$2M in funding for 10 Calgary arts groups will ‘put wind under our wings’

Members of the Alberta Ballet are seen in this undated handout.
Members of the Alberta Ballet are seen in this undated handout. HO, Leiland R.W. Charles/ THE CANADIAN PRESS

Calgary city council has approved a $2-million cash injection for 10 cornerstone arts groups in the city.

Council voted 13 to two in favour of the motion, with Coun. Sean Chu and Coun. Joe Magliocca the only holdouts.

Alberta Ballet artistic director Jean Grand-Maître told News Talk 770 Monday that he believed the funding would give arts organizations like his “wind under our wings.”

“The tickets that people purchase only finance a small portion of the real cost of producing art and so, for all of us, it’s going to be going directly to what I call ‘survival mode,’” he said, “to help us continue to create and to be there for the cultural fabric of the city for decades to come.”

Grand-Maître said arts organizations like his help to attract tourism.

Story continues below advertisement

“I think that our survival also helps the survival of a huge part of the economy.”

Councillor Brian Pincott called the extra funding “a start.”

“It’s not a cure,” he said. “It is not going to get us beyond this year. We have to seriously talk about how we are going to value and support our arts organizations appropriately.”

Coun. Pincott said Calgary is among the cities that contribute the least amount of funding to the arts.

The 10 cornerstone arts organizations slated to receive funding include Theatre Calgary, Alberta Ballet and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. These organizations account for about half of all full-time jobs in the city’s art sector.

Earlier in July, the city’s manager of culture, Sara Iley, said the organizations had experienced significant losses in ticket sales and corporate sponsorship as a result of the economic downturn.

Pincott reiterated that sentiment on Monday, saying Calgary has “reached a crisis point” and that corporate sponsorship and donations for arts organizations have “dried up.”

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Monday he believed council made the right decision in approving the funding, but balked at a larger funding injection of $3.7 million.

Story continues below advertisement

That was voted down on July 18, with the mayor casting the deciding vote.

“If they come with a request for another million or two million dollars annually, that’s something council could consider,” he said.

Grand-Maître said he was surprised that Coun. Evan Woolley had put forward the motion to increase the funding, and that it highlighted how desperate the need for arts funding really is.

“It’s going to come at a very good moment with all the challenges we’re facing economically,” he added.

“But, it’s going to also help us develop a dialogue with the city to see what we can do in the future for emerging artists, major forming arts organizations and venues like the National Music Centre… to make sure that, when people get off the plane at the Calgary Airport, they just don’t disappear to Banff and Jasper, but they stop in the city because they know there’s great arts and festivals here to enjoy.”

With files from Aurelio Perri

Sponsored content