Arts groups tackling crisis

Government funding for the arts, during tough economic times, is one of the first things to fall by the wayside.

Government funding for the arts, during tough economic times, is one of the first things to fall by the wayside.

The restoration of some funding for arts and culture in recent B.C. provincial budgets has helped cover shortfalls for local arts companies. But that financial support still falls well short of where it was before gaming grants — the lifeblood of many non-profit community groups — were drastically reduced in 2009 by the B.C. Liberal government.

The Victoria Foundation helped financially stabilize larger local arts organizations after the cuts came. But smaller companies — those with budgets under $1 million — were left to scramble to make ends meet.

Well-known organizations such as Intrepid Theatre, Ballet Victoria, Kaleidoscope Theatre and Theatre Inconnu, cut expenses to the bone to keep their companies afloat.

The 11 cash-strapped organizations that recently banded together for a discussion with the Victoria Foundation, on new potential funding options, represent a wide range of artistic and cultural endeavours.

Unlike larger companies, which often attract mainstream sponsorships and audiences, these groups often take creative risks and produce harder-edged, thought-provoking material that challenges audiences.

To avoid giving a financial boost to these companies is to jeopardize valuable threads in the creative, cultural and ethnic fabric of the region’s arts community. As Intrepid general manager Ian Case indicated this week, the inability to take risks out of fear that audiences — and funding sources — may not accept them, hinders their creative flexibility.

One might argue that, as in business, the market should dictate which companies survive.

But these local arts groups are about much more than dollars and cents. They offer all of us opportunities to learn, grow and gain new understanding of the world around us.