Laughing it up for local arts 

Whistler Arts Council, Player’s Chophouse rally after gaming grants denied, future of B.C. Arts Council funding in question

What: No Laughing Matter - comedic benefit

When: Wednesday, Oct. 28, 9 p.m.

Where: Player's Chophouse

Cost: $22, $15 WAC members

After losing almost $40,000 in funding through cuts to B.C. Gaming Grants, the Whistler Arts Council is now waiting for the other shoe to drop. They're anxiously anticipating the release of the B.C. Arts Council's funding, which typically covers a lot of their basic operating costs.

"It's still very unclear to me as to what's going on," said Joan Richoz, president of the Assembly of B.C. Arts Councils and chair of the Whistler Arts Council's board. "And just looking at their service plans, the cuts to the B.C. Arts Council are enormous, but they have not yet released how much money is coming to the B.C. Arts Council through Gaming."

According to Richoz's calculations, 85 to 92 per cent of core provincial funding for arts and culture will be cut by 2012.

"We're pretty concerned, because we know that the service plan for the B.C. Arts Council shows drastic reductions in what the government is going to be funding them, and at this point, we don't know how much might be going to the B.C. Arts Council from Gaming. All we know is what you can see on the service plan."

And they don't know when they'll be finding out more.

In 2008, Sea to Sky arts, culture, sports and educational organizations received $662,695 in funds from the Gaming Grants and most have since received notice that their requests for 2009 have been denied. Fortunately Whistler, unlike many communities with smaller, volunteer-run arts councils, doesn't depend on Gaming Grants for core programming.

"The effect of the Gaming cuts on small arts councils is enormous, because so many of them are entirely volunteer-run and that funding might represent their core programming," Richoz said.

But that doesn't mean the Whistler Arts Council won't feel the pinch.

"Obviously, we're not going to cut an entire program, but the $40,000 does represent the cost of putting on ArtWalk or the cost of putting on Art Workshops on the Lake."

Revenue numbers from WAC's 2008 audited financial statements show that they received $126,014 from the RMOW's Community Enrichment Program, plus $100,000 for the Office of Community Cultural Coordination and $100,000 for Village Animation. The arts council received another $9,900 for the Performance Series from Canadian Heritage.

"We are very well-supported by the municipality," Richoz said, pointing out that they have already received commitment from the RMOW to match their funding from the Community Enrichment Program for 2010.

But the Whistler Arts Council also had $34,688 from B.C. Gaming Grants for their Performance Series, Art Workshops on the Lake, Children's Art Festival and ArtWalk. WAC also received another $21,305 from the B.C. Arts Council to cover Administration, Performance Series, Children's Art Festival and ArtWalk.

Right now, Whistler also has funds from the federal Cultural Capital program, but that money is part of a one-year program only, which means that it won't be available next year.

"Everything will be cut back. This year, most of our programs were augmented because of the (Cultural Capital funding)" Richoz explained.

Because of this additional funding, WAC was able to bring artists to the community from further abroad. But 2010 is shaping up to be "very regional" as WAC tightens its purse strings.

Last year's Sea to Sky arts economic impact study showed that the arts have the potential to be a very strong economic driver, but when compared with essentials, they often are the first to be cut.

"It's very frustrating because the provincial government - in a lot of things that you read - they recognize that arts and culture are an economic driver. Cultural tourism is one of the up-and-coming industries in British Columbia," Richoz said.

Now, WAC is looking for ways to diversify revenues so they don't rely so heavily on government grants. They're also calling on people to request that the provincial government review and reinstate funding, but Richoz isn't optimistic that pleas will change the situation.

"The reason that we're encouraging people to write... is that if the government doesn't hear what our concerns are on a regular basis, then they'll think we don't have any. If they don't hear from us, they'll think everything's fine."

For now, the arts council has decided to take matters into its own hands, partnering with the Player's Chophouse to host No Laughing Matter, a benefit featuring the comedic talents of Roman Danylo and friends. The show will feature Danylo's signature brand of stand-up improv, touching on everything from love to war, and leaving the audience in stitches.

 

 

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