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City staff recommends financial support for Powell River Council for Arts and Culture programming

Director of parks, recreation and culture outlines how the city can support the local cultural sector
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ADDITIONAL MONEY: City of Powell River director of parks, recreation and culture Tara O’Donnell recommended increased funding for Powell River Council for Arts and Culture for the 2022 budget year.

City of Powell River councillors will consider increasing its annual contribution to Powell River Council for Arts and Culture.

At the February 1 committee of the whole meeting, director of parks, recreation and culture Tara O’Donnell said she was appearing to outline how the city might best support the local cultural sector through the arts and culture council.

On November 25, 2021, the city’s finance committee referred an arts council funding request to O’Donnell for recommendations that would accommodate the request within her department’s existing budget, or supplemented in the 2022 financial plan.

“As directed, staff has been working closely with the arts council to develop a revised financial plan for 2022,” said O’Donnell. “Council will notice a change in the arts council’s funding request for 2022.

“In the coming months, beyond this work, we will continue to partner with the arts council, planning long-term sustainability, beyond 2022.”

O’Donnell said since 2010, the arts council has received $19,000 annually for community grants and administrative costs. More than half of that funding supports local arts and culture groups and it’s known as the city’s community arts and culture grant program, according to O’Donnell. The remainder of the funds are allocated to the arts council for costs related to the administration of this grant program.

“So, while funding levels for the grant program haven’t increased since 2010, the community demand for this funding has,” said O’Donnell. “The city grant program is often oversubscribed by 50 per cent or more on average. Because of this, staff supports the arts council’s recommendation to increase the grants program from $10,000 annually to $15,000.”

O’Donnell said the city also provides in-kind space to the arts council to operate the arts centre. She said it features an art gallery that is free to the public, showcasing local professional and emerging artists, and provides much-needed gallery space to host meetings, workshops and programming.

“While programming space is available, existing funding that the arts council receives for administration doesn’t cover the cost of additional arts programming,” said O’Donnell. “The current model is either through cost recovery or it’s contingent on receiving grants. That model doesn’t allow for consistent arts programming.

“To that end, staff recommends an investment of $15,000 to support year-round arts programming for a wide range of ages,” added O’Donnell.

She said the recommendation moving forward with the programming grant would be that it is ongoing.

Mayor requests examples

Mayor Dave Formosa asked O’Donnell for examples of the kinds of programming the $15,000 would cover. O’Donnell said she would defer to the arts council for specifics but what they are looking to provide is ongoing programming for a range of ages. She said this could include weekly programming that would be consistent and could range in different artistic mediums.

O’Donnell said she supports this model. The work could be done internally but it would cost more, and the allocation of the programming money would empower a community group to deliver something at a good rate, she added.

Formosa said it looked like the ask was for $20,000 and O’Donnell said that was correct. He said he supports the initiative.

Councillor Cindy Elliott said it appears that with the support from the city on an ongoing basis, the arts council is able to get grants from other sources.

“Part of this is looking for an appropriate level of support from the city so they can leverage and bring in more grants from the other programs,” said Elliott. “The programming also includes helping pay somebody at the arts centre to be there and make these programs work. I’m supportive of coming up with a long-term plan that is sustainable for the arts council. We get a good deal for our money.”

Formosa said he wants to see seniors get more programming, as well as youth.

Councillor Jim Palm said he hoped the arts council could start generating some revenue.

The committee directed staff to prepare a contribution agreement with the arts council for the term of January 1, 2022, through to December 31, 2022, with the changes as highlighted by O’Donnell.