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Arts council requests more funding at City of Powell River meeting

Increase in contribution sought for grants and operations
MORE FUNDS: Powell River council for arts and culture president Karen Kamon recently provided city councillors a request for a new contribution agreement.

Powell River council for arts and culture is seeking more funding for its operation. Its president, Karen Kamon, outlined its strategic public art plan at the November 16 committee of the whole meeting.

Kamon said within a document that had been forwarded to councillors, there was a three-year financial plan and 10-year business plan.

She said the council’s current contribution agreement with the City of Powell River is $19,000 per year, including $10,000 in community arts and culture grants and $9,000 for the operational side and the public art program. The council is requesting a renewed agreement for the next three years to be increased to $85,000, said Kamon. This includes $15,000 for community arts and culture grants and $70,000 for the operational and public art program of the arts council and the arts centre.

“The arts council is asking for an increase of $66,000 in the contribution agreement renewal with the city,” said Kamon. “The increase is to provide community arts programming at the art centre public gallery, and will include staffing, public art programs, subsidized after-school programming for youth, accessible community programs for adults, and local artist opportunities.”

Kamon said renewal of the contribution agreement directly aligns with the strategic plan of the city.

“There has been no increase in consistent funding since 2010 for the arts council,” said Kamon. “The community arts and culture grant applications regularly exceed current funding. The arts council’s goal with the arts centre is to offer 365-day-a-year programming and access to arts and culture for the community. We want to make sure the access is no- or low-cost programming, so this ensures there are no financial barriers to access so people can enjoy public opportunities.

“This is similar to programming that is available at the museum, the visitor’s centre and the library. It’s really important for us – the core funding provides continuous leverage opportunities for provincial and federal grant applications. The increase in funding would put the arts council in a place with Tara O’Donnell, the city’s director of parks, recreation and culture, and working on the cultural plan and the public art policy.”

Kamon said the funding request is reflective of municipal funding for arts councils with galleries in towns that are similar in size to Powell River.

Councillor Jim Palm asked if the arts council wanted to hire staff for the facility the city is providing. Kamon said that was the case.

Councillor Rob Southcott said the arts centre is doing more than serving as an art gallery. He said he recently participated in a five-hour workshop there involved with grief work.

“I’m aware that the arts centre is doing a lot more than it used to,” said Southcott. “Art is a wealth of culture. I’m convinced we are transitioning in our society from a materialism-based culture to a culture that has a wealth that is far more aesthetic, and art is a big part of that. I hope we can figure out how to help you get to your ambition.”

Mayor recalls pushback

Mayor Dave Formosa said he remembers fighting to get the arts centre space and there was pushback. He said council was very supportive of the arts council, stuck to its guns, and got the space created for the arts community.

“I remember, though, that the big concern is taxation,” said Formosa. “Many people write in about high taxes and they are high in Powell River. We are creating more staff and more departments that we have to fund.

“I remember with this particular project, we agreed to give seed money for a number of years so you could work towards a self-sustaining facility.”

Formosa said Kamon had provided a great report, but what it is doing is creating another department in the city that has to be funded.

“I really, quite frankly, am afraid of taking on another department, more tax dollars, and then as time goes on, this will grow into a bigger department, more and more staff, plus programming,” said Formosa. “I have some concerns.”

He said he believes the committee of the whole should send the matter to the city’s finance committee so the request can be discussed there.

“I just don’t know where that money will come from,” said Formosa. “What we will have to do is tax the people in order to do it.”

Formosa said he hoped that when the arts centre space was created, revenue could also be created to fund the space.

Committee chair councillor George Doubt agreed that the finance committee is a good place to discuss the request. The committee of the whole voted to send the request to the finance committee for further discussion.