Provincial arts funding cut due to lower local support

The Red Deer Symphony Orchestra hit a lower note in provincial funding due to fewer people in the seats, says Alberta Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk.

The Red Deer Symphony Orchestra hit a lower note in provincial funding due to fewer people in the seats, says Alberta Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk.

Klimchuk, who attended Alberta Culture Days in Lacombe on Saturday, provided rationale for why the 26-year-old orchestra experienced a decrease in government funding.

She said that the orchestra, along with other arts/cultural groups, receive funding through the Alberta Foundation For the Arts, based on the community-derived revenue.

This CDR tally is essentially based on what the organization does in terms of fundraising and ticket sales.

In 2010/11, the orchestra took in $387,400 and in 2011/12, the amount dropped to $368,926.

That’s a 13 per cent decrease in community-derived revenues.

“We take into account the audiences that go watch those shows,” said Klimchuk. “The symphony had a 13 per cent decrease in their community-derived revenue, so for whatever reason, people weren’t going to the symphony and were making other choices.”

Klimchuk said the decrease in arts funding to the symphony has nothing to “do with us coming in and taking their money away.”

The Community-Derived Revenue is based on a three-year average, so groups are given the opportunity to get their revenues us, said Klimchuk.

“We fund projects like that all over Alberta and community-driven revenues are how we calculate all of that,” said Klimchuk.

Klimchuk also said the Community Spirit dollars have decreased because there’s more groups applying to the pot.

“I was very glad to see it maintained in last year’s amount,” she said.

The symphony reported it’s $50,000 in the hole because of a deeper-than-expected decrease in provincial funding. It’s been forced to cancel the Chamber Series and brainstorm for more cost-cutting ideas.

The biggest change came with the Alberta Foundation for the Arts grant, which was reduced by a third over the past three years — to $54,000 from a previous $87,000 in 2010-2011. A matching Community Spirit grant also yielded less.

However, the symphony has reported to the City of Red Deer that its programs and services are at capacity each season, so it regularly fills the 600-seat Red Deer College Arts Centre.

Seat sales are limited to the capacity of the Red Deer College maximum seating of 556. They are unable to expand the number of annual shows due to availability of the arts centre.

Klimchuk said she’s spoken with Mayor Morris Flewwelling, as well as Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski and Red Deer South MLA Cal Dallas, about the symphony.

“I think it’s a fantastic organization and I’m hopeful that they can maybe re-evaluate and do some planning so they can find some support in the community,” said Klimchuk, regarding the need for sponsoring partners.

Klimchuk said she believes the “arts in Alberta are just humming” as is evident by what she’s seeing in places like Lacombe.

It was one of five Alberta communities that received $20,000 from the province to stage an arts and culture extravaganza on the weekend. Other communities were Fort McMurray, Calgary, Edmonton and High River.

Premier Alison Redford campaigned in the spring election that she would put $10 million back into the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

“That’s something that I’m currently working on,” said Klimchuk. “I would be thrilled to put more money back into the AFA.”

Flewwelling said earlier he hoped that performing spaces in the city can become more affordable to renters because a greater portion of their core costs would be supported by grants. That’s if the province boosts dollars to local arts organizations, he said.

“I think there’s lots of opportunities for groups to find space, share space and collaborate with that,” said Klimchuk. “In conversations I’ve had with the mayor about the symphony and all the other great arts groups, he knows my passion and commitment to the arts.”

Klimchuk said she’s also aware of the financially troubled Central Alberta Theatre which took on an expensive renovation of the Centre Stage downtown. She understands that city council is looking for a three-year vision from the theatre.

“I’m waiting until they (the theatre) can file their report about their vision and the viability and whether they are going to stay in the space,” said Klimchuk. “You want theatre groups to survive, but you also want them to plan.”