Municipal arts funding is yes!

The bustling economy has caused an influx of newcomers to Calgary, a phenomenon that has created great strain on the municipal government’s ability to maintain services without raising taxes. The population boom has also caused newfound demands on the city’s arts community, pushing their own fiscal resources to the limit. Fortunately for art lovers, Calgary’s city council has stepped up to the plate, pledging an additional $500,000 of funding for the arts.

The additional funding raises the budget for the Calgary Arts Development Authority to approximately $3.1 million for the upcoming year. CADA president Terry Rock says the funding will continue to benefit countless area organizations.

“It’s a huge range of the arts,” details Rock. “Everything from the Calgary Opera, the philharmonic, One Yellow Rabbit, the major professional companies down to the boys’ and girls’ choirs.”

The funding increase comes on the heels of a CADA-commissioned survey of local residents regarding arts funding. seventy-six per cent of Calgarians surveyed supported at least a 50 cent per capita increase in funding, while 67 per cent of respondents indicated they believe Calgary should be on par with the top three Canadian cities in terms of funding. Ward eight Alderman and CADA board member Madeleine King supports the funding increase.

“I think Calgarians are very proud of our city and want and expect us to be up there with the best,” King comments. “I think that it is absolutely essential if we want to be one of the economic drivers of North America; we have to have a vibrant cultural scene.”

Despite a constant demand for roads and infrastructure, the latest budget managed to find room for the CADA funding increase, as well as a $2 million upgrade to the Pumphouse Theatre and $236,000 in additional funds for the EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts. King notes that while the city’s budget is tight, increasing arts funding has a minimal effect on other areas.

“When you consider that each interchange costs between $20 and $100 million, the amount that we’re talking about for arts funding is a minute percentage of what goes on every single interchange,” notes King.

The funding upgrade comes during a boom period for Calgary theatre, one that has seen financial contributions from the private sector increase from 26 per cent of revenue in 2001 to an estimated 31 per cent this year. Comparatively, CADA contributes approximately 3.3 per cent. Rock credits some of the creative successes in the area to fiscal assistance from the private sector.

“The credit goes where the credit is due in a lot of those cases,” Rock says. “They’re stepping up. The downside is that when the economy turns around, that’s a big chunk of the budget to be at risk. We need to understand that it’s great, but it is risky. That’s why we’re starting to get our municipal level of support to be more in line with the bigger cities, to take away that risk.”

Rock says the influx of cash will allow CADA to continue to support vital cultural staples such as the Calgary International Film Festival and the Calgary Folk Music Festival. He notes the high profile festivals prominently showcase municipal funding being put to good use, both on a local and international scale.

“Some of the festivals really put us on the map,” Rock reflects. “Folk Fest is internationally known. In fact, it was named one of the 10 musical wonders of the world recently by the Globe and Mail.”

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