Eleanor King on arms-length arts funding | Arts & Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Eleanor King on arms-length arts funding

Artist, NSCAD instructor and musician

The city needs an arts council. All major cities in Canada have three-tiered funding opportunities, Federal, Provincial and Municipal. In Halifax, we don't have municipal funding. An arms-length body would also bring respect and professionalism to arts funding in this town! Right now the city offers $500 if you want to paint a mural on a power box, and that's about it. We need people to think outside of the box about arts, and bring in professionals who are practicing in the field to lead. I don't want stupid decisions to be made about art by the same people who make stupid decisions about cat bylaws or widening Chebucto road.

…on support for existing grassroots organizations

Using the Khyber and Bloomfield centre as prime examples of areas where the city went totally wrong. Buildings left neglected, artists end up using the spaces and bring vitality to neighborhoods. Then the city kicks all of the tenants out. I wish the city saw these as opportunities and invested resources in repairing infrastructure before the buildings became critical. But it was like they left them to disrepair so they would have an excuse to evict the tenants. Now they micro-manage the Khyber to become a "cultural cluster" -- which it WAS, before everyone got evicted.

…on studio spaces

We need more affordable studio spaces in this city (Bloomfield, again). All of the studios I know about have been established by collectives of artists, renting overpriced retail or industrial spaces and splitting the costs. I often get asked bycolleagues or recent NSCAD grads where to find space, and unfortunately, I have no good advice, I am lucky enough to have an affordable studio, but if my landlord suddenly decided to renovate the space into a condo, I'd be out of luck! Even situations like my own few and far between.

…on what the city of Halifax could be doing better to facilitate work

Support the existing organizations and individuals with funding. Fund projects like Go North! Things like Go North! build community and make it OK to live here. Make studio space or exhibition space available in under-utilized city buildings, so new graduates will actually have a reason to stay in Halifax.

The cultural community is so vibrant here, despite the city’s apathy and lack of support. I think it's essential that young and established artists alike are given opportunities to flourish.

…on the city’s grade for arts and culture supportC. They would get an F for their lack of vision on Khyber and Bloomfield. However, they have been participating in Nocturne, and they hired the wonderful Jamie McLellan on staff. I had the pleasure to work with Jamie installing Peter Walker sculptures in the Granville courtyard in my role as Exhibitions Coordinator at Anna Leonowens Gallery. Jamie has an arts background, and I welcome more staff on board who actually understand the needs of artists and arts organizations. Also people who understand that public art can be something that exists beyond mural painting.

Finally, HRM gets zero points grants for their big $30,000 "grant" to the Khyber, to consult for a "cultural cluster". Although the consultation is being led by excellent arts advocate Andrew Terris (who will undoubtedly create a thorough report) the money could be better spent. On programming events and exhibitions, paying artist fees, hiring more staff or giving start-up grants for small cultural organizations to actually move into the vacant building. Even spending the money on renovating the building structure itself, or making it more accessible to those with disabilities would be so much better than yet another a round of consultations!

Instead, 30 large will get us an excellent and well-researched consultation document that will likely collect dust on a city staff desk for another five years. I hate to sound like a pessimist, but it's difficult to be hopeful when the city has disappointed me on this particular case time and time again. These organizations are built on the efforts of volunteers. The current board and staff of the Khyber ICA are a tireless and positive bunch who continue to work hard and push forward in negotiations with the city, even after many have given up. Personally, after spending countless volunteer hours trying to make changes happen with that place, I eventually felt as though I was flinging myself against a brick wall. I'm sure there are many other artists in this city who share my bruises.

P.S. Spending thousands of dollars for concerts on the Common doesn't count as cultural spending in my books!!

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