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City asked to boost funding to arts, culture

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The Winnipeg Arts Council is asking the city to double its per-capita investment in arts and culture.

Under a just-released cultural plan, WAC wants the city to boost its funding from the current annual rate of $5.89 per city resident to $12 per resident.

That compares with $18 per resident in Toronto, $26 in Vancouver and $33 in Montreal.

The proposed increase, to be phased in over four years and indexed to inflation, would mean an additional $4 million for WAC to spend on arts, culture and creative-industry initiatives. That would double its current slice of the city budget, which is about $4.1 million (less than half of one per cent of the overall budget).

Dominic Lloyd, project manager of the soon-to-conclude Winnipeg Cultural Capital of Canada 2010 project facilitated by WAC, said every dollar of municipal investment attracts another $18.23 in support to non-profit arts and cultural organizations.

"The math really speaks for itself," he said. "By increasing the (current) modest investment to slightly less modest, we can do more incredible things."

The funding recommendation is buried in a long-awaited 10-year cultural blueprint called Ticket to the Future: Phase 2. The plan, which was to have been released last November but was delayed until this week, was funded under the Cultural Capital budget and is one of its legacies.

It builds on Phase 1, an economic-impact study undertaken by WAC in 2009, and the proposed Our Winnipeg municipal development plan.

The Phase 2 research and community-consultation contract was awarded to a Toronto-based firm, DIALOG, because it submitted the best proposal, Lloyd said. However, the 75-page plan document was largely written by WAC staff, he said.

The arm's-length WAC wants the city to start funding it in cycles of three to five years, so it can pass on secure multi-year funding to arts groups. Multi-year cycles are used in cities such as Edmonton and Toronto. They help arts organizations with long-term planning for initiatives such as tours and new works, Lloyd said.

"Currently, WAC and those who rely on WAC funding can only plan a year at a time, which presents challenges," the plan says.

In Ticket to the Future, WAC proposes to significantly expand its scope and mandate. For example, it wants to develop a program over the next three to 10 years to give small grants to emerging businesses and entrepreneurs in creative industries, such as developers of online games and smartphone apps.

It also wants to start administering capital-improvement grants for creative spaces such as theatres and galleries. Currently, there is no city funding for such capital projects, except by special request on an ad hoc basis.

WAC's other recommendations in Ticket to the Future include:

-- Create a city-council standing policy committee on culture to ensure that impact on culture is considered in all municipal decisions.

-- Fund WAC, which produced large events during Winnipeg's Cultural Capital year such as the River Barge Festival, to continue producing events.

-- Recognize and market the Exchange District as Winnipeg's cultural core. Create an Exchange District Development Council. Develop a strategy to mitigate gentrification and retain artists in the neighbourhood through means such as tax abatement, or incentives to landlords and developers to include cultural facilities in their buildings.

-- Develop a new funding formula for public art that legally requires, or encourages, private developers to contribute. In Toronto, developers are encouraged to contribute to public art in return for height and/or density incentives. The new formula should also include a "per cent for art," under which a portion of every municipal development budget -- typically about two per cent -- is committed to public art. Such schemes are used in cities such as Ottawa, Moncton and Edmonton.

-- Give schools free access to public transit for arts-related field trips.


WAC hopes to see the plan's recommendations adopted immediately by city council and phased in over the next 10 years, it said in a news release.

Both phases of the Ticket to the Future plan are available online at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 4, 2011 G8

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