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COLUMN: Critical funding needed to sustain Nelson, provincial arts organizations

Sydney Black writes about recommendations made to B.C. government
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Sydney Black is the executive director of the Nelson and District Arts Council. Photo: Submitted

Hello arts lovers!

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Revelstoke on behalf of the Nelson and District Arts Council to present to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Service for the province.

Each year, the committee holds province-wide consultations to seek the views of British Columbians on priorities for the next provincial budget and presents a final report with recommendations to the Legislative Assembly. NDAC was honoured to have the chance to express the importance of funding for artists and the arts sector.

After consulting with several other local arts organizations, we developed the following recommendations to the committee:

• To grow the British Columbia Arts Council (BCAC), with a focus on operating funding and the newly designed Accelerate Pilot Program. From community arts in rural and urban centres, to individual artists, professional performing arts companies, Indigenous artists and cultural organizations, art galleries, local museums and music festivals – BCAC supports a range of activities while engaging with artists and communities to inform policies and programs.

Their accelerate program is a two-year initiative to “improve access and reduce barriers to funding for equity deserving and regional arts and culture organizations and collectives. Funding is intended to offer stability while being flexible in supporting a range of expenses related to general operating costs, organizational development and capacity building.”

This is the most direct way that the province can support artists and arts organizations. It’s important because rural artists and organizations need opportunities to access vital core funding that is so desperately needed in the sector as we continue to navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is essential that funding reflects inflation and cost of living increases so that arts and culture organizations can provide stable jobs.

• To continue funding the Festivals, Fairs and Events Recovery Program for the foreseeable future, so that these important events are able to keep up with the inflation that they are navigating.

From artist fees to insurance and venue rentals, everything has increased in cost and it will be incredibly challenging for these essential community-building experiences to operate without continued support. These events provide artists and arts workers with income, encourage tourist spending, and are vital in providing community connection. This impact is huge in rural and remote communities like Nelson, and the community connection experienced at these events has been proven to positively affect people’s mental well-being and self-esteem.

And finally we suggested that the province commit to implementing a guaranteed basic income and housing plan to ensure that artists and cultural workers are able to continue to reside in our communities.

Many rural artists are unable to support their practices due to the increase in cost of living in our region. Artists are being forced out of their homes and are having to relocate in order to be able to support their families. When hosting artist forums the main concern echoed is the lack of affordable housing and studio space, and we hope that the province will see this, and our other recommendations, as priorities in the coming budget.

Sydney Black is executive director of the Nelson and District Arts Council.