Culture implodes in British Columbia
by Michael Wheeler
The recent BC budget called for a 90% cut to arts and culture, while most industries averaged out at 7% cutbacks: From $47.8 million in 2008/09 to $3.75 million in 2010/11. It is not hyperbolic to refer to this as utterly devastating. Within a year, many organizations will cease to exist. Looming over this “arts-pocalypse” as Globe and Mail critic Kelly Nestruck first referred to it on Twitter, is the Cultural Olympiad occuring in BC as part of the upcoming Olympic Winter Games.
The dilemna seems clear: The lead up to the games is the only time cultural leaders will have any leverage with the government. They, along with some of the best talent from across the country, are required to entertain the whole gosh-darn planet in a few of months. Afterwards it seems they will be expendable and dispensable, which is a thesis heavily supported by the provincial budget.
But who wants to mess up the Olympics? Many artists have worked their whole lives to arrive on a stage as bright as this. Almost everyone in the arts knows someone who has an amazing opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have due to the Cultural Olympiad.
How to handle this situation will certainly require a sophisticated response from BC artists. It’s a mean-spirited position to put an entire industry and community in. There has been quite a bit of action on the Facebook Group: Organizing against Campbell’s cuts to the arts. Within days it has skyroceted to almost 2500 members and looks to be a central hub for information on this topic.
Are we really going to have one of those ridiculous national “Does art matter?” conversations again? What do you think should be done? How can the rest of Canadian artists support those in BC? One day everything on this website will be about art and how much fun it is to make it!