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No student performers means no arts grants

When the government outlined what sorts of arts groups would be eligible to receive funding from provincial gaming grants this year, it was a relief to some organizations.

The Ministry of Housing and Social Development said that adult arts and culture groups need not apply, but youth arts and culture groups would be eligible, and that a new subcategory had been created especially for museums, fairs and festivals. The province has allocated $120-million in gaming grants - money from the province's gambling operations - with $11.5-million for arts and culture.

But it appears things aren't that cut and dried for professional arts festivals or arts organizations that cater to children.

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Kids' arts groups are hearing that without active youth participation, they are ineligible for the gaming grants this year, even if the work is intended for a young audience and presented in schools.

Take Green Thumb Theatre: The award-winning theatre company for young people has in the past received $46,500 in annual gaming grants for its programming: $10,000 for its main-stage productions and $36,500 to support extensive provincewide touring.

But general manager Ivan Habel has been told by the ministry that without youth participation, his theatre company won't get that money.

"No dice," Mr. Habel said Tuesday. "It comes as a real worry in terms of how we're going to continue to service the broader B.C. community over the year."

Mr. Habel has been told to refocus his grant application to highlight a program called the Edge, which involves student performers. While he is hopeful that Green Thumb will be able to get some funding from the ministry to help the Edge, he is distraught at the thought of not being able to bring theatre for youth to remote parts of the province.

The news on the festival front is equally baffling for arts administrators. According to the NDP's arts and culture critic, professional arts festivals are not eligible for the gaming money. Spencer Chandra Herbert says the ministry has told him that only community cultural festivals are eligible.

"I said, okay, what does that mean? And they said something like [a cowboy festival]can apply, but Fringe Festivals, dance festivals, writers' festivals - those don't count as community cultural celebrations."

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This has the people who run arts festivals in B.C. confused and frustrated.

"I would assume when they said fairs and festivals, our festival would be eligible," noted David Jordan, executive director of the Vancouver Fringe Festival, which is on a three-year contract from the ministry and therefore will receive funding this year. "We have been at it now for 25 years. But I guess they've got a different idea of what a festival is."

Linda Tanaka, artistic director of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, edited her application to highlight the fact that her festival offers a Little Folks area and free admission for kids. But she says the ministry has told her she will not receive the funding.

"I don't get it," Ms. Tanaka said. "If they're trying to attract tourists to the province, it doesn't make any sense. I don't know how organizations will keep going if they keep doing this."

Repeated requests for clarification from the ministry on Tuesday were not answered.

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About the Author
Western Arts Correspondent

Marsha Lederman is the Western Arts Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver. She covers the film and television industry, visual art, literature, music, theatre, dance, cultural policy, and other related areas. More

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