A Win for the Arts: City Will Not Reduce Funding
By Laura Mooney, Arts Editor
As a method to attempt to save money for the city of Prince George, it was announced on 24 February 2014 that city funding for local arts and culture organizations was potentially going to be cut by $15,000 over the course of three years. While this may not seem like an obscene amount, to a group that is already struggling to get a decent amount of funding, this meant a huge toll would be taken on each and every arts organization in town.
In an interview with the Prince George Citizen, Prince George Symphony Arts general manager Marnie Hamagami said she was completely taken by surprise at the news, and said the first thing to be cut would be park based events such as “Pops in the Park,” a free outdoors concert featuring music from popular films. Many of these free, family based events would have to be the first to go if the funding was to be cut, since there would be no way to find enough money to put on these events if the support from the city was not available.
Hamagami, along with others involved with the city’s arts and culture organizations, had been informed that there would be changes to how they received their social and cultural grants, but nothing was ever mentioned of a complete funding decrease. The city had planned to decrease the amount of money given to the Prince George Symphony Orchestra and Theatre Northwest from a total 13% of their annual income to only 10%, which in theory would free up $27,000 for other non-profit organizations, according to the Citizen report. Luckily, the city chose not to reduce the money given to the two organizations and even increased the amount given to the third arts and culture organization, the Community Arts Council, from 8% to match the 13% given to the other groups. These percentages were guaranteed to be secure for the next three years. This means that the organizations will be receiving an increase to their funding, with a total of over $43,000 being given to them by 2016.
In some ways, this approval to fund arts organizations is a message that the city of Prince George is shifting its focus, albeit slowly, in the direction of a more pro-art based community for the city. This, along with the recent approval of the community arts center, shows that at least some member of city council still believe that Prince George could handle being a cultural hub for the north, and that it is no longer as niche of a market as it has been in past years. It shows that even though the arts have a certain stigma with much of the city’s patrons, there are still those who are fighting to put more culture in a town where art has not been the main focus ,and that maybe, with the changing times, it should start to be.