Two more arts funding controversies

Since we reported on reaction to arts funding in the Harper government’s most recent budget last week, a new controversy has sparked up.  It’s not over lack of funding for a particular area of the arts, but rather due to $25 million being spent on the Canada Prize for the Arts.

The problem?  After canceling PromArts and Trade Routes, two programs designed to help theatre companies, dance troupes and musicians take their art overseas, the Arts Prize, originally proposed by the founders of Tornonto’s Luminato Festival is an international competition open to artists around the world designed to bring artists from other countries to Canada by awarding them the prize money.

This has many unimpressed.  Opponents of the plan, while encouraged that some money will be going to the arts from the Harper conservatives at all, are dismayed that it won’t be going to Canadian artists.

It’s wonderful that there is $25 million being put into the arts sector,” The Quebec Drama Federation‘s Jane Needles told the CBC‘s Jian Ghomeshi on Q last Friday, “but to put it to international use when our own artists have trouble getting across the ocean now because of cuts to the Trade Routes program … this is a huge problem.”

They also point to the fact that it looks like public money is being given to the private sector.

Supporters of the Arts Prize disagree with the private sector allegation and are trying to characterize it as something that will put Canada on the international stage like Sweden’s Nobel Prize. In a move similar to the recent framing of the battle over the Plains of Abraham re-enactment, they are trying to cast opposition to the prize in the all-to-familiar Quebec versus English Canada (or in this case Toronto) discourse.

While some might argue that Harper seems more interested in promoting Canada by importing culture to it than by helping culture develop here, one way he could make this idea a progressive one would be to follow the example of the Freedom to Create Prize, a global award designed to promote artists fighting oppression recently awarded to Cont Mhlanga of Zimbabwe, and strongly encourage Canadians to take part in the competition.  Though that seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, south of the border, “…museums, theaters and arts centers…” are being singled out as areas of society that won’t be eligible for any of the economic stimulus money in an amendment to the Obama plan brought forth by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and approved by a vote of 73-24, including some prominent Democratic senators.  There is already an e-mail campaign underway and plans are being made for more action.

One Response to “Two more arts funding controversies”

  1. OTL Blog » Blog Archive » Federal money for the arts to match private money for the arts Says:

    […] when they replaced the Trade Routes program that helps Canadian artists travel abroad with an “Arts Prize” to be given out to artists from around the world by the people behind Toronto’s […]

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