Arts and culture embolden and invigorate our lives and our communities. From a painting to a song to a play, the arts help us to better understand ourselves and each other and contribute to a healthy population and economy. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, arts, culture and heritage contribute $47.8 billion to the Canadian economy (representing 3.1 per cent of the country’s GDP). Successful cities value the arts and in turn, the arts help create successful cities.
With these points in mind, members of Business & Arts NL met with representatives of St. John’s City Council on January 20 to discuss the well-being of the local arts and cultural community in the wake of recent budget cuts. On December 14, the City announced a 50 per cent cut to arts grants – but in early January, councillors voted to reinstate this funding. Attending the meeting on behalf of Business & Arts NL were board members John Fisher, Dr. Noreen Golfman (co-chair) and Mark Dobbin (co-chair), as well as General Manager Bryhanna Greenough. Representing the City were Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth; Deputy City Manager of Finance Derek Coffey; Manager of Tourism, Culture and Arts Deborah Cook; Councillor and Chair of the Arts Advisory Committee Sandy Hickman; Councillor Dave Lane; and Deputy City Manager of Community Services Tanya Haywood.
“The meeting with the City was a follow-up by Business & Arts NL to the 400-strong demonstration by artists and members of the public to protest the $100,000 cut to the City’s arts budget,” says John Fisher.
The goal, Fisher says, was to kick-start a multi-stakeholder process to review the City’s municipal granting policies, examine procedures in other jurisdictions, “and to recommend a progressive approach to arts funding in St John’s in the future.”
It was recommended that the City’s Arts Advisory Committee appoint a group to carry out exploratory work consisting of representatives from the City, as well as the arts and business communities. However, the City couldn’t commit to providing staff to support the group at this time.
“The meeting as far as it went was a success. A beginning,” says Fisher.
Dr. Golfman says “We acknowledge the city’s difficulties but are hoping in the future more consultation with the arts community, more regularly, would prevent the kind of negative feedback they received.”
Business & Arts NL hopes to work more closely with the City in a spirit of cooperation to ensure that the arts will continue to thrive, and will continue to encourage collaboration and camaraderie between the arts and business communities.