The Art of the Business

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

Update on Financial Cuts to the Arts September 4, 2009

Filed under: Politics of Arts,social media — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:55 am
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This has been an absolutely exhausting week.

It all started last Friday when most of the theatre companies in Vancouver got letters from the Provincial Government saying that thier Gaming funding was being pulled, and the three-year agreement that they had previously signed was being nullified. Many theatre companies were out $120,000.

Well, the community organized, got together, and created a stink that could be smelled in Victoria. Talk of a class-action suit was floating around. Then, yesterday, the government announced that it was reversing its decision, but only for those who had three-year agreements. Those companies who had only gotten gaming funding for this year, like one of my clients, Presentation House, are still out that grant. For Presentation House, it’s to the tune of $30,000.

Two things became really clear to me this week.

First, it is incredibly powerful when a group of people get together with a common cause and raise their voices. They become a force to be reckoned with. I’m not saying this is why the Government reversed its decision. We don’t actually know why they did. But it most certainly did not hinder the cause.

Second, I noticed how much social media was used this week to spread the word about meetings and updates on the status of the gaming grants. I only had to check in with my Twitter feed or Facebook, or check out a blog to find out what was going on. Earlier this week, someone started a Facebook group called Organizing Against Campbell’s Cuts to the Arts, and to date, it has nearly 2,000 members. Someone started the hashtag #bcartscutssuck, and it was soon everywhere. These tools are very powerful for disseminating information.

Moving Forward

There will be a rally for the arts on Wednesday, September 9, 12 noon, at Robson Square in downtown Vancouver. People attending are requested to wear grey–the colour of our world without art. Meet at The Dance Centre at 11:30 am. The rally will then move to Robson Square, where participants will form a silent square for 30 minutes.

The Facebook Event

There will be a similar event in Victoria, at the same time. Meet in front of the office of the BC Cultural Services Branch, 800 Johnson St. (corner of Johnson and Blanchard), at 11:50 am.

The Facebook Event

Links to related stories:

The Alliance for Arts and Culture (blog)

The Vancouver Sun

The Georgia Straight

GlobalBC TV

The Times-Colonist

And now, back to regular blogging.

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Alliance calls community meeting for Wednesday August 31, 2009

Filed under: Finances,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:31 am
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From Kevin McKeown, the new Director of Communications at The Alliance for Arts and Culture:

Alliance for Arts and Culture

Wednesday, September 2, 2009
1 pm to 3 pm
Museum of Vancouver
1100 Chestunut Street

The Alliance for Arts and Culture will convene a community meeting on Wednesday, September 2 at the Museum of Vancouver to discuss our options in response to this week’s announcements regarding BC Gaming Commission Direct Access Grants. The meeting will run from 1 pm to 3 pm.

We will attempt to quantify the damage, bring one-another up-to-date on protest initiatives currently being taken by individual artists, organizations and discipline sectors, and discuss the pros and cons of several possible courses of action for the future.

This meeting will NOT be open to the media, elected officials or cultural sector bureaucrats. While we appreciate the support we are receiving from many in each of these sectors, the arts community needs this opportunity to “talk among ourselves”.

This is NOT a “rally” so we are only looking for one or two pesons from each arts organizations to attend. A full-scale arts community rally in the near future will be one of the options discussed. So please don’t send your entire staff and/or membership!

Arts organizations that are not members of the Alliance are welcome to send representatives to this gathering.

Please RSVP to indicating how many representatives from your organization will be attending. Seating is limited, so we need to count noses. We will begin at precisely 1 pm, so plan to arrive early.

We have had numerous emails over the past few days from Alliance members and non-members informing us of declined Direct Access grants.

To help us quantify the damage to our community in advance of Wednesday’s community meeting, could you take a moment to email us the following details, in the order noted:

  • Name of your organization.
  • Amount of declined grant request.
  • Whether this was a one-year or multi-year grant.
  • If multi-year, which year was declined.
  • How many years your organization has been receiving Direct Access funding.
  • Whether your organization has a BC Arts Council grant pending.

The government now seems to be mixing apples with oranges in order to make it as difficult as possible to understand our exact standing with various sources of funding. At least one arts organization has received confirmation of a BCAC grant which cites the Gaming Grants Program as the source of the funds, and states that the money will be deposited to the recipient’s Gaming account.

If you receive a similar BCAC grant confirmation, please let us know whether that grant is for the full amount of your original BCAC funding request.

We would also like to hear from any organization which received a Direct Access Grant or grant confirmation in the past week, or does so in the coming days. So far, the only approved grants seem to be those confirmed prior to the freeze — most of them in May.

Please keep your responses to the above questions brief and factual. I will have to compile the answers in a spreadhseet, and lengthy and anecdotal replies will slow down the process.

Thank you for your collaboration.

The Alliance for Arts and Culture will hold a media conference to announce the outcomes of Wednesday’s community meeting on Thursday, September 3, at a time and place to be determined.

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Massive turnout at Press Conference in support of Spencer Hebert August 30, 2009

Filed under: Finances,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 1:35 pm
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What a way to catch up with friends and colleagues.

The theatre community was well represented today at the press conference at Spencer Hebert’s downtown office. Many of them were my colleagues, friends, and clients. But it’s like meeting people you haven’t seen in ages a funereal: while you’re happy to see them and catch up with them, you’re sad that this is the occasion that brings you together.

So, to quickly summarize: The provincial government has promised arts and non-profit organizations money from its Gaming

Crowds spill out onto the sidewalk at the press conference today

Crowds spill out onto the sidewalk at the press conference today

revenue. What this means is, some of the money that they make (last year $1 Billion), from lotteries goes to non-profit and arts organisations. Some theatre companies have mult-year agreements, to the tune of $40,000 per year, for three years. This is money that they have signed a contract for with the government, and are counting on to produce shows. The money is already allocated.

In the case of some theatre companies, like Touchstone and Ruby Slippers, the money comes at the end of thier fiscal year. They made choices and spent with the knowledge that that money was coming. In the case of Touchstone, the result is that they are now facing an unprecedented (in their 35 years) deficit, because thier season is over, but they were expecting that money, which is now not coming.

I think a lot of the outrage is because of this. In the arts, we are used to having little, and to making our work on a shoestring. What is making people so angry is that this is money that they were assured they would be getting, and it is now being taken back.

If someone did something like that in the corporate world, they would be immediately sued.

The devastation is wide-spread. I don’t know of too many theatre companies in Vancouver who have not been affected. At the press conference, I spoke to the ADs of Touchstone, Ruby Slippers, Leaky Heaven Circus and Theatre Terrific, all of whom I worked for last season, all of whom are facing massive cutbacks. Presentation House is affected, but Full Figure has not yet heard.

Deb Pickman, whose Shameless Hussy Theatre company goes into rehearsals tomorrow for their latest production, Frozen, has said that the three company members (herself included) will be forced to forgo their salaries as a result of the cuts, and tour planned and advertised for the fall may have to be cut if they can’t make up the shortfall. Carol Higgins of Carousel Theatre recently posted on Facebook about how she was going to make up for the shortfall.

At this moment, I don’t know if my own work will be directly impacted, but it certainly will impact the theatre community as a whole, and future contracts will certainly be affected.

Vancouver Sun story

Global TV story

CTV story

The Province, Aug 31

A facebook group has sprung up called Organizing Against Campbell’s Cuts to the Arts.

Alliance for Arts and Culture

Wednesday, September 2, 2009
1 pm to 3 pm
Museum of Vancouver
1100 Chestunut Street

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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
Tags: , ,

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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