Art Business News

Arts Institutions Smelling the Coffee

Art Gallery of Ontario and Stratford Festival Respond to Cuts
The Canadian Museums Association Lists Federal Cuts
One Response to Art Institution Woes

Art Gallery of Ontario and Stratford Festival Respond to Cuts
All Ontario cultural institutions that receive provincial subsidies have experienced significant cuts to those funds. In October, the Art Gallery of Ontario had 3.8% cut from its current fiscal year's budget. This amounts to an approximately $476,000. reduction in subsidy from the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. The Stratford Festival is feeling the effect of a 25% decrease in funds from the Ontario Arts Council -- which is passing on the reductions to its own government funding. As a result of the cuts, the AGO has laid off 25 employees -- seven management and seven non-management positions. The AGO now has less than 300 employees (about half of these are full-time). In addition, the E.P. Taylor Audio-Visual Centre has been closed and the functions of the gallery's Extension Services department have been assumed by other personnel. The gallery cafe has also been closed. Approximately 40% of the AGO's operating budget is government subsidy.

The Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ont., on the other hand, relies on the public purses for only 8% of its $24-million budget -- the rest is generated from box office and donors. Perhaps in anticipation of the recent round of cuts, the Festival has established a relationship with Live Entertainment Corp. Livent is a Toronto commercial theatre producer responsible for the renovation of the Pantages Theatre (given to Garth Drabinsky in a special deal upon his retirement from Cineplex Odeon). Livent has produced the long running Phantom of the Opera , Kiss of the Spiderwoman , Showboat and Sunset Boulevard. Livent and the Festival plan to co-produce Barrymore in 1996. As reported in the Globe and Mail, Livent will underwrite some of the costs an will pay the Festival a weekly royalty when it takes the show on tour to Broadway and other U.S. venues. In a move to further increase its revenues, the Festival has announced a $13-million renovation to the main Festival theatre. Renovations include a larger theatre shop and coffee shop.

The Canadian Museums Association Lists Federal Cuts
In their publication Museogramme (Aug., 1995) the CMA lists announced cuts to federal spending on the arts. This list is reproduced here with permission of the CMA:

One Response to Art Institution Woes: The Canadian Arts Stabilization Program
One response to the financial woes of visual art institutions is the newly proposed Canadian Arts Stabilization Program. Spearheaded by the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation, Montreal, CASP aims to strengthen and stabilise all non-profit arts institutions of national and international stature across Canada. This it will attempt to do by raising private sector funds and obtaining matching funds from government.

A Canadian antecedent to CASP was the Investment in the Arts Program. This program was unsuccessful in raising private sector funds during a generally more prosperous time in 1986. A direct and successful model for CASP, however, is the National Arts Stabilization Fund. NASF has been operating in the U.S. since 1983. It was an initiative of the Ford, Mellon and Rockefeller Foundations.

CASP would consist of a national body and six regional bodies. The regional bodies would be made up of private sector leaders, provincial and municipal government officials, and representatives from the stabilisation program. The local groups would nominate organisations for participation. CASP hopes to raise 60% of funds from the private sector and the rest from government. The monies raised would be distributed as grants to participating institutions. The grants are intended to cover operating expenses and to retire debt. The program would also operate a "technical assistance program" which these institutions must accept.

The "technical assistance" criterion assumes that the financial problems of some institutions are a result of bad management. Management of participating institutions would be analysed. Recommendations would be made for changes. Critics object to this aspect of the program calling it paternalistic. Another criticism of the program is that eligible institutions must have operating budgets of $500,000. or more. This disqualifies many arts institutions. There is also fear that these small institutions would suffer from the diversion of private sector money away from them and to CASP.

Yet another criticism of the program is that, unlike the U.S., Canada does not have enough private wealth to support the arts. In fact, the Conference Board of Canada's Institute of Public Affairs Research has surveyed and found that the Canadian corporate community's investment in the arts has dropped from 13.4% to 11.9% in recent years. As well, the program requires a high level of government financial involvement. Given the widespread reductions in spending at all levels of government, this may be impossible. Government has not yet committed to the project.

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