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Arts community worried about funding

The arts community didn’t get any real assurances about continued or increased government funding in the House of Assembly Tuesday, despite Minister Christopher Mitchelmore’s words about how much he values cultural industries.

In fact, one prominent member of the arts community said they’re girding for cuts.

Mitchelmore was responding to questions from NDP MHA Gerry Rogers in question period about whether the government will increase arts funding to the national average.

Meanwhile, up in the public galleries, several members of the arts community were watching, including Patrick Foran, managing producer of Artistic Fraud.

“The Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council distributes grant dollars on a peer-assessment basis — so the process couldn’t be better for distributing resources to the community — but that agency hasn’t seen a growth in its budget since 2009,” Foran said.

“Naturally, when we saw the word culture removed last week, that set off alarm bells.”

Foran was referring to the government’s decision to axe “culture” from the name of the newly created department of Tourism, Industry and Innovation. After an outcry from the arts community, Mitchelmore put “culture” back into the department’s name.

“Well, words matter, so it is meaningful, but what is more meaningful is empowering those words by ensuring that there are programs that are properly resourced and that there are personnel with the right industry knowledge and experience leading those initiatives,” Foran said.

“It would be great if the minister could reassure concerns in the community that there will be resources and talent behind the initiatives.”

When it comes to money, Mitchelmore didn’t offer any promises, but he did say the government generally supports art.

“We certainly contribute as a government even in very difficult financial times to the tune of $18.2 million in the tourism and culture division of the department, but we also recognize the value and the accolades that our arts and cultural community are achieving and we do work with them quite significantly on a number of internationalization projects, on ways of which they can export,” he said.

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