A Call for the Reversal of Cuts to Artists in Residence Program
ECSD trustees unanimously passed a motion at their April 26,2016 public board meeting aimed at getting the Alberta Foundation for the Arts to put back the money it recently moved from programs for schools to other arts areas. The ECSD Board has now joined the Calgary Board of Education, Foothills School Division and 4 First Nation’s School Boards calling for the AFA to reinstate the Arts and Education fund to 2009 levels. Faced with a 5% cut to their funding from the Prentice Government in 2015, the AFA decided to cut its support to arts activities in schools in half. Concerned that the AFA funding was transferring funding away from a program which gives tens of thousands of kids per year across Alberta a chance to learn from professional artists, I investigated. Speaking with the Arts Ed community – an organization of individual and collective artists, trustees, and parents– I learned that since 2015, $500,000 was cut from the Artists in Residency school programs– a big drop from the $1.43 million the program received in 2008-2009. I also learned that though around 200 schools will be applying for the Artists in Residency program for the 2016-2017 school year, only around 70 will be accepted at the current funding levels. The Arts Ed community has been attempting to get a meeting with the Ministers of Culture and Education to no avail so I brought the issue up at our public board meeting this week. The Board is requesting that the Ministers arrange a meeting between the Arts Ed community, artists, parents and trustees to discuss reversing the AFA cuts.
An apparent reason why the AFA cut half of their funding for arts activity in Alberta schools was to make the application uptake rate fairer between different project grants. Prior to the cuts, the Artists in Residency program Organizational Project Grant was able to accommodate 60-70% of applications from schools. The Individual Artists Project Grant programs, funded in the same envelope, could only accommodate about 30% or fewer of applications. By cutting AFA-funded arts activity in schools in half, the AFA made the success rate for both programs appear fairer, putting both programs slightly above a 30% success rate.
The Artists in Residency program reaches many hundreds and thousands of people – students, teachers, and parents. You may know these programs as the Shakespearean plays brought to your child’s school by Theatre Prospero, or French culture programs by Les Bucherons, or theater productions incorporating a school’s particular interest/focus with the help of Trickster Theater. The Artists in Residency program is the main source of funding for the largest presenting network in the province: the schools. Reinstating the Artists in Residency funding to 2008-2009 funding levels ($1.43 million) would ensure that provincial tax dollars will get the most impact per dollar in providing artistic opportunities for Albertans both young and old, rural and urban, including aboriginal schools and communities. As Catholics who believe in sharing with the less fortunate, the Board believes that these cuts should be reversed. Time is of the essence as the AFA will be reviewing applications in May.
We need a meeting with the Ministers of Culture and Education to discuss the impact of these cuts and hopefully to have the cuts reversed. Phoning the ministers to express your concerns around the cuts would be a great help but an email as well would be appreciated. Here is the contact information for the two ministers:
Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism:
Legislature Office: 780.422.3559, Fax: 780.427.0188
Constituency Office: 403.280.4022, Fax:403.280.3877
David Eggen, Minister of Education:
Legislature Office: 780.427.5010,Fax: 780.427.5018
Constituency Office: 780.451.2345, Fax:780.451.2344