OUR VIEW: Arts groups’ crises soften

Saanich Peninsula arts groups benefit from donations though government gaming grants have run dry

Government funding for the arts, during tough economic times, is one of the first things to fall by the wayside.

The restoration of some funding for arts and culture in recent B.C. provincial budgets has helped cover shortfalls for local arts companies. But that financial support still falls well short of where it was before gaming grants – the lifeblood of many non-profit community groups – were drastically reduced in 2009 by the Liberal government.

Saanich Peninsula arts organizations have suffered. The Sidney Classical Orchestra, now in its 19th season, had to put its productions on hold, cancelling its 2009-10 season because of the funding cuts. Since then, the orchestra has slowly been rebuilding and has been constructing concerts again for the past two seasons.

In some instances, paid staff at local arts groups have worked for free to help bridge the funding gap. Other organizations, including the Victoria Foundation, have stepped in to help fill the void. The Sidney and North Saanich Memorial Park Society, and the Sidney Concert Society recently received grants to help their programs reach out to youth in the community.

Unlike larger companies, which can attract mainstream sponsorships and audiences, these groups often take creative risks and produce harder-edged, thought-provoking material that challenges audiences.

To avoid giving a financial boost to these companies is to jeopardize valuable threads in the creative, cultural and ethnic fabric of the region’s arts community. As Intrepid Theatre general manager Ian Case indicated this week, the inability to take risks on projects out of fear that audiences – and funding sources – may not accept them, hinders their creative flexibility.

One might argue that, as in business, the market should dictate which companies survive these tough economic times.

But these local arts groups are about much more than dollars and cents. They offer all of us opportunities to learn, grow and gain new understanding of the world around us.

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