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Local arts community calls for more funding from city

Guelph Arts Council wants work in the City of Guelph's Culture Plan 2030 to start now
Damian Weston, executive director of the Guelph Arts Council.

The Guelph Arts Council has penned an open letter to the mayor and city councillors urging them to adequately fund arts organizations. 

The letter was sent in an email to arts council members detailing the City of Guelph's Culture Plan 2030 and asks that the work start now.

The plan aims to strategize arts and creative industries in the community and it notes although Guelph has a robust arts community, members of it have expressed concerns over costs of studio, rehearsal, exhibition and performance spaces. 

Damian Weston, executive director of the Guelph Arts Council thinks the plan is a great first step. Documents like the culture plan or any other strategic plan “if it doesn't have the force of action behind it, it risks just being another disappointment,” said Weston.

His two main asks of the city is to know what its arts funding plan is and have a commitment to investment. The second is for the city to create an arts specific fund so arts and culture groups can be funded according to the objectives of the culture plan.

To adequately fund arts organizations in Guelph, Weston thinks a specific grant program for the arts could help.

The City of Guelph Community Grant Program gives money to not-for-profit organizations for operating costs, events, special programs or projects.

The program saw 89 applications seeking over $850,000 this year, as previously reported by GuelphToday. A total of $332,600 will be awarded to 65 community organizations.

“These are organizations doing important work in our community. And if the demand and the need is that great, as evidenced by that, then that's all the evidence we need that more supportive funding is required,” said Weston.

He noted the City of London has the Community Arts Investment Program. It’s a program to help fund artists, artist collectives and nonprofit arts organizations.

It would be helpful if Guelph had a specific grant program for arts because it would acknowledge the social service sector and arts sector are both important, Weston. And the sectors shouldn’t necessarily have to compete.

“All nonprofits and community groups get lumped together regardless of sector. So you have arts organizations that contribute to the fabric of the community that are competing against organizations that assist the homeless, and it's a false equivalency. Both things are necessary for a healthy community,” said Weston.

He hopes the letter elicits a response from council. It’s an invitation for communication and he would like to hear what the commitment is towards the culture plan for the city. For instance, an outline of the long-term funding strategy.

In a second email to arts council members Weston made a call out to ask arts organizations if they had received funding, partial funding or no funding from the city this year. With the information he gets he thinks it will paint a more fulsome picture of funding deficits and it can help determine what the next steps are.

“I can't put a dollar amount on how much needed that's going to be up to every individual organization, but every dollar helps, and a … zero dollar amount certainly injures,” said Weston.

He thinks the letter and emails will engage people with the process of the culture plan and to make further steps towards sustaining arts in the city.

“I do believe city councillors and city staff do want a healthy, livable community. I do believe that they want to support the arts. I do believe they want to be seen as a creative city and a part of that. It's just that it's easy for some of the details to get lost, and for the day to day to overlook what it means for the bigger picture.”

Weston is optimistic and has hope things will move forward positively for the arts.


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Santana Bellantoni

About the Author: Santana Bellantoni

Santana Bellantoni was born and raised in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. As a general assignment reporter for Guelph Today she is looking to discover the communities, citizens and quirks that make Guelph a vibrant city.
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