On the whole, Kelowna’s arts community is feeling pretty positive going into this year’s civic election.
With the new cultural plan promising more stable funding streams, reviews slated to help tweak trouble spots down the line and, overall, more attention being paid than ever before to arts and culture-related industries, it makes sense.
But ensuring council maintains the aims of the plan come budget season will be the responsibility of the city councillors elected this weekend.
“You need to make sure you’ve actually talked to all the people you’re voting for,” said Tracy Ward, who runs the Rotary Centre for the Arts.
With 40 council candidates and five mayoral candidates, Ward said she’s worried voters are getting lost in the sea of names.
Ward said she’s been extremely impressed with the efforts of council to date and is more concerned about ensuring the incoming councillors understand what the arts sector is trying to do in general.
“I think it’s really important that there is municipal elections,” she said. “We’ve got excellent mayoral candidates. Mayor Shepherd has been great, but people do need to vote.”
At the Central Okanagan Arts Council, the sentiment is much the same.
“We’re also extremely thrilled that there has been a cultural plan created and that it has been accepted,” said Elke Lange, arts council executive director. “That’s a very positive thing for the community.”
On the whole, given the economic climate, Lange said they’re very pleased funding to the arts has not been reduced at the city level, at least to organizations and events.
“The fact that there’s a cultural dialogue remaining open is really important,” she said.
The Central Okanagan Arts Council sent surveys to the candidates and found response were universally supportive.
Still for smallerarts organizations like the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Arts, ensuring the ongoing financial support of the city is critical given the clawback of funds at the provincial level.
“Obviously, I’m looking for individuals who understand the importance of a vibrant arts community to having a healthy city,” said Heather Martin, artistic and administrative director.
While new and exciting ventures are always interesting for politicians to fund, Martin said her concern is that the city sticks with providing base-funding for established arts organizations like the Alternator.
And there’s one other avenue where local politicians are critical to their success—advocating at the provincial level.
“Are they willing to say they want the full restoration of gaming grant funding and are they willing to stand up and say that our adult arts organization needs support?” she asked. “That’s what we need.”
Martin said the city’s funding has always been a go-to, strong support base for the centre, which is well-known for supporting young and up-and-coming artists, and the application to access those on-going funds is extremely accessible.
All things considered, if there’s a question that the arts community would like to see candidates answer, it’s will you stand behind the cultural plan and keep the arts at the forefront of change in this community?