OK, what’s in the other hand?

After an outcry by arts groups, mainly by Vancouver’s wonderful Alliance for Arts and Culture, it seems that the government types have reinstated the approximately $20 million in funding that only days ago they threatened to pull.

Not surprisingly, spokespersons for arts groups are a little skeptical, as again, this was money that had already been not only promised, but put in the pipeline. But I suspect, too, that many groups were cautiously optimistic about budgeting for that gaming money the grants come out of; the literary magazine where I volunteer on the board certainly was. And believe me, no one wants to be “dependent” on grants, and no one is sitting back waiting for a handout. Until you’ve been inside the (usually) cramped offices of a festival, a small magazine or theatre company, you have never seen so much done with a shoestring budget and if they’re lucky, some willing volunteers.

So yes, I get irked with the Philistine responses to the stories of these arts cuts:

  • Get a job!
  • If you were a “real” business, you’d be out of business!
  • Fund education and health care, not ballerinas and poems!

The first two, well, I think they require a whole other post to explain how cultural work is WORK and how public investment in it creates wealth down the road. To the third – no one denies health care and education are essential, along with clean water, parks and transportation and a million other things that are part of our commons. However, it’s time to lift those eyelids and realize that things like convention centers and Olympics are not. Those big projects on champagne budgets, and not social services and education and health care, are what has created massive holes in the public purse.

For now, though, let’s celebrate the small victory of how arts advocates speaking out for their cause in resulted in getting back what was promised all along.

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