Calgary committee asks council to vote on $2M arts injection, rejects bid to increase amount

Calgary council is being asked to consider a $2-million cash injection for 10 cornerstone arts organizations, including the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Facebook / Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra

A city committee wants Calgary council to consider giving 10 prominent arts groups a $2-million injection, to help them weather the ongoing economic storm.

Councillor Evan Woolley had sought to increase the funding amount to $3.7 million, but the motion was voted down with Mayor Naheed Nenshi casting the deciding vote.

“I’m never in favour of giving people more money than they asked for,” Nenshi said during during a meeting of the priorities and finance committee Tuesday.

“I also think that, filling in the bridge between now and the end of the year, the $2 million should be sufficient to keep these companies going while they think about what their future holds.”

READ MORE: Calgary council asked to create economic development fund

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The 10 cornerstone arts organizations, which include Theatre Calgary, Alberta Ballet and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, account for about half of all full-time jobs in the city’s arts sector, according to the city’s manager of culture, Sarah Iley.

Iley said Tuesday those organizations experienced significant losses in ticket sales and corporate sponsorship because of the downturn.

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“We know that we’re losing a lot of people because of this economy,” said Colleen Smith, executive director at Theatre Calgary. “So for us, having an opportunity for more funds on an annual basis means we can invest more in building new audiences for the theatre.”

Iley said the extra funding isn’t about helping any one organization – but rather the community as a whole.

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“It’s really that the art sector is a city-building force. It’s vital to the success of the economy, to tourism and to a vital downtown.”

Alberta Ballet and Theatre Calgary both told News Talk 770 the extra funding would help bring Calgary closer to par with other major Canadian cities.

READ MORE: Corporate funds for Calgary arts drying up

“Most other major centres fund arts communities on a higher scale than Calgary,” Cindy Soderstrom said. “I think there is some really great art happening in Calgary, but we do have to really adapt in ways that other cities might not have to – because the funding is there.”

Soderstrom said there hasn’t been an increase in arts funding in Calgary in the last eight years and that her organization is feeling a financial crunch.

“If the entire city is hurting, we’re hurting as well.”

With files from Aurelio Perri

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