Celebrating the past and planning the future
The Bowen Island Arts Council (BIAC) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year with a impressive line-up of events and initiatives. The non-profit organization’s representatives shared their plans for the celebration with council on Monday, February 25, and asked whether councillors would see value in the preparation of a draft service agreement that would bring a certain stability of funding to the arts council.
Carol Cram, BIAC’s president, said. “What are we celebrating? We celebrate 25 years of supporting arts and culture on Bowen Island. The arts council’s first meeting took place in 1987 and it was incorporated in 1988.”
The festivities will include a street banner program, speed dating with the arts where participants can learn new techniques in a short time and an initiative that envisions brightly coloured bird houses to be installed as trail markers.
The literary arts community was invited to participate by submitting works to a Bowen anthology. A three-part exhibit that highlights the history of Bowen artists is being curated in collaboration with the Bowen Island Museum and Archives.
A cultural directory will focus on the island’s artistic and cultural offerings. Also part of the events will be a panel discussion that looks at how artists make a living, a Bowen Bohemia program that draws on the rich history of Lieben and musical performances that run through the summer months. The community is invited to celebrate by attending the birthday bash and events staged from April to September.
BIAC’s executive director Jacqueline Massey explained that the festivities for the silver anniversary celebration were organized in addition to the arts council’s regular programming. “We received funding from the provincial and federal governments and are working with partners and sponsors. In the end, we are hoping to have something left to take us into the next 25 years,” she said, adding that two six-months employees were hired to the WorkBC Job Creation Partnership Program to help with the planning.
“We want to make it clear that to secure the funding we had to demonstrate the support of the local government,” Massey said. “The silver anniversary is an example of how the arts council leverages the support of the municipality to create additional opportunities for investment in the local economy. We could not have been as successful as we are without your support.”
The demonstrated consistent support from council has enabled BIAC to attract other funding, not just for the anniversary celebration but over the last 12 years, according to Massey, who showed a slide that illustrated the proportion of BIM funding against the total of the BIAC budget that has, since 2002, been much greater than the municipality’s contribution. Massey said that the numbers show that the arts council has very low overhead, a huge pool of volunteers and keeps investing the money back into community.
“We are thankful for the municipality’s support and invite you to look at a new model that would benefit both BIM and BIAC,” Cram said, referring to a service agreement. She explained that stable, secure funding would enable better planning. It would also help to access and attract other grants and investments and give the municipality and taxpayers assurance that funding support is accountable, transparent and measurable.
Massey added that this model would support the delivery of the cultural masterplan and cotribute to collaboration and a secure relationship between BIAC and the municipality’s community recreation office. As other benefits of a service agreement, she sees a formal agreement for block booking for the gallery by BIM for recreational and other uses. “It would also simplify administration and clarify budget development, especially if it’s combined with the visitor centre service agreement,” Massey said.
BIAC’s end of the bargain includes the operating of the Gallery at Artisan Square and making it available to the public when it’s not used for arts council purposes, working collaboratively with the community recreation department to offer arts and cultural programming and assisting the municipality on advisory committees and in other capacities including cultural economic development.
In return, the municipality is asked to commit to annual funding that reinstates the core grant of $58,000 and an additional fee for the operation of the visitor centre and Cram added that she envisions the agreement to be set for a three-year term.
Massey said that this is not a first time a service agreement has been considered and a draft was done in 2010 with [municipal]staff involvement. “[Drafting the agreement] would be a collaborative process that reflects what you want to see as well,” she said.
Mayor Jack Adelaar suggested to bring the issue to the Finance Review Task Force to find out how it fits into the budget and strategic plan. Councillor Wolfgang Duntz said he can sympathize that BIAC wants a certain stability but that council has taken a very disciplined approach to public finances. “What speaks in your favour is the hiatus of [building a] performance space – we can’t see that being delivered during this term,” he said. “So it wouldn’t behoove us well to ignore [the service agreement]. The percentage of funding shows that you’ve been frugal with the use of public money.” Duntz believes that one of the criteria the finance committee looks at is “good value for public money” and commended BIAC on that part.
Councillor Tim Rhodes expressed concerns about the precedent a service agreement would set for other organizations. Adelaar said that he understands that core funding is desirable as BIAC has been an “important part of island life and the island economy” but sees it as difficult to commit to a three-year term. “So many variables change year in, year out,” he added.