The arts in a time of crisis

City Council approved $6,273,590 in grants to 208 cultural organizations at a meeting held back on March 31st. Now that several weeks have gone by, it might be worth asking, how are we doing now as a City with respect to the arts?

The 2020 Cultural Grants staff report was dated February 25, 2020, hence it was created well before the full impact of the pandemic could felt. The grants are part of the City’s annual funding of $13 million to arts and cultural non-profit groups. Staff stated that 1100 jobs are dependent on these grants and another 1300 jobs are indirectly dependent on this support. The assumptions and grant funding are part of the 10-year ‘CulturelShift‘ Strategy, adopted at Council on September 10, 2019.

During the discussion of the grant report, Council heard from speaker Heather Redfern, Executive Director of The Cultch (Vancouver East Cultural Centre). A number of points were raised by Ms. Redfern in her presentation (the full archived video stream is available here, starting at 10:47:42):

  • the arts have become more dependent on earned and donated revenues, as grants have stagnated
  • for organizations like The Cultch, earned and donated revenues make up over 80% of total revenues
  • at this time of year (March), earned and donated revenues make up 100% of revenues, since by the end of the season, as the grants are long gone
  • on March 15th, The Cultch lost 100% of earned revenues and a significant amount of fundraising revenues (about half a million dollars to the end of May, which is their year-end); many other arts organizations are in similar situations
  • artists are facing 90% unemployment (in the arts sector in Vancouver)
  • the federal wage subsidy will not be an option for some artists who are already in a precarious financial situation (and it will only mitigate financial impacts for others)
  • the viability of many arts organizations and the artists to stay in this City and have a livelihood are in real jeopardy
  • funds are needed to have cash flow so arts organizations can survive in the short-term, and also plan for programming when they are able to open up again
  • The Cultch employs about 21 full-time staff and between 50 and 60 casual workers throughout the season
  • many of the part-employees are also artists who have this part-time job to support their work (as artists)
  • fees pay for programming to support another 20 to 25 groups and artists as creators
  • donations as well as attendance is expected to be significantly down for the next year
  • some organizations rent city-owned facilities and the buildings need to be maintained; there are many other ongoing expenses
  • summer festivals will lose everything if they can’t go ahead, they need funds to survive and to plan for next year
  • additional funding from all three levels of government was identified to get through the next year
  • the arts will have a major role to play in bringing people back together when this crisis is over

The Cultch maintains three theatres and a gallery.  The announcement by The Cultch of the temporary closure of its facilities is on the organization’s website.

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Vancouver extends declaration deadlines for Empty Homes Tax

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Photo by Skitterphoto on

Vancouver’ Civic Engagement and Communications department sent out this notice on May 12, 2020. Excerpts below. Please contact the City for details.


Late declaration deadlines for Empty Homes Tax extended (12-May-2020)

Those who missed deadline for 2017, 2018 get another chance

City Council voted today to give property owners who missed the Empty Homes Tax (Vacancy Tax) declaration deadline in the first two years of the program ― the 2017 and 2018 tax years ― one final chance to make their declaration and have their Empty Homes Tax bill rescinded.

Late declarations for 2017 and 2018 would be due by December 31, 2020. These late declarations will be subject to a $375 bylaw fine.

Changes to the Vacancy Tax bylaw will need to be passed by Council before property owners can file a late declaration (in the form of a notice of complaint) for 2017 and 2018. More information will be posted on the City’s web site at once the bylaw changes are in effect. Continue reading

The Words Don’t Fit The Picture installation removed from VPL Downtown

Over the past week, City crews have quietly removed the art installation, “The words don’t fit the picture” from the public space outside of the downtown branch of the Vancouver Public Library. This piece could be seen prominently from Robson Street and it was installed just before the 2010 Olympics. We’re noting this for the record, as there seem to have been little or no discussion about taking the piece down. Here’s the tweet from the City:

Continue reading

“Back2Basics:Vancouver” petition calls on Mayor Kennedy Stewart to launch an independent financial audit seeking ways to reduce costs

Back2BasicsVancouver petition image May 2020

Image: Back2Basics:Vancouver petition page

Concerned citizens have created a new online petition called “Back2Basics:Vancouver.” Just launched a few days ago, it already has nearly 800 signatures and is growing fast. Its main demand is for “the City to undertake an independent financial audit of its books. Reduce costs to what we can afford. ”

Direct link to the petition:

Excerpt from petition page:

Vancouver Mayor Stewart recently pleaded with the federal and provincial governments for $200 million to help with the City of Vancouver budget during this pandemic crisis.

He says the City is going “bankrupt/insolvent” and that property taxes will have to increase by another 14%. This is on top of the current already planned tax increase of 7%!

With a $1.6 billion budget, how can the City be nearly insolvent? Surely there is room to trim expenses in this time of crisis? The announced layoffs and meagre 10% salary cuts for Mayor and management is not enough.

The City is doing little to tighten its budget while businesses and residents are suffering. Young people are disproportionately out of work. Seniors’ pensions have been decimated. Small businesses can’t pay rent. Owners are seeing their livelihoods evaporate. The city must stop pushing their out of control spending onto tax payers. These expenses affect everyone: renters, owners and businesses.

A growing movement of concerned citizens is alarmed and outraged.

This petition calls on the City to undertake an independent financial audit of its books. Reduce costs to what we can afford. Continue reading

Outdoor pools to remain closed for now, no lifeguards on beaches

Park Board announced that outdoor swimming pools will not open on May 18th as a result of the ongoing pandemic. As well, Park Board also announced that lifeguards will not be on duty any of the public beaches until safety procedures are clarified. The Lifesaving Society of Canada is planning to publish updated procedures by the end of May for lifeguards. Visitors will be permitted to swim at their own risk at Spanish Banks, Locarno, Jericho, Kitsilano, Sunset, English Bay, Second Beach, Third Beach and at Trout Lake.

It’s worth noting that the large outdoor swimming pool at Kitsilano Beach is not ready for use; it appears to have been patched and painted recently. As well, the outdoor pool at New Brighton Park isn’t ready either for visitors, as it needs to be cleaned. It’s an open question on how long the outdoor pools will remain closed. At New Brighton Park, the washrooms are open for public use, but the rest of the facilities are closed. Outdoor swimming pools at Hillcrest, Second Beach (Stanley Park) and Maple Grove will also remain closed for the foreseeable future.

Tent City 2.0. New encampment on Port Authority Land beside Crab Park (updated May 12)

The encampment on a waterfront lot beside Crab Park continues to expand. There are now in the range of 25-30 tents (May 12th). The following slides of the site show that some of the tents have been reconfigured since Sunday. It’s an open question whether the Port Authority will ask the campers to move out.

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The original post and photos from May 10th are below:

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A new encampment has been setup in Vancouver at 455 West Waterfront Road on a parking lot. This land is under the control of the Port Authority and it lies directly west of Crab Park. As of 6pm on Sunday, May 10th, about 20 tents were pitched on the parking lot, with a few tents in the adjacent Crab Park. The previous encampment at Oppenheimer Park was completely closed off a day earlier, on May 9th. Continue reading