COVID-19 Update from the Chair of the BC Arts Council
Dear colleagues in the arts and cultural sector in B.C.,
The Minister for Tourism, Arts & Culture, Lisa Beare, has written regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and our sector. If you have not yet read her letter, I encourage you to do so.
This is a profound moment we are experiencing and, as we collectively navigate the impacts of COVID-19, I would also like to draw your attention to a statement that the BC Arts Council has posted today on the role of the Council in confronting the racism, violence, and systemic inequities that continue to exist in our society and our sector.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve begun to understand in more detail how the B.C. Government’s Restart Plan, developed to guide B.C.’s next steps in moving through the COVID-19 pandemic, will impact the arts and culture sector.
In launching the plan, the Province describes how we should prepare for a “new normal.” The phrase is a recognition that—both out of necessity, for as long as COVID-19 remains as a threat to public health, but also as a result of opportunity for deep reflection—we will not be returning entirely to life as we knew it before the pandemic. It also acknowledges that this return will be different for each of us. Each of us will have to navigate the world in different ways.
The arts and culture sector in B.C. has been hit hard by the necessary measures required to protect public health. It is also true that recovery—our restart—will be slower and more complex than in some other sectors. We can already see this in the fact that the controlled reopening of galleries and museums has been included in Phase 2 of the plan, while performing arts venues need to wait until Phase 3 or even Phase 4 before they can open their doors to the public. Even more starkly, many performing arts organizations, unable to operate with the proposed protocols, have already cancelled their 2020/21 season. This is heartbreaking news.
At the same time, we are awed and grateful at news of all the ways that artists and arts organizations are responding with innovation, adaptability and resilience – rethinking their programming, finding new ways of reaching their creative goals, and serving their communities and audiences with grace and humility.
To help with the more practical aspects of the restart, WorkSafe BC is preparing guidelines for employers in various sectors to navigate each phase of the Restart Plan. Guidelines for arts and cultural facilities (museums, art galleries and libraries) have been posted. Please ensure you check the WorkSafe BC website regularly for updates and information; the BC Arts Council will continue to share relevant developments via social media and on our website as it comes available.
I know that art service organizations and others have been in conversation with representatives at the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture to better understand what restart might look like for their specific area of practice and are doing their best to support the sector during these next phases. Thank you. The BC Arts Council is also doing our best to understand what restart means for the sector as a whole and to adjust our policies and programming to provide the most effective support possible.
This follows on measures already taken to respond to the evolving impacts of the pandemic and public health protocols. The first step we took was to work to ensure as much financial stability as possible for organizations who receive operating assistance from the BC Arts Council and the artists and cultural workers who depend on them. After receiving the equivalent of 50% of their previous operating grant in April, they will receive the remaining 50% in July on submission of required reporting elements. Affected organizations will be contacted directly and should check the individual program pages on our website for details. In addition to providing funding early, this also reduces the administrative burden on organizations and acknowledges the challenges some organizations are facing developing forward-looking plans and projections at this time.
In addition, we provided operating clients with emergency funding through the $3-million Arts and Culture Resilience Supplement. Acknowledging the varied ecology of the sector—and that many essential, often emerging, organizations are not currently on operating funding—we made the supplement available to organizations who’d recently received project funding.
The next part of the equation was to provide direct support to individual artists and cultural practitioners, the heart of our sector. Thanks to a $50,000 donation from the Yosef Wosk Family Foundation, we launched a pilot program of microgrants to help individuals adapt either an existing project or aspects of their practice to meet the challenges of changing times. As many of you will know, Yosef Wosk is a former member of the BC Arts Council and we are grateful to him for his generosity. The BC Arts Council has matched this $50,000 contribution to establish the microgrant program budget of $100,000.
The support of the Yosef Wosk Foundation underlines how co-operation and partnership are essential in meeting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this spirit, we were pleased that we were able to contribute $200,000 to the Vancouver Foundation’s Community Response Fund to support charities working in the field of arts and culture, demonstrating exactly what we can do when we work together.
We thank the Vancouver Foundation and the Yosef Wosk Family Foundation for their leadership, partnership and quick response during this unprecedented time.
There is still much we don’t know in terms of what the future will look like for the sector as a whole, or for the individual organizations and artists who operate within it. No experience will be the same as some organizations begin to reopen while others remain closed. Some parts of the sector will re-emerge in ways they could never have previously imagined, with new models and approaches, while others may restart looking very much like they did before. Whatever the circumstances, we remain, as ever, committed to supporting you. We will continue to evolve our programs to meet the varied and changing realities the arts and culture sector will experience in the months ahead. We remain committed to sharing information as soon as we get it.
Throughout the past months, the power of the arts to connect us, to build community, to help us consider and understand, has been more evident than ever. The arts in B.C. will carry on. They will adapt and incorporate whatever protocols are required to ensure our communities remain safe, connected and vibrant. We remain your partners in this undertaking, responsive and considerate of our collective health and sustainability well into the future.
Chair, BC Arts Council