Supporting arts, culture and community in District 7 & HRM

nocturne


Pictured – Grain by Grain – Beacon Project Lukas Pearse, Véronique MacKenzie and Susan Tooke at Nocturne 2015

Like the last election I’ve made 30 promises this campaign, progressive ideas that focus on our neighbourhood priorities, supports stronger communities, and builds a better HRM. This is a detail policy blog that outlines three of those promises.

We need to continue to increase investment in arts, culture & community. 

How can Halifax do more with what we have, invest strategically and help grow a more sustainable cultural sector? The municipality supports arts, culture and community through four main programs: arts funding, capital funding for major projects, funding for the library system and supplementary funding. The way HRM funds arts and culture has improved dramatically over the last four years, but there is more to be done.

Arts funding was a major issue during the last election. Halifax had the lowest arts funding per capita in Canada. One of the first things I did after the election was start the process of getting separate, peer-evaluated, arm’s-length funding for arts in Halifax. We set up a new pool of funding in 2014, and in July 2016 Council voted to establish peer juries, with arm’s-length funding for 2019–20.  Three years ago Halifax went from having no dedicated arts funding to finally providing the same kind of programs as every other major city in the country.

The last few years have not been without challenges. Many of our arts facilities need investment. Neptune Theatre is in the middle of a major renovation. The Legacy Project is stalled. There are questions about whether to renovate or replace the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, the home of Symphony Nova Scotia. We almost lost the Khyber, though it now looks likely the building will see new life sometime next year. And while the municipality voted to establish a $30-million dollar Cultural Spaces Fund, it is still theoretical.

I’ve come to value the importance of two sometimes unappreciated partners in our cultural community. The first is Halifax Public Libraries. Their programming supports art, culture and community, and the libraries’ affordable spaces are irreplaceable assets, providing venues and galleries from Musquodoboit Harbour to downtown Halifax to Sackville. I’m proud to  have been a member of the library board, and to have been a part of what Halifax Public Libraries has accomplished over the past four years.

The second important but under-recognized element in Halifax’s cultural landscape is HRM’s support for supplementary funding. This funding supports many programs in both the Halifax and Acadien school boards,  most notably the fine arts and music programs. Without this money, these programs would disappear. Despite this, the funding continues to decrease by $450,000 a year.

If we want to build on our success as an arts and culture centre, we need to continue to invest in and improve on the following three areas.

ArtsHalifax program funding needs to increase. While funding has increased by 20% since the launch of the program in 2013, it is still not enough. Over the next four years, funding for arts programming should increase every year until it has doubled, from $365,000 to $730,000.

Cultural Spaces funding is a great concept, and the timing could not be better. Federal money is finally flowing into cultural spaces, and municipal funds could match those investments. The fund needs to be launched with $30 million in funding and a mandate to make smart investments to grow our arts community.

Finally, our program partners need to be supported and long-term funding needs to be put in place. The library is about to launch a new strategic plan. HRM needs to be there to support renovating and replacing the half-dozen or so libraries that have yet to be renewed. The success of the new Central Library shows us how important multiuse spaces are. They should be available throughout the system. The Supplementary Funding program needs its goals renewed, and a guarantee of access for all HRM residents. Funding shouldn’t be reduced each year; rather, it should be indexed to inflation.

Commitments:

  1. Increase arts funding every year so it has doubled by 2020 (from $365,000 to $730,000).
  2. Launch the $30 million Cultural Spaces funding program.
  3. Fund and deliver the Halifax Public Libraries strategic plan while stopping decreases and indexing a renewed Supplementary Funding program.
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