Only connect: Funding art during a Depression

Rothko at Tate Modern, London, UK
Rothko at Tate Modern, London, UK

I find it downright puzzling that the British Columbia government has decided to cut more than 85 per cent of provincial arts funding in the next two years. Admittedly, there is indeed an economic “recession”, but I propose that now is the time to invest in cultural workers, not dismantle what has lovingly and laboriously been built up.

The provincial government’s cuts to the Arts are a very shortsighted strategy, since the arts are literally a money magnet. According to statistics from the Alliance for Arts and Culture, 5.2 billion dollars is raised by British Columbia’s arts, culture, and heritage industries alone.

Anyone who has travelled knows that cities such as London, Paris, and New York are not visited for their scenery or business connections alone; their theatre, visual arts, literature, design, and fashion are at the core of what makes them such vibrant places in which to visit, live, and work.

In the United States, the Federal Government is actually increasing their investment to the Arts, in order, as stated in their Arts and Culture policy, “to remain competitive in the global economy”. Their policy includes increasing funding to the National Endowment for the Arts, promoting cultural diplomacy with other nations, and publicly championing the importance of art education. Studies in Chicago have domonstrated that test scores improved faster for students enrolled in low-income schools that link arts across the curriculum than scores for students in schools lacking such programs.

During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the United States’ Federal Arts Project funded out-of-work artists and provided art for non-federal government buildings: schools, hospitals, libraries and the like. The work was divided into art production, art instruction and art research, providing¬†an income for out-of-work artists such as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Louise Nevelson, and Philip Guston. ¬†These artists went on to make history. Imagine a world where these talented individuals weren’t given a leg-up at a crucial period in their development?

Interestingly, these artists are now shown in major museums which attract visitors from around the world to the cities in which these museums are situated.

I strongly recommend the BC Government rethink their devastating cuts to the arts, and I propose that now is in fact the time to invest in the arts, fostering the work they have already begun with the exciting Cultural Olympiad.

Premier Campbell & the Arts
Premier Campbell & the Arts (by Raeside)