PEI

Should P.E.I. have a new arts council? Some artists think so

Some Island artists are calling for the creation of an organization similar to the now-defunct P.E.I. Council of the Arts.

'Ultimately the bureaucracy of the government is directly presiding over funding for artists'

Island artist Nancy Cole is worried about political influence on the arts since the province took over grants from the P.E.I. Council of the Arts. (Submitted by Nancy Cole)

Some Island artists are calling for the creation of an organization similar to the now-defunct P.E.I. Council of the Arts.

Members dissolved the council in August when the province eliminated the group's core funding, following a review that revealed serious financial concerns. 

The council did advocacy and mentoring with the arts community and handed out grants to artists — a function that has, for now, been assumed by the province, which will grant artists $100,000 this year. 

Artists encouraged to voice opinions

"Ultimately the bureaucracy of the government is directly presiding over funding for artists, and while that is understandable as a temporary solution I don't think it's a good long-term solution," said Pan Wendt, a long-standing member of the arts community. Wendt is a curator at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, but stresses his views are his own.

Artists are being encouraged to voice their opinions on what should be done to fill the void left by the council's dissolution, by this town is small blogger and P.E.I. artist Becca Viau.

Wendt, one of those who responded to the post, worries having government in charge of grants could have "a chilling effect" on artistic freedom, and he'd like to see the formation of a new, democratic grassroots group. 

'It was about advocacy'

Other artists are concerned about other work the council did besides granting funds. 

Pan Wendt worries about the "chilling effect" government oversight could have on P.E.I.'s arts community. (CBC)

"The P.E.I. Council of the Arts was not just about money in artists' pockets, it was about advocacy, it was about representing artists," said Nancy Cole, president of the artists' association CARFAC Maritimes.

"I could walk into that office, and I could sit down with the executive director and I could say, 'Where did I go wrong here? Can you give me some advice? Can you give me some feedback?'"

P.E.I. is the only province without an artist-driven organization, added Cole, who's also worried about the influence of politics on the arts community.

In a statement, the province said it recognizes the council played a vital role and welcomes the opportunity to discuss any plans the arts community may have for the future. 

With files from Laura Chapin

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