'It's a start:' Council approves $2M boost for 10 struggling arts groups

Posted by Annalise Klingbeil on 31 July 2017

Crews work on the exterior of Old City Hall in downtown Calgary, Alta., on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. The facility, which opened in 1911, is undergoing a $34 million renovation to restore its degrading sandstone walls. Lyle Aspinall/Postmedia Network 


Ten longtime arts groups in Calgary that have watched their revenues dramatically decrease amid economic gloom will receive an immediate $2-million boost from the city.

On Monday, council voted 13-2 in favour of dipping into the city’s rainy-day fund to give $2 million in bridge funding to help the 10 arts organizations stay afloat amid declining donations and corporate sponsorships.

“Really, the bridge funding is about getting people through this while we think about whether we need to increase the funding in the long-term,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

Councillors Sean Chu and Joe Magliocca voted against the relief that will be split between Alberta Ballet, Calgary Opera, Folk Festival Society, National Music Centre, Alberta Theatre Projects, Theatre Calgary, Glenbow Museum, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, One Yellow Rabbit and Theatre Junction Grand.  

“You’ve got thousands of people losing jobs and then we only support certain groups. That just doesn’t seem right,” said Ward 4 Coun. Chu of his no vote.

The so-called “cornerstone arts organizations” have long relied on Calgary’s once strong corporate sector for funding, with corporate sponsorships and private donations previously making up 38 per cent of their revenues and the city contributing 3.5 per cent of revenues.  

In recent years, the 10 arts groups have seen a 25 per cent drop in individual donations, a 30 per cent decrease in corporate donations and sponsorships, and watched as money raised through special events and fundraisers decreased 48 per cent.

That’s forced the 10 groups, which account for more than half of all full-time arts jobs in Calgary, to cut expenses, reduce jobs, chop programs and incur debt. 

Ward 11 Coun. Brian Pincott said Monday’s funding promise is a needed first step for organizations that have reached a crisis point.

“(These arts organizations) are teetering. This $2 million is a start. It’s not a cure. It’s not going to get us beyond this year,” Pincott said. “We have to seriously talk about how we are going to value and support our arts organizations appropriately.” 

Support for emergency funding for Cornerstone arts groups passed Council. Thanks for your advocacy @CalgaryArtsDev


What about 1Ks of Calgarians who lost their jobs without subsidies? We should all speak up for them instead.  https://twitter.com/annaliseak/status/892053966976040961 …