BC Arts Service Organizations Letter

December 21, 2021Honourable John HorganPremier of British ColumbiaHonourable Melanie MarkMinistry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, and Sport CC: Brian Jonker Executive Director, Arts and Culture, Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Dear Premier Horgan and Minister…

December 21, 2021
Honourable John Horgan
Premier of British Columbia
Honourable Melanie Mark
Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, and Sport

CC: Brian Jonker Executive Director, Arts and Culture, Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture

Dear Premier Horgan and Minister Mark,

We are submitting this letter on behalf of British Columbia’s Arts Service Organizations (ASOs). As a group, we collectively represent the majority of the tens of thousands of arts, culture, heritage organizations, and music venues, hundreds of cultural businesses, consultants and independent practitioners, as well as the hundreds of thousands of professional artists, cultural practitioners, and volunteers in every corner of the province – a sector that has an annual impact of $7.9 billion on British Columbia’s gross domestic product. We want to thank you for the leadership that the Province of BC has shown in prioritizing support for arts, culture, and heritage during the COVID-19 pandemic. Your government’s support has been an essential lifeline allowing organizations and individuals to weather a series of unprecedented storms.

Despite the hard work and collective sacrifices made by British Columbians to end the pandemic, the fight against COVID-19 is far from over and the arts, culture, and heritage sector remains in crisis. Our sector is experiencing the overlapping crises of the pandemic and climate emergencies, both of which threaten the long-term health of our sector, contribute to widespread burnout, and make BC’s world-class arts, culture, and heritage less resilient to face
an uncertain future.

COVID-19 impact surveys have repeatedly shown that the pandemic hasn’t impacted our sector equally, while some organizations are in very strong positions, others are on the verge of failure. While your ministry’s support has been an essential lifeline for our sector, many organizations and professionals have fallen through cracks and have been unable to access resilience and recovery funding programs. These underserved organizations/professionals need immediate support.

We respectfully request that the Province takes the following actions to ensure that no arts, culture, and heritage professionals and organizations are left behind:
• As the pandemic approaches the beginning of its third year, commit an additional $15 million in recovery funding to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the sector.
• Allocated $5 million to support arts, culture, and heritage organizations in transformative work towards equity and diversity.
• Coordinate a cross-ministry response to invest in emergency preparedness and sustainability initiatives.

URGENT ACTION: As the pandemic approaches the beginning of its third year, commit an additional $15 million in recovery funding to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the sector.

The Fall 2021 COVID-19 B.C. Arts & Culture Sector Impact Survey found that more than 1 in 4 organizations feel that their financial position as being somewhat or very unstable. Operating assistance clients of the BC Arts Council and organizations who had received project grants prior to the pandemic have been able to access generous COVID resilience and recovery programs, but only a fraction of the total arts, culture, and heritage organizations in BC are part of these highly competitive funding streams. As we enter the third year of the pandemic, targeted funds are needed to reach those organizations who need it the most. Likewise, individual arts, culture, and heritage workers report similar concerns about their financial positions. Increased stress, shortage of energy, and general uncertainty of the future are listed as the biggest obstacles experienced by individuals, when anticipating obstacles over the coming months, increased stress and maintaining sufficient cash flow are reported most frequently. Only 52% of individual respondents feel confident that they will still be working in the arts, culture, and heritage sector in the next 18 months, signaling that pandemic burnout and funding scarcity are causing people to leave the sector.

While sector surveys from Spring 2021, a period of time where COVID rates across BC were dropping, suggested that 86% of organizations anticipated strong recovery by the end of 2021. More recent surveys, conducted during the height of the pandemic’s fourth wave, show that the majority of respondents see full recovery taking between 1-3 additional years. Now, as the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) expire, many arts, culture, and heritage organizations will be losing one of their last remaining financial lifelines. Smaller arts, culture, and heritage organizations, especially those in more rural communities, fear that without additional resilience funds they cannot operate beyond March or April 2022. Without CERS and CEWS as a safety net, more and more organizations will find it difficult to retain their staffing levels, making sector-wide layoffs more difficult to avoid. These organizations are vital parts of their local economies, attracting tourism, creating jobs, and making communities vibrant places to live, work, and play.

We ask that the Province of BC allocates targeted relief/recovery funding to ensure the continued health of the arts, culture, and heritage sector. Recovery funding contributes to creating a strong, sustainable economy. Through the existing BC Arts Council Resilience Supplements, 78% of recipients used this funding to create new arts programming, including hiring artists. And 69% of recipients used these supplements to retain staff and maintain
operational levels. These supplements not only helped arts, culture, and heritage organizations survive the pandemic thus far but also helped to directly stimulate local economies across the province. By allocating an additional $15 million in recovery funding, the Province of BC will be helping to ensure this sector has the resources needed to both survive the final waves of the pandemic and contribute to the successful social and economic recovery of British Columbia.

ACTION REQUESTED: Allocate $5 million to support arts, culture, and heritage organizations in becoming more equitable and diverse. And that the Province coordinates a cross-ministry response to invest in emergency preparedness and sustainability initiatives.

Mitigating the impact of climate change and making tangible progress towards a more equitable sector are two of the biggest challenges facing the arts, culture, and heritage sector today. If end of fiscal year funds are available, we urge the Ministry to make funding available to support our sector in taking action.

In 2021 we have seen a preview of what the future could hold – entire towns levelled by forest fires, regions flooded, previously unimaginable weather events like tornados appearing in BC. Arts, culture, and heritage organizations are worried about the future and need funding and support to protect their collections, buildings, and community programs. Additional funding and support are needed across multiple ministries in order for British Columbians to prepare for an uncertain future.

Furthermore, it is essential that our sector move forward on commitments to equity and reconciliation. Arts, culture, and heritage organizations are amongst the most trusted institutions in our society and by using this trust our sector is an important driver of social change. Our sector is an essential part of the social and cultural fabric of BC, but in order to realize the true potential of our impact, we need directed funding and support. As recent studies have shown, lack of funding only serves to impede long-overdue equity work and put racialized and under-represented communities at greater risk of harm. Equity and anti-racism and lasting and meaningful reconciliation are two key priorities of the Working for You platform and the arts, culture, and heritage sector wants to be an active partner in achieving these goals and building a brighter future for all British Columbians. Addressing centuries of injustice is a task too big for any one organization, or even for the government itself, but together we can work together to build lasting change.

A healthy arts, culture, and heritage sector has a vital role to play in helping British Columbia recover from the pandemic (both economically and emotionally) and in helping our communities make paradigm shifts in becoming more resilient, equitable, and just, but we need the active partnership and support of the Government of British Columbia to make this happen. We stand at a crossroads – we can rise to the challenges facing our communities, or we can surrender to the apathy of the status quo. The arts, culture, and heritage sector is the creative soul of our communities and can work in partnership with all levels of government to not only imagine a better future but to build it. We look forward to working with you to build a better future that works for everyone.

Thank you for your consideration of our requests.

Howard R. Jang
Interim Executive Director
BC Alliance for Arts + Culture

This letter represents the concerns of BC’s arts service organizations including:

ActSafe Don Parman, Manager of Performing Acts Arts BC

Elliott Hearte, Director, Programs and Services

ArtStarts in Schools Winnie Tam, Interim Executive Director

BC Choral Federation Willi Zwozdesky, Executive Director

BC Drama Association Society (Theatre BC) Richard Kerton, Administrator

BC Museums Association Ryan Hunt, Executive Director

BC Music Festival Collective Deb Beaton-Smith, Interim Executive Director

BC Touring Council Galen Olstead, President

Canadian Alliance for Dance Artists Jessica Wadsworth, Executive Director

Canadian Music Centre Sean Bickerton, Executive Director

CARFAC BC Melany Nugent-Noble, President

Conseil Culturel et Artistique Francophone de la Colombie-Britannique Jean-Francois Packwood, Executive Director

Craft Council of British Columbia Raine McKay, Executive Director

Dance Centre Mirna Zagar, Executive Director

Dance Transition Resource Centre P. Megan Andrews, BC Program Manager

Dance West Network Jane Gabriels, Executive Director

Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance Kenji Maeda, Executive Director

Heritage BC Kristin Claussem, Executive Director

Magazine Association of BC Sylvia Skene, Executive Director

New Performance Works Society Julie Mamas, Executive Director

Pacific Association of Artist Run Centre Zandi Dandizette, President

Pacific Legal Outreach Harvey Miller, Interim Executive Director

ProArt Alliance of Greater Victoria Doug Jarvis, Adminstrator

Professional Association of Canadian Theatres Boomer Stacey, Executive Director

Richmond Arts Coalition Andrew Wade, Executive Director

Vancouver Musician Association Dusty Kelly, Secretary and Business Agent

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