We better make some noise!

Category: community 701
sophia bartholomew

sophia letterWrite a letter to the Premier. Really. Like, right now. Here’s his contact info. The changes announced by the provincial government on Wednesday are going to make it way more difficult for artists to do the vital cultural work they do across New Brunswick. We can’t let this happen. We have to make some noise.

Before 1991, provincial grant funding for artists and arts organisations was handled by a government department. This meant that arts funding decisions could be affected by changing governments and changing ministers, potentially compromising artists’ freedom of speech and subjecting grants to the bureaucratic workings of government, so… New Brunswick decided to adopt an arms-length funding model. Same as all the other provinces in Canada. Artists’ grants were handed over to The New Brunswick Arts Board (artsnb), with the intention of moving organizational grants over within a few years…. That never happened. Now they’re absorbing artists’ grants back into a government department, and undermining everything artsnb has worked so hard to build – including funding from private donors, use of government programs to support aboriginal art and artists, advocacy for the arts, and partnerships with arts boards in other provinces.

Dear Premier Gallant, CC. Minister Fraser

The Government of New Brunswick’s decision to abolish The New Brunswick Arts Board makes no sense. The province stands to lose the economic efficiency and enormous cultural impact of existing artsnb programs, compromising the livelihood of artists who work hard to make their New Brunswick communities great, and contributing to the trend of young, passionate New Brunswickers leaving the province. I have no reason to believe Minister Fraser’s promises to the contrary.

By definition it is not possible to maintain an arms-length jurying process in a government department. The Arts Board was founded 25 years ago for good reason. Returning to a Departmental funding model defies the better judgment of artists and arts organizers who use these programs to make their communities good places to live, and it defies the good sense of arms-length funding models used in every other province in Canada, and used federally through the Canada Council of the Arts.

Why would the Government of New Brunswick invest time and resources consulting with artists and arts organizers across the province over several years to develop a new Cultural Policy, only to disregard our expertise? When making decisions about what will best serve the cultural workers, why not listen to the population you claim to be serving?

As someone who works as an artist and organizer in the cultural sector and has dealt with both the Department of Tourism Heritage and Culture and with artsnb for the last three years, I have serious concerns about THC’s ability to provide funding to artists and arts organizations in a timely manner. In my experience, and in the experience of my peers, artsnb has effectively streamlined its applications, provided clear information about the application process to artists, and ensured a merit-based assessment of artistic work by a jury of peers. If the government’s concern really is in standardizing the application process, artsnb has proven its capacity to do this work. Given the government approvals and interdepartmental communication required of a government department, THC cannot hope to match them in this regard.

These changes are not going to save New Brunswickers any money. Money invested by the government in the arts is insignificant when compared to the funds invested in literally every other sector. The alleged $400,000 in savings will certainly be spent on government staffing, and otherwise lost through decreased efficiency. Culture in New Brunswick would be better served if the government would do the opposite thing and extend artsnb’s responsibilities to include the Art Bank and arts grants to organizations, which have remained under the jurisdiction of Tourism, Heritage and Culture.

Please understand that the recent changes to arts funding in New Brunswick will seriously undermine the development of arts and culture in the province. As a proud citizen of New Brunswick, I am asking you to reverse your decision.

Sincerely, sophia bartholomew

Write Your Own Letter: February 5, 2016| ShiftWork studio (384 Queen Street, third floor) | 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.| stamps, envelopes, and a letter template available

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