C.O.W. finds arts tab steep

Council will not move forward with CRD arts development program

Sooke District council’s Committee of the Whole, at its March 7 meeting received a report relating to the Capital Regional District (CRD) Arts Development Program.

Initial sentiment among council members and interested onlookers appeared to be that the amount requested for “group one” involvement in the program is somewhat prohibitive.

The agenda item was led off by a summary outlining how council, on February 7 had directed staff to look into membership in the program.

All 13 Greater Victoria municipalities are welcome to take part in the effort, and Oak Bay, Highlands, Sidney, Victoria, Esquimalt, Metchosin, Saanich and View Royal are represented on the CRD’s Arts Development Council.

Saanich councillor Vicki Sanders chairs the arts body and provided answers to a number of questions from the Sooke News Mirror on March 11.

First, a bit of background on the topic of program funding:

“The formula for group 1 funding is the same one used for all the CRD services;” informed Sanders via email, “50 per cent population and 50 per cent assessment. The odd thing about the CRD Arts service is that in addition to the group 1 participation a second tier was created to give municipalities the opportunity to come into the service at a low funding level to basically ‘get their feet wet.’ The intent was that they would eventually become full funders. View Royal is an example of having participating at a reduced level for a year before they became a group 1 participant.”

The Arts Committee has one municipal councillor seat for each participating municipality. There is room on the committee for the five municipalities that have not joined as participants.

As mentioned above, the report was presented to the Committee of the Whole as information, no specific, timely action relating to it was requested or expected.

The C.O.W., minus absent members Bev Berger and Dave Bennett, agreed the annual amount of $94,800 was high considering the lack of certainty that local artists/groups would benefit directly from it.

The money goes into one pot, the chairperson’s email went on to inform, and “there is no opportunity to influence the distribution of funds. The Arts Committee comprised of the municipal councillors appoints volunteer members to the Arts Advisory Council. The Arts Advisory Council is responsible for adjudicating the arts grants and making recommendations to the Arts Committee.”

Councillor Sheila Beech verbalized her thoughts on the issue on March 11.

“Basically, what we feel happens most of the time (with regional grant awards) is that it goes into the Belfry and the McPherson Theatre and so on. Out here we wouldn’t get very much, and that’s a lot of money to spend. I don’t believe we’re going to pay $94,000 to be part of that,” said Beech, “because we could take that money and use it in our own area.”

The second tier is another avenue for municipalities thinking about getting in on the regional  arts program – where they pay $500 annually but it leads to committing to the full amount after about five years.

In time Councillor Beech said she’d like to see arts patronage become “even more grandiose” in the district but, in the shorter term, “even $94,000 would be helpful for some things that are happening here.”

Marion DesRochers, treasurer and past president of the Sooke Community Arts Council attended the C.O.W. meeting and later concurred with Councillor Beech.

“That amount of money, to put in yearly,” she said, “…are we ever going to get any of it back?”

DesRochers touched upon the unique nature of the community.

“I’ve tried to explain to Victoria and the BC Arts Council that Sooke is not a adjunct of Victoria. I’ve quoted this many times to them, that the only thing we have that connects us with Victoria is the road. Really, we are an entity of our own and we should be considered that way.”

Mayor Janet Evans’ feelings on the matter were consistent with the overall sentiments expressed.

“I can see its value regionally,” said Evans of the CRD program, but we’ve got a great arts program out here, great people, so we can put something together with them.”

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