March 30, 2020
Sent to: Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Vancouver City Council
OPEN LETTER - RE: 2020 ART AND CULTURE GRANTS
To Mayor Stewart and Council,
I am writing with regard to the 2020 Art and Culture Grants, scheduled to come before council for a vote on Tuesday, March 31st. It has come to my attention that there is no assurance that council will support the approval of these grants, which I find alarming, especially now in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic where the art and culture section is already one of the hardest hit sector in our city. I urge you to unanimously vote to approve the full funding for the 2020 Art and Culture Grants.
As the Member of Parliament for Vancouver East, I have the honour of representing one of the most artistically and culturally robust ridings in Canada. Artists and cultural workers in my riding have a well-earned reputation for being some of the most creative and progressive in the country, often pushing their genre beyond what was previously thought possible. We in Vancouver East are fiercely proud of the artists and cultural workers in our riding, and the cutting of this grant by any amount will have a devastating impact on this precious but vulnerable sector.
In addition to being one of the most important economic sectors in my riding, and a significant part of our tourism industry, artists and cultural workers connect people from all walks of life. Art helps us develop a deeper understanding of each other, the challenges that exist in our world, the beauty that exists around us, and offers us creative visions for possible futures. This work is now more important than ever, as we as a community need to respond to the pandemic with great courage, empathy and compassion. In this time of crisis, Vancouver needs more art, not less, and our artists and cultural workers desperately need our support. All levels of government need to send a strong message to our artists and cultural workers that their work and contributions are valued.
Even with the city shut down for social distancing, many artists in my riding have delivered art through digital platforms to people’s homes. Artists have hosted online readings, concerts, plays, art lessons, and many other forms of work to boost morale and to make self-isolation more bearable, often at no or very low charge. Many artists are also fundraising through their work for front-line organizations.
Despite their enormous contributions to the community and to the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly revealed the precarious conditions that artists and cultural workers work in, and the enormous sacrifices many have had to make to work and contribute to the art and culture sector. Artists and cultural workers often work in gig, freelance and contract work or operate as small businesses, with very little income security and low pay. The annual Art and Culture Grants is a very important source of funding for arts organizations that in turn support artists and provide employment opportunities. Every bit of support matters to keep our art and culture sector alive through these difficult times. Equally important, we need to do everything we can to ensure that they are supported after the pandemic.
The arts and culture sector is the heart and soul of our city. For this and all the above mention considerations, I urge you to unanimously vote to approve the full funding for the 2020 Art and Culture Grants.
Jenny Kwan, Member of Parliament for Vancouver East