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Proposed 10-per-cent cut would cost Toronto Arts Council $1-million

Greta Hodgkinson and Zdenek Konvalina in "Other Dances" Photo by

Bruce Zinger / National Ballet of Canada

Toronto museums and arts groups, who say they are already stripped to the financial core, see city hall's planned across-the-board, 10-per-cent cut to arts grants as potentially devastating.

The cut in city arts funding – the Ford administration has requested 10 per cent cuts from almost all its departments and agencies – would mean a roughly $1-million drop in Toronto Arts Council grants.

That's basically the same amount as the $1.2-million in total grants that it allocated to individual Toronto artists in 2010, according to the Toronto Arts Council's last annual report. Or a 10-per-cent cut also equals the $1.2-million in project grants provided to community arts and other arts projects that year. In total, the Toronto Arts Council allocated $10.3-million in grants in 2010.

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The cut would also entail a 10-per-cent (approximately $100,000) drop in the arts council's operating budget. The council already has to rely on volunteers in the arts community in order to adjudicate the cascade of around 1,600 or more applications a year.

"We already know that we are cut to the bone," said Toronto Arts Council executive director Claire Hopkinson. "This level of cuts would have an equal impact on the arts community as it would on the Toronto resident and arts lover. There would be no way to cushion that level of cuts."

According to the council and other arts organizations, arts and culture contribute $9-billion a year to Toronto's economy. In a statement Friday, the Art Gallery of Ontario added that every dollar invested by the city in arts organizations attracts an additional $17 from other private and public-sector sources. So less city funding can have a ripple effect on other arts funding.

In addition to arts council cuts, another funding envelope facing the planned 10-per-cent reduction is the city's Major Cultural Organizations program. Last year, the city granted $6-million to 10 major institutions. According to 2011 levels, a 10-per-cent cut would mean $114,860 less for the National Ballet of Canada, $113,400 less for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and so on.

The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, which received $135,980 from the city last year, has already made steep cuts during the economic downturn. "Programs and staff are the only two areas left, and there would be an impact," said Alexandra Montgomery, the museum's executive director.

"We have a board meeting next week, and the discussion will be how are we are going to deal with an expected decrease in funding – not only from the government, but from all sources, because it is a difficult time," she added.

Yet there's a sense among some that the proposed funding cuts are still far from certain as the city's budget process continues. The public gets a chance to make deputations to the budget committee on Dec. 7 and Dec. 8, and the budget package will be put to a full council vote in January.

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"The nature of our industry is that we are always planning for flexibility, whatever the situation," said Canadian Stage artistic and general director Matthew Jocelyn. "A show could sell more tickets or fewer tickets. Our very industry is so undependable in terms of our end-of-the-year revenue sources. So we are, by nature, flexible people."

"This said," he added, "we are not specifically saying that we are going to have a reduction of 10 per cent of our budget from the city. By no means are we going to factor that in at the moment. This is something that has yet to be voted on and is simply an error in judgment on the part of the city, if that [the planned cut]ends up happening."

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Guy Dixon is a feature writer for The Globe and Mail. More

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