They don't hate us, they don't care
While researching an article a couple of years ago, I interviewed someone who said the following:
Culture in BC is for kiddies and Sunday afternoon watercolourists.
He meant, of course, that the government – and by extension those who vote for them – believe that culture is something parents enrol their kids in to make them more “well rounded” or a hobby for the well heeled or the under-employed.
I’ve been haunted by this quote since the BC Liberals started their relentless assault on our cultural industries but it was rammed home by two recent articles. The first by Marsha Lederman was in yesterday’s Globe and Mail. While adult culture organizations are now excluded from the revised Gaming program, provision had been made to support “youth arts and culture groups”. Lederman reveals that by “youth” the Government means specifically those organizations who work directly with young people. This excludes, for example, Green Thumb – one of our most successful, relevant theatre companies – from applying because they create work for young people rather than, say, teach acting classes for toddlers.
The second, related article was something David Jordan, Executive Director of the Vancouver International Fringe Festival, posted on the Festival’s site. Jordan quotes from a conversation that MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert had with Gaming that confirms that professional arts festivals will not be eligible for funding under the new Gaming sub-category of Fairs, Festivals, and Museums. I suspect if you wanted to put on a block party or have a face-painting festival that the money will flow (with a special appearance by your local BC Liberal MLA, I’m sure).
The truth is that we live in a province that to this day believes that entrepreneurship is about cutting down trees, off-shore drilling and fish farms. We have leadership – and not just political but also industrial and civic – who are simply not interested in culture. If they want that stuff, they’ll go to New York or London or maybe even Toronto. These are people who lack imagination.
They are not cutting back on culture because they hate us. They are cutting back on culture because, even worse, they just don’t care. And, as much as this pains me to say it, I don’t see much interest in culture coming from either side of the political spectrum in this province (Chandra Herbert, naturally, the great exception – but he must get awfully lonely at times).
BC is no longer a backwater; Vancouver is no longer a “provincial” city. Unfortunately, no one’s told the people who run this province or those who aspire to run it.