you pass this e-mail on to all of your contacts, and let me know what you are receiving from Gaming, and the BC Arts Council? Also please let me know if you are on multi-year funding, and were supposed to be getting your grants, but are now not and what this will do to your organization.
I will continue to stand for a strong creative economy, and support arts and culture organizations province wide.

We know that for every dollar invested by the province the province makes $1.38 back in taxes. That is sound economics.

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Arts coummunity concerned about cuts to the BC Arts Council July 15, 2009

Filed under: Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:43 am
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This email arrived in my inbox on Monday from Peter Boychuck, the communications manager at The Alliance for Arts and n49054709430_9822Culture.  Since then, it has been widely spread, but in case you haven’t seen it:

The arts and cultural sector in British Columbia is facing an imminent crisis. The Service Plans for the next two years show a 40% reduction in funding for the BC Arts Council. The BC Arts Council is the largest funding body in the province; last year, more than 224 communities throughout British Columbia depended on it for support.

“The impact to the province will be devastating,” said Amir Ali Alibhai, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Arts & Culture. “The BC Arts Council supports a sector that employs 80,000 people and generates $5.2-billion annually. It is bigger than the forestry and fishing industries combined. At a time when the government is doing everything they can to create and retain jobs, why are they implementing measures that will trigger layoffs and cause organizations to reduce programming?

According to Ministry’s own research, for every dollar invested in the arts, the province gets back $1.38 in taxes. There are also countless studies that show that arts and culture creates healthy communities, enhances education, and helps to shape our cultural identity.

The government has defended the cuts as a necessary and discretionary, but artists and their communities are unconvinced. “No other government in the country has reduced funding for arts and culture during the recession,” said Minna Schendlinger of the PuSh Festival. “In fact, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and the Government of Canada have all increased their investments.” In their estimation, arts and culture are clearly valued and recognized as an important area to invest by other governments – they are not seen as discretionary nor a frill; they are core investments.

During a recent interview with Scott Walker of ProArt Alliance in Victoria, the new Minister for Tourism, Culture, Kevin Krueger, characterized the arts community as unconcerned. “I am not hearing complaints at all from the arts and cultural community,” he said. “I think people are pretty happy with what we’ve done.”

“The arts community is genuinely grateful for the past support that the Liberals in BC have given to arts and culture,” said Mr. Alibhai. “However, the proposed cuts take us back to much older funding levels. The effect will be a costly creative drain in this province, and it will be next to impossible to regain the ground lost.”

If you are concerned about the cuts to funding in the arts in BC, and want Mr. Krueger to know about it, then send him an email at

UPDATE, JULY 16: Someone has started a Facebook Group in protest. Join and voice your complaint.

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Vote for the Arts May 11, 2009

Filed under: Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:17 pm

Tomorrow, here in BC, we will have a provincial election.

Up until quite recently, I used to be one of those people that was pretty apathetic about politics. I just figured everyone was a crook, and my one little vote was not going to make  any difference in the grand scheme of things. Then I went to work at The Alliance for Arts and Culture in Vancouver.

Among the myriad of things that they do there, is advocacy, and you can’t be apathetic for long when you work in that kind of environment. So, now I’m on the other side: I’m encouraging you, if you live in BC, to get out tomorrow and vote. And, because I am not non-partisan, but just myself, I’m encouraging you to vote for anyone but the Liberals.

The Liberals have a horrible track record when it comes to supporting the arts. Over the last few years, they have cut funding to the arts by 40%. Okay, to be fair, the NDP, who used to be in power, weren’t that much better, but they at least have the arts on their platform, and have pledged to restore the 40% cut by the Liberals. I hope they keep their promise if they get elected.

The Assembly of British Columbia Arts Councils and the Alliance have put together a campaign/information package called: Vote: Put Your HeART In It. Check it out for information about artists and our place in the economy.

And then get out and vote.

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A blog-bate! May 4, 2009

Filed under: Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:32 am
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During last year’s federal election, the arts, which have traditionally gotten left by the wayside in political campaigns, were brought front and centre by a political debate focused on the arts called The Wrecking Ball. These debates took place in several major cities across the country. Our local Wrecking Ball was organized by The Alliance for Arts and Culture, and it was, in a word, inspiring.

Here in BC, we are in the throes of a Provincial election–we go to the polls on May 12. According to an article in The Georgia Straight, the arts are pretty far down on the priority list when it comes to platforms.

While both the NDP and Greens have pledged to increase arts funding, the B.C. Liberals have not. The NDP has vowed to restore the arts funding cut in 2009, increase the budget for the B.C. Arts Council, and provide a new $50-million capital fund to be administered by the B.C. Arts Council for investment in projects that “support the growth and sustainability” of professional and community arts, culture, and heritage sectors. The Green party platform calls for increasing funding to the B.C. Arts Council, establishing a separate Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage, and cooperating with other levels of government to fund an “indigenous peoples culture and arts plan for B.C.” Meanwhile, the only mention of the arts in the Liberals’ platform comes in the context of boosting tourism: “It [increasing tourism revenues] is why we established the $150-million B.C. 150 Cultural Fund and are investing $50 million in a new generation Vancouver Art Gallery.” (read the entire article here)

In an attempt to bring Arts more to the forefront, The Alliance for Arts and Culture has arrainged a debate–a virtual one:

In an innovative departure from the usual all-candidates debates, the Alliance for Arts & Culture will host a “live-blogging” forum on May 4th at 4pm with Spencer Herbert (NDP candidate), Vanessa Violini (Green Party candidate). At this point, no Liberal Party candidate has chosen to participate; however, Bill Bennett, Liberal candidate and former Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts – who cited prior commitments – will post a prepared statement on behalf of the Liberals.

You are invited to participate: visit the Alliance’s blog, and drop a question to the candidates in the comments section. Then, you can follow the debate as it is live-blogged on May 4.

The only way to make a difference is to speak out!

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Dream of Saving Vancouver’s Pantages Dies April 27, 2009

Filed under: Business of Arts,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:44 pm

Only a little more than a year ago, on April 16, 2008, I was part of a huge celebration that took place at Vancouver’s 100-year-old Pantages Theatre on Hastings St. The event was attended by, and featured the talents of, some of Vancouver’s elite, including Christopher Gaze and Dal Richards. It was a huge success, and hope was high–on that day, we announced the $26-million plan to restore the theatre by developer Marc Williams.

The Pantages Today

The Pantages Today

It looks like that dream has died.

In October, 2008, it was announced that the future of the Pantages was in jeopardy. Hung up in red tape at City Hall, the developer put the property up for sale. Every month the building sits empty, it costs him in the range of $30,000.

On December 9, members of the Pantages Theatre Society presented an early Christmas gift to the then-new Mayor, Gregor Robertson. It was a book that included more than 350 letters of support for the Pantages, and a plea to the Mayor to reopen negotiations.

On December 19, City Council voted to allow the owner of the York Theatre, Bruno Wall, a density transfer, and that Vancouver landmark was saved, and a $12 million restoration is in the works. Hopes were high that City Council might consider something similar for the Pantages.

The Pantages Theatre Society’s website has been taken down, and a source close to them told me that the building did not fare well during this past (heavy) winter.

In an email from Dr. Charles Barber, head of the PTS, he said:

Ten years from now, after this 101-year old dazzler is demolished and replaced by utter mediocrity, people will wonder how we could have been so stupid.

It makes me incredibly sad to report this. I recently attended a backstage tour of the Moore Theatre in Seattle, whose archetecture was so strikingly similar to our Pantages. This is because the archetect that assisted in designing the Moore, was the archetech for our Pantages. The two theatres opened within a year of each other. Seeing the Moore was like seeing the potential of the Pantages, if we could only get there.

In this city, any indepenndent theatre producer will tell you one of our greatest challenges is finding spaces to produce our plays. The restoration plan for the Pantages was to include not just the main 650-seat theatre, but a second, smaller, 99-seat black-box theatre. The plan also included 200 units of social housing. No one can say that homelessness is not a huge problem in our city.

It’s just wrong.

You can see all my past posts on the Pantages here.

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The new Provinical Budget February 23, 2009

On Feb 17, the British Columbia provincial government released its new budget. I was honestly not even going to write anything on it, because it was so depressing. But I do like to fire up the masses if I can, so I am digging myself out of my hole of self-wallowing pity.

Okay, first off, I get that these are difficult financial times. In the past few months, we have gone from “the economy is in a downturn” to the dreaded ‘R’-word: “recession.” Comparisons are being drawn to the great Depression. US President Obama is handing over kazillions (yes, that’s a technical term) of dollars in bailout money, and our own government is saying it’s going into debt, and it’s okay with that if it stimulates the economy.

I also totally get that art is the first thing to be cut back on, along with luxury items. Art is often considered to be a luxury, even at the best of times. But still, this is ridiculous.

The short version of the story is that the government cut nearly 40% of its culture budget: from $19.5 million last year to $11.9 million this year.

From The Alliance for Arts and Culture:

The cuts to arts and culture in this budget are dramatic and potentially devastating. Essentially, it amounts to a 40% cut to core funding, which will further increase over the next two years. This is particularly troubling considering that the 2008/09 Service Plan for the Ministry was planning for significant increases in investments in this sector.

In 2007, B.C.’s creative industries employed approximately 74,000 people and generated $2.3 billion – 1.6 per cent of the province’s GDP. The demand for cultural goods in this province is one of the highest in the country. Not only that, but the province gets back 138% of its cultural investment in taxes. It is more important than ever that British Columbians realize that arts and culture are not frills or luxuries – they are essential to our lives and to our ability to be competitive in the new creative economy which is emerging.

The Georgia Straight says:

Don’t let the rhetoric of the throne speech confuse you. The B.C. Liberal government has declared war on the arts in its budget. And it did so to score cheap political points in rural B.C. to try to win the next provincial election.

The Alliance ends with a call to action: write to your MLA and let them know how important the Arts are. Anyone who attended The Wrecking Ball will know that we can be force to be reckoned with.

Read the entire Alliance article here.

Read the entire Georgia Straight article here.

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2009 Federal Budget: what’s in it for us? January 29, 2009

Filed under: Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:48 am
Tags: , ,

On Tuesday, the Conservative government brought down it’s 2009 budget. Meant to boost our failing economy (we are now officially in a recession), they are going into debt themselves by pouring money into infrastructure, tax cuts, and boosting Employment Insurance and retraining.

In all, $438 million is earmarked for Culture.  The good news is, they didn’t cut the culture budget, but the bad news is, there is no new money that is going directly to artists in the form of arms-length organizations like the Canada Council (who had its funding slashed heavily in the last budget).

Here are the numbers:

  • $100 million over two years for art, comedy and music festivals and events that promote tourism.
  • $60 million over the next two years to support infrastructure-related costs (ie: repairs) for  cultural buildings, such as theatres, libraries and museums.
  • $20 million over the next two years to the National Arts Training Contribution Program.
  • $30 million over the next two years to support Canadian magazines and community newspapers.(which have been hit hard by the internet revolution)
  • $28.6 million over the next two years to the Canada New Media Fund, which is administered by Telefilm.
  • $200 to the Canadian Television Fund over the next two years.
  • $25 million one-time endowment to the  to assist in establishing The Canada Prizes for the Arts and Creativity . The Canada Prizes is a not-for-profit organization founded by Tony Gagliano and David Pecaut, who are also the founders of Toronto’s Luminato Festival.  The Canada Prizes will be awarded annually to the most talented emerging artists in music, dance, theatre and the visual arts from around the world, and may be showcased at the Festival. (thanks to Daniel Davidzon, from the Luminato, who cleared up my previous mis-report that the Luminato Festival had recieved the endowment)

Story sources/more information:

The Georgia Straight

The Toronto Star

Theatre Is Territory

Please note: there are lots of rumors about revisions to the budget, but information on Culture, specifically can be hard to find. If you have heard of more accurate numbers that reflect the revisions, please post them in comments below.

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Let’s talk about homelessness December 10, 2008

Filed under: Business of Arts,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 4:06 am
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Today, at 1 pm, Peter Fairchild, Chair of the Pantages Theatre Arts Society, accompanied by Santa and some elves, had an early Christmas gift for our new Mayor, Gregor Robertson. They presented Robertson and members of city council with a three-inch-thick bound book of letters of support (about 35o, apparently) for the Pantages Theatre.

Gregor Robertson gets an early Christmas gift.

Gregor Robertson gets an early Christmas gift.

The Pantages is a 100-year old theatre located on Hastings Street in the downtown east side. Three years ago, it was bought by a developer, Marc Williams. His plan was to gut and restore the 650-seat theatre, create a 99-seat black-box theatre/rehearsal space, an art gallery, new lobbies, and new elevators. Included in the $26 Million restoration plan was over 100 units of social housing.

One of our new Mayor’s big plans is to eliminate homelessness in Vancouver by 2015. Anyone who lives in this city knows that homelessness is a big problem. And while we are not saying that this will eliminate homelessness, it sure is a start.

The presentation today was also attended by several members of the PTAS, notably Dr. Charles Barber (as Santa), Adam Abrams (the elf) and Tony Pantages. Yes, that Tony Pantages.


Gregor Robertson engages in a photo op with Santa and an elf.

Peter Fairchild appeals to the Mayor.

Peter Fairchild appeals to the Mayor.

There is another group of people that face homelessness if the Pantages does not recieive the permits and funding that it needs to continue, and that is the three resident companies that are meant to occupy the Pantages when it is finished. Those companies are City Opera of Vancouver, Vancouver Cantonese Theatre, and Vancouver Moving Theatre.

My experience of being a theatre in this city has taught me that it is difficult to find affordable production spaces in Vancouver to produce plays. Having another, under 100-seat black box theatre would be a big help to our small, independent theatre companies.

So let’s get talking about ending homelessness, Mr. Mayor!

Check out Adam Abram’s account of the afternoon here (he’s the elf)

Mike McCardle’s story on Global TV.

Flickr photostream:



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Pantages to Present Letters of Support to City December 9, 2008

Filed under: Business of Arts,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:25 am
Tags: ,

In an excellent example of good timing, this email arrived in my inbox this morning. I’m sure help and support would be appreciated if you have the time to go.

Pantages Gives Xmas Present To New City Council

Event: Presentation of Letters of Support for Pantages Theatre
Date: Tuesday, December 09, 2008 Time: 1:15 pm
Location: Vancouver City Hall / Third Floor
The Pantages Theatre Arts Society will present to all members of the new Vancouver City Council, and certain senior City staff, Christmas presents on Tuesday December 09, at 1:15 pm.

The gaily wrapped and decorated Xmas presents consist of one copy each of “The Book of Letters — From the People of Vancouver to the Mayor and Council, In Support of the Pantages Project.”

There are hundreds of letters. The volume is the size of the Manhattan phone book.

Members of the Pantages Board, led by president Peter Fairchild wearing a Santa hat, will distribute these to each member of Council.

“We come bearing gifts,” said Fairchild. “And the greatest gift will be the restoration of hope and beauty, theatre and art and housing, at Hastings and Main. The new Council has an opportunity to get it right. They have a chance to change forever the perception and the reality of our neighbourhood. ‘The Book of Letters’ proves massive public support for this amazing project.

“It’s our Xmas present to Council. We look forward to Council’s present to the City,” Fairchild concluded.

Contact: Peter Fairchild at

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Pantages Update December 8, 2008

In October, it was announced that the future of the Pantages Theatre was in jeopardy. After more than three years of trying to negotiate a deal with the city of Vancouver, owner Marc Williams gave up and put the property up for sale.

This prompted a flurry of emails and petitions headed in the direction of City Hall.

Pantages Stage

Pantages Stage

I also sent a letter to City Hall, and received a response from them accordingly.

The response from City Hall was, in my estimation, very confusing and difficult to understand, but from what I could figure out, the issues were these:

1. The Pantages is asking for $30-40 Million for the restoration, not the $10 Million that was promised them by the city
2. The Pantages needs to seek funding at a Provincial and Federal level, and they have not done that.
3.The City claims that the Pantages has never submitted a formal development application.
4. The City cannot proceed before there is a formal assessment completed, to which they have dedicated $150,000. This will not be complete until the end of March, 2009.

I spoke with a member of the Pantages Theatre Society, and they had this to say about the City’s four points:

1. The Pantages has never asked the City for money. What they are asking for is density transfers. What that means is, the city allows the developer to build buildings that are higher than would normally be allowed.
2. Because the Pantages is such a local landmark, there is little chance of Ottawa being interested in helping to fund its restoration. There is some possibility that the Province will kick in.
3. Pantages submitted a development application on December 3, 2007. That application was rejected by the city on June 2, 2008.
4. Time is a big issue. For every month the Pantages sits, and every month that the development is not starting, it costs the developer more than $30,000. After more than three years of this, he has decided to cut his losses, and try to sell the property to get some of his money back.

There is a ray of hope. While negotiations had broken off, which prompted Williams to put the property up for sale, since the municipal election, it is my understanding that negotiations have resumed. The property, however, is still up for sale.

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