December 17, 2015
Visual Artists Newfoundland and Labrador – Canadian Artists’ Representation (VANL-CARFAC) Appalled and Dismayed by Cuts to Arts and Culture by the City of St. John’s
On Monday, December 14, the City of St. John’s approved a three year budget that cuts arts, tourism, and sports grants by 50 per cent and suspends the city’s annual art procurement fund of $20,000 until 2018.
The City of St. John’s has acknowledged and highlighted the importance of the arts to tourism, quality of life, the economy, and our identity as a culturally rich, diverse, and progressive city. The City’s own economic development plan explicitly emphasizes the arts as one of the five key platforms that are necessary for the city’s growth. These budget cuts are moves that threaten to jeopardize that progress on all fronts.
The ways in which the arts act as an economic driver is well documented.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2010, culture industries in Newfoundland and Labrador accounted for 1.6% ($424 million) of total GDP in the provincial economy while sports industries contributed $49 million (or 0.2%) to total provincial GDP (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/13-604-m/2015079/eco-eng.htm).
It is safe to say, the return on investment in the arts is one of the highest in the City’s budget. Suspending the City’s art procurement program to save a mere $20,000 in municipal coffers sends a profound message to the public that the City does not value the arts. It is a small amount but is important income that allows our hard working, St. John’s artists to continue to create new work and to be able to afford to live and work in the provincial capital.
Arts and culture is an industry on which our city has built its brand and identity. Arts and culture attracts tourists; encourages private investment; and draws skilled labour to live and work in our province. Art also defines our cultural identity and reflects who we are as people. Weighing all of these benefits against the fraction of the budget earmarked for arts funding, it is clear that artists punch well above their weight by not only paying for themselves, but as core, economic drivers.
These cuts are not fiscally prudent and are not culturally responsible.
VANL-CARFAC is a not-for-profit arts advocacy organization that is tasked with overseeing the general health of the visual arts sector in Newfoundland and Labrador. We can say, unequivocally, that this budget will have ongoing and far-reaching negative effects upon our artists’ ability to live and work in St. John’s, and so, we strongly urge the St. John’s City Council to reconsider these cuts and to reaffirm their commitment to our cultural sector and to the city’s future. We would welcome any opportunity to discuss these issues directly with City representatives.
Chair, Board of Directors