June 6, 2014 8:09 pm
Updated: June 6, 2014 8:26 pm

Curtains at the Markham arts council could be closing for good


TORONTO – For many in Markham it’s a staple in the community.

The Markham Arts Council, also known as MAC, has been around since 2004, and was formed to connect the community with the arts, provide programs, and support artists in the city.

“We have artists come to our office everyday – can you help me with a grant, can you tell me where to look, are you doing any shows,” said Helen Argiro, former Executive Director of MAC.

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Argiro was the executive director of MAC for the past three years, but was recently  laid off due to a lack of funding. It is this funding issue that is what will determine whether or not MAC will be able to continue to keep its doors open, or be forced to draw the curtain.

Currently MAC gets about $19,000 from the City of Markham as a funding grant. But the chair of MAC, Jane Milrose argues that is just not enough for the Markham Arts Council to keep its programs running.

“Our ideal budget is $150,00. I would say $118,000 covers operational costs and the support we have of our subcommittees. There is many that we support and are very proud of,” said Milrose.

Markham at the Movies is one such program that MAC supports and has been a thriving addition to the arts program for five seasons.

But one of the organizers says, if MAC closes so too will Markham at the Movies.

Global News decided to compare the numbers between Toronto and Markham. On the top end, Etobicoke Arts gets $375,000. On the lower end, East End Arts receives $110,000.

“We have been the lowest funded arts council and lowest staff for a decade now,” said Argiro.

Global News spoke with Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti who says he understands MAC’s situation and is willing to offer some assistance.

“I am also in favor of helping them out in some way but it may not be through tax dollars. I’ve talked to them about holding a Mayor’s gala for next year to raise some money for them,” said Scarpitti.

To try and prevent the doors from closing this coming August, MAC has an online petition going. So far they have well over a 100 signatures and growing, one of which is from renowned author Margaret Attwood.

MAC says they do have a plan to generate more money in the future beyond donations and city funding. They are currently in the works of developing an online page called Lava Lab. The page acts like facebook for artists.

“There will be competitions, there will be curated competitions for visual artists. There will be literary competitions…. where artists can get recognition, where artists can collaborate. It will be a place where gallery owners can look for new talent and emerging talent,” said Agrio.

But the project will take about 2 to 3 years to really take off and generate money, but according to both Milrose and Argiro, it will will help a great deal financially.

“It would be a shame to pull the plug now when we are really on a positive road,” said Milrose.

On Monday June 9th, MAC will be presenting its case before Markham City council will hopes that they will get approval for more funding, rather than face the reality of closing its doors.


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