Calgary arts groups ask city for $2M from new economic development fund to foster 'thriving cultural sector'
Investment would reap economic benefits in long run, groups argue
Ten major arts groups in Calgary say they will be key to diversifying the economy — if they can keep their doors open.
They're asking the city for an additional $2 million, arguing that a vibrant arts and culture scene will attract more tourists to Calgary.
The organizations, including the Alberta Ballet Company, Calgary Opera Company and the National Music Centre, made the request to city council on Monday.
But council said it wants more information before it makes a decision.
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"I'm disappointed, I would have loved to have been able to send out an email to our board and stakeholders indicating that the funds had been approved," said Patti Pon, president and CEO of Calgary Arts Development Association.
The money would come out of the $10-million economic diversification investment fund, approved by council on Monday.
Officials say it's earmarked for new opportunities that will create jobs, drive economic recovery and revitalize the downtown core.
'Only way we can get them into the city'
Alberta Ballet's artistic director Jean Grand-Maitre says Calgary's arts and culture scene holds great potential for boosting local tourism. He says too often tourists bypass Calgary and head straight to the mountains.
"The only way we can get them into the city is with culture and arts and festivals and exciting multi-dimensional experiences that they can see live here," said Grand-Maitre.
"If we develop a thriving cultural sector, they may stop by in the city for a while before they get out to the mountains and before you know it, it won't just be Banff that's thriving right now."
But Pon says these groups don't have the financial support they need to grow. She says city funding has remained static for years.
The arts, like other sectors, companies and individuals, have been hit hard by the downturn.
She says the organizations' sponsorships and donations have dropped by about 30 per cent.
"I think what we were hoping is that this $2 million might serve as a bit of a bridge to helping those companies as well as the community overall start to develop longer-term strategies and initiatives that everyone in the community is doing when we start talking about what a new normal looks like," said Pon.
Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart is opposed to the request.
"When I'm door knocking and I see empty houses because people are selling off their assets before they lose their house, people don't relate to this kind of conversation."
Grand-Maitre says it's not going to be easy convincing everyone on council the valuable role the arts could play in helping to turn things around.
"People are going to have to get smarter, more creative, embrace new ideas. And if some people believe that the arts is not a part of that, they are absolutely mistaken."
City council is asking the groups to return with a stronger business case in July.
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