The arts community is ecstatic over a B.C. government boost to youth arts initiatives announced last week.
BC Creative Futures, a new three-part strategy to support the creative sector, was announced by Bill Bennett, Minister for Community, Sport and Cultural Development, and Kootenay East MLA, on Thursday, January 31.
“We are giving the BC Arts Council the greatest amount of money ever, in their history. As a province, we are funding arts and culture at a level higher than ever before,” he told the Townsman.
BC Creative Futures will contribute $6.25 million to the BC Arts Council, which will deliver new and expanded programs targeted at young British Columbians.
The Creative Youth Initiatives Program received $2 million. This new program will allow the BC Arts Council to do things like support Aboriginal artists working with young people, increase youth attendance at events featuring professional artists, and encourage innovative projects by emerging artists.
The After School Sport and Arts Initiative, which received $1 million, will allow the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to help youth at risk with activities including dance, music, painting and story-writing.
The Artists in Education Program, allotted $1 million, helps the BC Arts Council to triple the number of performances by artists in schools.
The Co-op Placement Program was given $1 million, which lets the BC Arts Council hire young artists to work on creative projects in their communities.
The Scholarship Program got a $750,000 injection, which means the Arts Council can triple the number of scholarships for post-secondary students studying dance, theatre, music, visual, literary and digital arts.
Finally, the Artists in the Classroom Program has another $500,000 so the BC Arts Council can fund artist residencies to support over 50 short-term hands-on arts projects for about 3,000 B.C. children each year.
“It’s a tremendous boost for the art industry in B.C.,” said Cranbrook artist Joseph Cross, a director of the BC Arts Council board.
“I really thank Bill Bennett for working on this and bringing it forward.”
The announcement increases the B.C. Arts Council’s government funding from $16.8 million to $24 million – a 43 per cent increase.
“It’s a big deal. All the people I’ve talked to at the BC Arts Council are just ecstatic.”
Cross added that the announcement was significant because it demonstrates the province’s support of the arts.
“One of the things that is really great is that the provincial government is recognizing the value that arts contributes to the province.”
PricewaterhouseCoopers has forecasted global spending of $1.9 trillion in entertainment and media markets by 2015.
“In British Columbia, we often celebrate our good fortune in being blessed with a wealth of abundant natural resources. Today, our government is celebrating our most abundant, precious natural resource, the wealth of imagination and creativity of our citizens,” said Bennett.
“I believe personally there is a very strong link between the success of the economy and how creative the population of a jurisdiction is. B.C. is already a very creative group of people, but this gets to people at an early stage of their lives and encourages them to participate in all different forms of artistic creativity.”
The funding announcement also dedicated $1 million to Creative B.C. to work with film and TV, digital media, music, publishing and other components of the creative economy to develop a broad strategy for the sector and identify new opportunities for the future.
It also includes the investment in a new visual, media and design facility at Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s Great Northern Way campus.