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  • Protect New Brunswick Culture #makenoisenb
  • Post author
    yolande clark
  • arts & cultureindie new brunswicknew brunswickpolitics

Protect New Brunswick Culture #makenoisenb

I started making pottery when I was 3 years old, and I have been a professional ceramic artist for the past eight years.  By June of this year, I will have lived in New Brunswick for ten years.  I grew up in Vancouver, but NB has my heart; it’s my home, and I love it here for many reasons, including the fact that the New Brunswick arts community has welcomed me, and supported me as an artist.  
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Like so many people, I too am dismayed by the recent announcement that ArtsNB, our independent arms-length arts funding organization is slated to be dismantled by the current Liberal government.  This decision is short-sighted, ill-conceived, and runs counter to the best-interests of everyone in the province, not just artists. 
One of the most troubling aspects of the debate about the dissolution of arts new brunswick as an institution, is the total misunderstanding that many people (fellow-artists included) seem to have about how the grants are distributed, how the grant money is used, how much money artists are actually granted, the nature of the grants themselves, and finally, how the funding of artists and art projects affects the entire population of New Brunswick. 
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The Liberal government’s announcement involves *only* the transfer of administration duties from ArtsNB employees to government bureaucrats.  It is clear to me that this move is only the first step to completely eviscerating artsnb including eventually cutting the funding that would go to artists, but if we are to take Gallant and minister Fraser at their word, moving the administration of the organization directly to the government will cost the province considerably more than keeping the stats quo (a fact which seems to be a clear indication to me, anyway, that this is only the beginning of the cuts). 
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But among the citizenry, reflected in comments threads (like this one from a CBC article) there seems to be a prevalent idea that there are artists who subsist entirely from NB arts grants, who are frittering away great sums of money with no accountability, and who are living the high life off the backs of the poor.  This notion is preposterous.  Even the highest-level artists in the province, the small handful of people in a year who are honoured with A-level grants, are granted a maximum of $15,000.  These individuals have been working for at least 15 years and have achieved an extremely high degree of skill and recognition and are acknowledged to have reached a pinnacle of their discipline.  The vast majority of those who receive grants—the majority of the funding—goes towards small arts organizations, and emerging or mid-career artists.  Emerging artists are allowed a maximum of $5000 per year, and mid-career artists may receive up to $10,000 a year—amounts which I hope everyone can acknowledge are not even close to what a single person needs to subsist, let alone to purchase and pay for the materials, supplies, and infrastructure required to produce work that competes on an international stage.  No one is making a living off of ArtsNB grants.  It’s a pittance, really.  The money simply eases the strain that every single artist that I know experiences, while working multiple-jobs, trying to make ends meet. There are no artists that I know who are enjoying a luxurious lifestyle.  The suggestion is preposterous.
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Included in every grant application is an allowance for up to $1500 a month for sustenance (food and rent).  Funding is granted to each artist based on their artistic abilities, and in particular, on the merit of the specific project for which they are requesting funding.  If, by the end of the grant period, (usually 6-12 months) the artist has produced the body of work they set out to produce, *and they have also not starved to death*, everyone can feel confident that they have used that money wisely, or at least as promised.  Arts funding is not social assistance, and does not function that way.
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I have received three grants from ArtsNB in the past eight years.  I have applied to receive arts funding approximately twelve times in the past eight years.  In 201,1 I received a travel grant in the amount of $1200 for an artist-in-residency in France.  In 2012, I received a C-level Creation grant of $3500 to fund the production of a solo exhibition of my pottery in Toronto.  And this past year (2015), I received a B-level grant of $6500 for the creation of a body of work and a solo gallery exhibition to be held in May 2016, which I am currently working on now.  I am grateful for this money.  The support I have received from ArtsNB has contributed to my work being represented by a prominent American gallery at the SOFA Chicago exhibition in 2013, and the presence of my work at one of the foremost ceramic galleries in the world in Kyoto, Japan, among other successes.  But in no way have I ever been dependent on the receipt of Artsnb funding.  
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Many economists and sociologists have observed that one of the strongest indicators of thriving communities, economic stability, prosperity and opportunities for everybody, is cultural capital—and this cannot happen without the arts. A robust arts community attracts business, industry and innovation to a given community. The idea that because everyone is suffering, the arts should be cut too, is an example of extremely myopic short-term thinking. This is the kind of outlook that results in a poverty mindset, and the inculcation of our communities into further national cultural irrelevancy and more intractable cycles of poverty; a dark hole of complete obscurity, which New Brunswick governments seem continually intent on circling, ever closer.
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Artists create culture.  The painters and dancers and musicians and writers and theatre actors in a society create a cultural landscape and a cultural identity.  Art is important for everyone, whether you like art or not, whether you care about art or not, whether you understand art or not, whether you have any arts literacy or not.  Artists create the narrative of our communities, and a vision of the past and the future.  Let’s fight to keep ArtsNB an independent arms-length organization--not for me and my colleagues who are on our way as artists, but for the small organizations, and the young and emerging artists who deserve an opportunity to get the kind of support that I have had, and for our entire province, which desperately needs creative, entrepreneurial, passionate, inspiring, inspired people, to be in this place. #makenoisenb
  • Post author
    yolande clark
  • arts & cultureindie new brunswicknew brunswickpolitics

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