Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's council reverses cuts to arts grants

A protest held two weeks ago in St. John's opposing council's cuts to the arts appears to have paid off, as councillors have voted to overturn that decision.
A December rally against cuts to the St. John's arts grant paid off, as council voted to reverse the 50 per cent cut. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

A protest held two weeks ago in St. John's opposing council's cuts to the arts appears to have paid off, as councillors have voted to overturn that decision.  

"We heard some strong stories from people about how this amount of money, small as it may seem, [had a] large impact on personal lives," Coun. Jonathan Galgay told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show Tuesday. 

St. John's city councillors voted Monday night to reinstate funding for arts grants, which had been been cut by 50 per cent — or $100,000 — in the 2016 budget.

Council also eliminated a $20,000 per year art procurement program during the budgetary process. That money will not be reinstated.

For the arts grant, Galgay said the city will take $100,000 from a reserve "in the event that community groups of some type of an agency may come forward later in the year who may pass a deadline, looking for some funding … council has discretion to use it and that's where the money is going to come from."
Coun. Jonathan Galgay put forward a submission to reconsider funding for the city arts grant during the Jan. 4 council meeting. (CBC)

He said the city will also look into various programs and services in an effort to recover more funds.

Grants for sports and special events were also cut in the budget. Galgay said council expected it would receive some negative feedback.

"At that particular point in time we were limited in terms of areas that we could cut," he said.

"I think it speaks volumes to the people of this city who have been advocating for quite some time, and as a council who are willing to listen, we took that time and we reconsidered."

'Like going back to the Dark Ages'

Ruth Lawernce organized the December protest on behalf of the St. John's arts community and said she's relieved council decided to reverse its decision.

Ruth Lawrence organized the arts protest and said she's relieved council overturned its decision — but she's also cautious. (Katie Breen/CBC)

"It took a long time for us to get to the funding level that we're at right now and to go back to half would have been like going back to the Dark Ages for artists in St. John's," Lawrence said.

"There's still a lot of places where there's work to be done so … [I'm] cautiously happy."

Lawrence said she looks forward to more conversations on how the city can maintain sustainable funding for artists.

The gallery was crowded Monday night when St. John's City Council decided to overturn its decision to cut arts grants. (Katie Breen/CBC)

With files from Katie Breen


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