Money money money

Many independent activist arts collectives have always found ways to get things done with little or no funding.  When you challenge corporate influence, having some of their financial influence help you out in some way is, to put it mildly, unlikely and in many cases unwanted.  Who wants to take money from a system you oppose.  The infringement festival, for example has a strict code of who can and can’t sponsor their event.

The next, most logical type of funding to try and get are government grants for artists.  These aren’t that easy to come by in general and even less likely for artists whose work challenges.  Still, every now and then a miracle does occur, like in 2004 when OTL’s Car Stories got $20 000 from the Canada Council for the Arts.

All arts funding in Canada came under fire just before the last election when the Harper government decided to make significant cuts to key programs and transfer the money to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.  This prompted quite a bit of protest which was sometimes merged with the more general anti-Harper sentiment.  Here’s a video that circulated at the time:

Now that they’ve gone through the experience of almost losing their government, the Conservatives have thrown some spending into their budget and yes, some of it is on the arts.

Is it enough?  Does the budget really recognize “the importance of our artistic institutions and the role they play in Canadians’ lives” as it says in a recent Canadian Conference of the Arts Bulletin?  Jane Needles, Executive Director of the Quebec Drama Federation (QDF) isn’t sure.  In a recent News Bulletin, she went through where there will be funding and where there won’t and questioned, as many others are, whether any of this funding is actually new.  She also pointed out that “the response from the Minister that no matter what is done the artists are going to complain anyway indicates that we have a Minister who clearly does not understand the reality of working in the arts and all of the associated concerns and problems faced by our milieu.”

Following the États généraux du théâtre professionnel, The Conseil québécois du théâtre (CQT) is calling for a letter-writing campaing to members of the house of commons, asking them to re-inject money into the areas where funding has been cut.  Both the CQT and the QDF are asking the Quebec government to put more money into the Conseil des arts et lettres (CALQ) budget and are encouraging people to write letters as well.

Without government funding, some arts organizations just close up shop, while others get creative and find new ways to achieve their goals such as fundraisers, personal donations and plain old doing it on the cheap.   A good example of this happened in 2006, when Theatre 400, a Nova Scotia group planning a re-enactment of Lescarbot’s Theatre of Neptune in New France, closed shop because they were turned down for two Canada Council grants.  OTL had applied for Canada Council funding as well for Sinking Neptune, a project challenging the racism and pro-colonial attitude in Lescarbot’s work and the Eurocentricity found in doing a celebratory re-enactment.  OTL was rejected as well, but instead of scrapping the project, took the 10 hour drive and did the counter-performance to the (now-cancelled) official version in Anapolis Royal anyways.

While drive and motivation along with creative minimal funding can make an activist theatre project happen, a bit of cold hard cash really goes a long way.  It’s sad that our government has decided to turn it’s back on artists and instead decide to fund it’s own image by transferring money to a huge corporate spectacle that should be able to fund itself.

One Response to “Money money money”

  1. OTL Blog » Blog Archive » I want my CBC Says:

    […] conservatives have already proved that they’re not afraid to cut funding to artists and are only willing to backpedal when their move loses them crucial votes in Quebec.  They’ve […]

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