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Hamilton arts groups need another $1 million in funding, task force says

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

Hamilton’s arts groups need an additional $1 million annually in municipal funding to become financially sustainable, says council’s Arts Advisory Commission’s task force.

The task force’s new draft model for municipal funding, released to about 100 people at the Hamilton Central Library Jan. 27, would boost the city’s grants provided in 2012 from $2,047,303 in 2012, to $3,073, 825. The new funding, model the task force recommended, would be installed for the 2014 year.

“Hamiltoncan be a leader in this type of model,” said Kristine Germann, chair of the task force. “We can build it from the ground up.”

Most of the new money would go into six new programs, including $150,000 for individual artists; $100,000 for innovation grants; $50,000 for business development projects; $200,000 for capital maintenance and equipment such as lighting, and sets; and a low-interest loan program which would work in conjunction with urban renewal projects.

In addition, the task force recommended restructuring how the current city funding programs are provided. It suggested using the current $2 million the city provides to boards and agencies, including the $1 million that goes to the Art Gallery of Ontario, differently. And the $350,000 the city doles out through its Community Partnership Program would also be restructured.

Some of the funding, the task force suggested, could be taken from the money saved from privatizing the operations of Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc.

Tim Potocic, another task force member, said the business development program, which would have about $50,000 in funding, would work in collaboration with the city’s business entrepreneurs.

“We feel it is a very important program,” he said.

The task force has been reviewing how to better fund city arts organizations since 2009. Councillors last spring approved a recommendation to allow the task force to continue its works. It also, as part of the revised city strategy policy, included the arts as the fourth pillar of sustainable development for the city.

Some politicians have spoken out about providing a more equitable funding arrangement for arts groups.

Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins recently spoke up about the inequitable funding allocation Theatre Aquarius receives compared to the AGO’s annual $1 million grant it receives.  Theatre Aquarius is asking for an additional $34,000 on top of its $73,534 it receives from the city annually for this year.

“It’s a funding disparity that has to change,” said Collins. “It’s about fairness and equity.”

Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr agreed that a new municipal funding model needs to be considered for the city’s booming arts groups.

“(The funding now) is not enough,” he said.

In surveys of how other Canadian municipalities fund arts groups, Hamilton consistently ranks as one of the lowest cities in spending, while Ottawa, Toronto, and Winnipegrank among the highest. For instance, Edmonton provides over $760,000 to its theatre, while London contributes $500,000 to its Grande Theatre group, compared to the $73,000 for Theatre Aquarius that Hamilton chips in.

In addition, a survey by the Arts Advisory Commission found that 34 per cent ofHamiltonartists have gross incomes below $20,000, and another 56 per cent earn under $30,000. MostHamiltonarts groups generate about 42 per cent of their revenue through fundraising, and 33 per cent of their revenue comes from ticket sales, and rental income.

The task force will review the public’s comments on its draft recommendations. The recommendations are expected to be presented to council sometime this year.

 

 

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