Arts organizations reel in wake of cuts 

Whistler Arts Council works to maintain quality of programming, compensate for ‘enormous step back’


After years of increased arts funding leading up to the 2010 Games, the rug has been pulled out from under many of the province's arts organizations.

Whistler Arts Council is one of the many community groups that recently discovered they would be left without support from the provincial Gaming Grants fund for a second consecutive year.

Earlier this month, WAC received word that the provincial Gaming Grants would not be restored, but also that funding from the B.C. Council for the Arts had been slashed by two-thirds. In 2008, WAC received $40,000 from the Gaming Grants, which went towards three key events: the Whistler Children's Festival, ArtWalk and the Art Workshops on the Lake. Together, the two funding sources represented almost 10 per cent of WAC's overall operating budget, which sat at around $900,000.

Doti Niedermayer, executive director of WAC, says it's a different world now that the Olympic party is over.

"For us it means taking an enormous step backwards, really," she said. "In the last five or six years, we have been really forward in terms of building our capacity and building our programs."

WAC has been working with the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Whistler Blackcomb and the Whistler Chamber of Commerce to build up the community's cultural sector leading up the Games.

"The provincial government has talked about increased tourism as a legacy from the Winter Games," Niedermayer pointed out. "When we talk about why we spent money on the Winter Games, there are sport legacies, there are infrastructure legacies and then there are tourism and cultural legacies."

In 2008, an economic impact study of arts, culture and heritage in the Sea to Sky corridor showed that the collective annual income of arts organizations and artists is about $16.5 million, most of which is spent within the region. The sector also employs almost 650 people and has made more than $35 million in capital investments over the past five years. Factoring in indirect and induced impacts, this translates into a gross economic output of about $26 million annually.

"British Columbia did augment funding for the arts because the Cultural Olympiad and the cultural component of the Winter Games is so important - it's one of the pillars," Niedermayer said. "I think we all benefited from that and we were about to build capacity and build our programs and build the sector, especially in Whistler, because that's what we've been aiming for."

The idea was that visitors who came for the Games would see the artistic community that has been cultivated here in Whistler and return to explore it further.


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