Nfld. & Labrador

Demonstration on St. John's arts cuts says 'support our troupes'

About 400 people came out to a demonstration at St. John's City Hall to protest the city's cuts to arts funding.

"Keep doing what you do, keep the pressure on council," said Councillor Sandy Hickman

One of the demonstrators at a rally for arts funding in St. John's was asking the city to "support our troupes." (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

About 400 people turned out at St. John's City Hall on Monday evening to voice their disapproval of council's cuts to arts funding in its latest budget

St. John's actor, filmmaker and author Andy Jones spoke at the demonstration. He stressed the importance of the city's funding and said that local productions keep box office receipts in the city. 

Jones said that he gets financial help from the city's arts jury almost every year and it's not a lot of money, but it makes a big difference.

"The city has, in may ways, been wonderful," he said. 

"They actually, for awhile, had it right, and we are begging them, please, don't mess up this good thing. In fact, it's time to make this good thing better."

Jones said there have been plenty of artistic success stories because of the city's funding and that artists know how to make good use of that money. 

"Nobody, and I mean nobody, can squeeze, stretch or cuddle more out of a buck than the artists," he said.

Councillors in attendance

Councillor Sandy Hickman was one of several councillors that attended the demonstration. Councillors-at-large Art Puddister and Dave Lane, as well as Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth, were all at the rally outside city hall.

Hickman spoke to the crowd and said that he was willing to work with artists and council to reinstate the funding that had been cut.

"I want to urge you to keep doing what you do, keep the pressure on council, and let's move forward," he said. 

'A backwards step'

Former St. John's mayor Shannie Duff also attended. She said she was horrified when she heard about the city's cuts to arts funding. 

Duff called the cuts a "backwards step," and said that council was damaging the city's artistic reputation. 

"We spent years building up a partnership with the arts community," she said.

"We brag about it, we put it in our literature as a city, and yet the people who produce the art, many of them live absolutely on the margins, are now being cut back and it makes absolutely no sense."

Agnes Walsh, who was named the city's first poet laureate in 2006, read a poem at the demonstration and said she was hurt and embarrassed by the cuts.

"Pay attention to truth and beauty," she said. "We need it." 

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