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Creative Calgary calls for $20M per year in funding for the arts

Click to play video 'Calgary’s controversy over public art' Calgary’s controversy over public art
WATCH UPDATE: The city of Calgary has suspended its public art policy in the wake of a few controversial projects. It's not the only Canadian city that struggles with similar projects. Reid Fiest reports.

A coalition of Calgary arts organizations wants council to allocate 0.7 per cent of the city’s operating budget – or about $20 million – to the arts.

About 100 Creative Calgary members showed up on Monday for the final council meeting ahead of the Oct. 16 election.

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“You could say it’s more than doubling what they currently spend, or you could say it’s actually funding what they should have been funding for the past two decades,” said Irfan Rawji, a board member with Creative Calgary.

The group has released an open letter to council candidates calling for an increase in funding, which Rawji says would set Calgary up as a leader in the arts.

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Currently, only about 0.3 per cent of the city’s operating budget is spent on the arts.

“It would catch us up to cities, like Vancouver, that right now tout the fact that they lead in creative industries.”

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Monday he is pleased with the initiative and campaign, but won’t commit to the percentage Creative Calgary is asking for.

“As I’ve said from the very beginning, I don’t believe in input-based measures,” he said. “I don’t believe that saying a certain number, you know, ‘It will be this much per capita, or this percentage of what we spend here,’ is the right way to go.”

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Creative Calgary released an open letter to candidates asking for 0.7 per cent of the city’s operating budget to be spent on the arts.
Creative Calgary released an open letter to candidates asking for 0.7 per cent of the city’s operating budget to be spent on the arts. Aurelio/ News Talk 770

The mayor said he does support an increase in arts funding.

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“I don’t think that should be based on how much other people spend, or arbitrary numbers.”

Creative Calgary said in the letter that for every dollar spent on the arts, $1.90 is returned in direct spending. It said Calgary sees another $2.60 in increased tourism benefits.

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Rawji said the arts can be an economic driver that will help bring jobs to the city.

“We need to be on equal footing with Vancouver and places like Austin, Texas, if we want to actually attract the types of jobs that this city is trying to attract from the likes of Amazon.”

Rawji says the campaign won’t endorse candidates for office. Instead, the goal is to have all candidates sign the pledge because “it makes economic sense.”