‘We’ve taken the guts out of her, b’ys’

Tara
Tara Bradbury
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Artists and arts workers express concern over recent budget cuts; will unite to lobby government

Members of the local arts and culture community met at Eastern Edge Gallery in St. John’s Tuesday evening to discuss cuts to the sector in this year’s provincial budget, and to plan how to lobby the government for the cuts to be reversed.
— Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Members of the local arts community were united when it came to the picture they painted of the provincial government at a meeting last night.

At a public forum regarding arts workers in this province, presented jointly by Eastern Edge Gallery and Visual Artists Newfoundland and Labrador, members of the arts and culture sectors expressed their frustration over the recent cuts announced in last month’s provincial budget.

The meeting, held at Eastern Edge, was attended by artists, craftspeople, archivists, employees of The Rooms and arts supporters. All agreed the current government doesn’t seem to grasp the value of arts and culture in the province.

“It’s like having a beautiful-looking car with nothing inside,” said one man. “We’ve taken the guts out of her, b’ys.”

Cuts announced on March 26 included a $1-million decrease for The Rooms, which led to the elimination of 13 staff members.

A visual arts program at the Stephenville campus of College of the North Atlantic, the only place in the province to study ceramics and metal working full-time, was also cut.

Some arts workers who escaped the layoffs chose not to attend the forum out of fear of speaking out, the crowd was told.

“Over the last couple of weeks there’s been a genuine sense of depression,” Mary MacDonald of Eastern Edge told the crowd. “(Cuts like these) shake our confidence in our own self-image and make us wonder what’s next, and not in a good way.”

Mireille Eagan had been curator of Canadian art at The Rooms, and one of four curators let go after the budget was brought down.

She told the crowd she’s worried about what the future holds for the facility.

“I’m concerned for the ability of The Rooms arts gallery and other organizations in The Rooms to move forward,” she said, describing current resources at the facility as just the “bare bones.”

“We are not able to do mundane functions. Basic paperwork is not possible,” she said.

Dave Hopley of Living Planet addressed the group as a member of the local business community, while a statement from St. John’s city Coun. Sheilagh O'Leary, who was unable to attend, was read.

O'Leary, an artist and a mayoral candidate in the upcoming municipal election, said she was distressed “to see the negative impact of the shortsightedness of this provincial budget not only in the arts but in many important service areas including environment, our justice system and in our municipal operating costs.”

Visual artists Phillippa Jones and Marlene Creates also gave short presentations before the event was opened up to the floor, each stressing their shock and disappointment and speaking of the ways the cuts will affect the arts and culture sectors.

Creates said she was informed days ago by government staff of a

10 per cent cut to the Provincial Cultural Economic Development Program (CEDP), which assisted individual artists.

A market access and export program was eliminated entirely,

she said.

Individual artists can no longer apply for funding through CEDP, and it’s unlikely the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council will be able to provide the same kind of support, given its budget was not increased and the judging criteria for the grants rests in terms of artistic merit rather than economic potential.

“There are budget cuts, but there’s been no open consultation with the arts community, none that I know of, and no input from artists about decisions being made which affect us,” Creates said.

Many of those who spoke expressed the belief the provincial government is interested in quantitative culture rather than the qualitative nature of what the arts community does.

A combined effort to educate and lobby the government to reinstate programs is the only way for change to happen, speakers said time and again.

“We’ve had the same discussions (with government) over and over and over and over and over again,” said artist Tara Bryan. “The only way we are going to convince government to do anything  — we can’t do it as individuals. The only way we, as artists, have a hope in hell of convincing government of anything is do to it as a community.”

Tourism, Culture and Recreation Minister Terry French had been invited to take part in the meeting, but wasn’t present. The discussion was recorded with the intention of presenting it to him.

 

tbradbury@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

 

 

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic, The Rooms, Eastern Edge Gallery Visual Artists Newfoundland and Labrador Living Planet Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council

Geographic location: Stephenville

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Recent comments

  • Terry Rose
    April 11, 2013 - 21:23

    If an adult artist (18 and over) wants to travel to a conference, pay for it yourself, if there was a market for anything the artists are doing they should be able to thrive on their own. Do tax payers pay mechanics to attend conferences and travel, or grocery store workers. Health Care, youth services, justice should be a priority, the arts community can fund raise etc, taxpayers should not be paying for them.

  • hua mulan
    April 11, 2013 - 09:49

    this is the action plan brought unto us by the reformcon party of NL: * incapacity to grasp the value of arts and culture in the province... check! *unconscionable hatred of public servants , but an inability to hide their deeper loathing of artists...check! * attack, hack, slash rights "granted" to the non-noblesse by the magna carta * bestow cushy jobs n tax breaks in the millions to their 1% supporters. * roll in the muck of their 90 million $ slush fund behind billc29. * dine and wine with each other over the finest place settings like the noblesse they see themselves * experiencing that cold, cold chill each morning they look in their dorian grey mirrors

  • Scott
    April 10, 2013 - 12:01

    To call 13 hard working intelligent people is foolish, but to do it in such bad grammar and tone is the truly disgusting part of your response. Go home a play with your phonics kit, let the big people discuss reality. Do you not see how 13 families being financially supplied and not, as you seem to suggest suck off the system by being unemployed? Oh of course art is not a real job to you, your conception of art is a jumbled blur of Hollywood-stereotypes and culturally dark-aged notions pieced together with a lame, popsicle-stick house of intellect. When we all learn to be as empathetic as you, perhaps we can indeed be more entrepreneurial, you troglodyte.

  • N. Brace
    April 10, 2013 - 11:54

    Another cut to services that make up the whole picture of a thriving and living cultural experience that is a huge part of the tourism landscape that we have already spent millions on in promotion. Boy, won't all those tourists be happy when there is nothing here that was advertised!!. Talk about baby and bathwater!

  • Ed Fry
    April 10, 2013 - 11:01

    What foolishness. If people want to be artists, they can do it on their own time and on their own dime. We are better off spending money on healthcare and looking after our seniors. Cut ALL arts funding and let artists become entreneurs rather than remaining the entitled, government-teat-sucking leeches many of them are now. As for the Rooms, it could operate with far less staff and run much reduced hours to save money. In fact, it should perhaps only open during tourist season and occasionally during the rest of the year. We cannot continue to lavish money on these facilities while our debt grows by a half-BILLION dollars per year.

  • Audrey Feltham
    April 10, 2013 - 10:58

    It is particularly disturbing that they have cut the CEDP program while having the face to tell artists that have not made cuts to programs that provide them with sustainable dollars. That CEDP program allowed people like myself, who are professional artists intent on enlarging their geographic outreach, to secure funding to attend international residencies such as I have done recently. I can do longer do this because I can't afford to pay the cost of accommodation, travel, food, supplies etc. in an international market for extended periods of time. It really is a shame, and means that the government has effectively told the artists in this province that they no longer value their export potential. In addition the cuts to the budget at the rooms means that when the time comes around for the yearly Government PRocurement, if it goes ahead at all, the budget will be massively hit. Again, such short sightedness on the part of the government. I distinctly remember sitting at a table with Danny Williams with the Cultural Blue Plan was introduced. His comment, word for word, was this. "Oil and gas will come and go; cultural is with us forever." Whatever happened this this party did a complete reversal?