The BC government released a new provincial budget yesterday, and while it’s largely regarded as a stay-the-course budget, there are a few notable things in it for the arts.
First, the budget promises an additional $15 million for the BC Arts Council. That amount will be spread over three years, bringing the annual BC Arts Council budget to $34 million per year.
“A component of this new [Arts Council] funding will increase access to make the arts more accessible to everyone,” says the new budget and fiscal plan.
Second, the new budget also promises “a capital project to modernize and renew the Royal BC Museum” in Victoria. The aim is to “preserve, protect, and provide better access to the human and natural history collections of British Columbia,” says the budget and fiscal plan.
The Royal BC Museum is one of the province’s service delivery agencies, like the BC Pavilion Corporation. The museum has also of late received roughly $11.8 million in provincial support annually for operations.
Third, art students and alumni welcomed the elimination of new interest on student loans. “Victory! This is a huge deal that we have been working on for years!” the Emily Carr University Student Union posted on Facebook. “A big round of congratulations to everyone who has been involved.” The measure is due to save students and grads $2,300 in interest over 10 years.
For those who might be watching, there is nothing in the BC budget regarding the $50 million that the Vancouver Art Gallery has been hoping will be coming from the province toward a new Herzog and De Meuron–designed facility. This is true despite the fact that the new BC Budget is trumpeting the largest amount of infrastructure funding ever—$20.1 billion over the course of the three-year fiscal plan.
But that doesn’t mean funding for the new Vancouver Art Gallery is off the table for the province. According to both the government and the gallery, a deal is in consideration at the moment, to be decided upon in future.
“The B.C. government appreciates that the Vancouver Art Gallery plays an important role in promoting the arts and artists in British Columbia, and that it is a destination for many tourists visiting the lower mainland,” the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture said in an email to Canadian Art on February 12. “We recognize the many benefits of building a new art gallery, and the project continues to be of interest to us.”
Today, in response to request for comment, the Vancouver Art Gallery stated it did not expect to see funding commitments yet either. “Funding for the Gallery’s new building project was not scheduled to appear in the recently announced Provincial Budget,” said a Vancouver Art Gallery spokesperson via email.
In 2008, the BC government did provide a one-time grant of $50 million to support a new or refurbished Vancouver Art Gallery. It also provided close to one million dollars in BC Arts Council and BC Community Grant funding to the VAG during 2017/18. But it put a delay on any further funding toward a new building until private fundraising had increased.
Then, on January 23, 2019—the last day applications could be submitted for New Building Canada Fund monies administered by the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Infrastructure and Finance—the Vancouver Art Gallery announced that the Chan family had donated $40 million in private funds toward its new building project.
“Thanks to the generous donation of the Chan family, the Vancouver Art Gallery has made significant progress on their private fundraising target and we look forward to seeing the Federal government’s contribution and receiving a current proposal from the gallery,” said the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture last week.
The Vancouver Art Gallery is also hoping to receive $50 million from the federal government in future toward its new building. “We are currently working with Government officials on the details of that funding application through both the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada,” said the Vancouver Art Gallery today.
The BC Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture has also indicated, in response to questioning, that a recent strike at the Vancouver Art Gallery would not impact its provincial funding decisions: “Labour negotiations are a matter between the Art Gallery and its workers,” the Ministry said in response to a question from Canadian Art on February 12. “We were encouraged to hear that the Art Gallery and its workers have reached a tentative agreement.”
The complete BC budget document can be found here.