In our September Arts & Culture issue (scroll to bottom), we reported that Creative City Centre, the innovative arts incubator/fashion collective that opened on the top two floors of Loggie’s Shoes at 1843 Hamilton St. in May, had been denied operational funding by the Regina Arts Advisory Committee. The committee receives $800,000 annually, which it then dispenses to dozens of arts organizations to provide them with seed capital to do arts programming in the city.
Of that $800,000, we further reported, approximately two-thirds goes to three flagship entities — Globe Theatre, the Regina Symphony Orchestra and MacKenzie Art Gallery. That doesn’t leave a lot left over to support many other worthwhile arts organizations. In some instances, grants can be as small as $500. When one considers the extensive process that the groups have to go through to apply for the money each year, and then account for its expenditure, the return can be pretty meagre.
In Creative City’s case, they had sought $30,000 to cover administrative costs and hire staff to supplement all the volunteer labour that had been put into the facility over the last few years to gut and renovate the upper two floors of Loggie’s (which had been vacant for decades), and then start to produce programming. According to figures provided by CCC, in its first seven months of operation it presented 39 concerts, 23 workshops, seven art exhibits, six film screenings, four poetry nights and two comedy/improv shows. Total attendance for the 81 events was 2859.
CCC’s original application was denied by the Advisory Committee because it failed to present a complete business plan. In its original disbursement of grants, the Committee kept $42,000 in reserve. CCC was subsequently allowed to appeal the Committee’s decision. It did so — submitting the required business plan, and making further presentations to the Committee about the value of the facility as a venue to foster arts activity and energize the downtown.
Another key facet of CCC is that founder Marian Donnelly (pictured above with benefactor Harold Hague) holds an MBA in arts administration, and she is keen on helping artists improve their prospects for financial success through the development of business skills. The fashion collective, which includes a retail outlet, and provides local designers with all sorts of opportunities to collaborate with each other, along with visual artists, musicians and other cultural workers who frequent the space, is a prime example of that entrepreneurial spirit.
Unfortunately, the obvious merits of the project weren’t enough to persuade the Arts Advisory Committee to provide any funding to CCC. It seems that the hybrid nature of CCC was one stumbling block. In our society, we prefer arts activity to largely occur on a non-profit basis. But Donnelly doesn’t view profit as a bad word, which makes her organization an iffy candidate for public funding. Instead, at a key moment in CCC’s development, when it desperately needs resources to put on programming and market its facilities and services to the community, it will again be forced to operate on a largely volunteer basis.
In dispensing the remaining $42,000, the Arts Advisory Committee threw another $13,725 to the MacKenzie and $5000 to Globe Theatre. Those are worthwhile organizations, obviously, but in other centres flagship arts organizations like that are often funded as line items in civic budgets. Having them compete against much smaller and less influential arts groups for civic grants hardly makes for a level playing field.
The Arts Advisory Committee is meeting Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the Larry Schneider Board Room on the main floor of City Hall. If anyone is interested in speaking on CCC’s behalf, all they have to do is sign in at the start of the meeting and you will have ten minutes to make a presentation.