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by Noah S. Wernikowski

Although an improvement on last year’s budget, which saw no change, a 1.5 per cent increase for the Saskatchewan Arts Board still leaves the community feeling under-funded.

This year’s provincial budget saw an increase in funding for the Saskatchewan Arts Board from $6.35 million to $6.43 million.

“We’ll appreciate any funding increase, but this isn’t going to take the pressure off our community,” said David Kyle, the executive director of the Saskatchewan Arts Board.

Danielle Chartier, the NDP’s critic for Parks, Culture and Sport, agrees. “These increases haven’t been what they need to properly support arts organisations. In fact, the 1.5 per cent is abysmal.”

The Saskatchewan Arts Board was established in 1948, and was the first agency of its kind in North America. It operates at an arms-length from government, and distributes funding through a peer-paneled process to hundreds of artists and 90 arts organizations across the province. It strives to make the arts community accessible, sustainable, and always expanding.

Saskatchewan is currently seeing a boom in artistic interest. Even after accounting for inflation, Saskatchewanians’ spending on cultural goods and services has grown by a remarkable 32 per cent between 1997 and 2008, according to a 2010 study done by Hill Strategies Research Inc. Also, Saskatchewan residents spend 62 per cent more on live performing arts than on live sporting events.

Despite the surge in popularity, the community struggles to make ends meet. 2011 and 2012 will be no different, explained Kyle.

“We are aware that inflation slowly eats away at the effectiveness of anyone’s budget,” said Bill Hutchinson, the Minister of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport. “We also want to try to assist the arts scene by investing in other programs,” he added. He mentioned the government’s investment in programs like the Main Street program, an initiative aimed at revitalizing communities through heritage site conservation.

Cynthia Dyck, the president of the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance, an advocacy group representing 72 arts organizations, feels the pressure. “Ultimately, we’re spending all the funding on programming. So, the larger capital costs have gone by the wayside. Everything is gum and band aids, and you can only do that for so long. Those cracks are starting to show."

“The good news,” said Kyle, “is that, by nature, the arts community is a creative and resourceful group, and they are going to have to draw on that like never before.”

Above: Brad Wall's Saskatchewan Party Government's 2011/2012 budget saw a 1.5 per cent increase to most third party groups.
Photo by Noah S. Wernikowski

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