BC Arts Council chair blames budget cuts and interference for her resignation

Jane Danzo, who resigned as chairwoman of the BC Arts Council last week has released a letter she wrote to Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Kevin Krueger outlining her reasons for resigning.

“…it has recently been made clear that the Board does not have a voice independent of government,” she said in her letter, which was publicly released on Friday. “The only independence the (BC Arts Council) board has from government is defined by the granting process.”

Danzo’s primary reason for resigning was that she felt she was unable to act as an advocate for arts funding in her role as chair.  Her responsibility as an advocate was Danzo states that “virtually impossible to accomplish because the board’s relationship to government is not at arm’s length.”

“I believe that unless government is more consultative, and makes significant organizational changes, it will be difficult to attract and retain qualified candidates for board positions on the BCAC,” she said in the letter.

This may be doubly difficult now that the government has virtually pulled the pins out from under the Arts Council.

“(The Arts) Council recommended that the government return to an appropriation for the BCAC and restore its funding to 08/09 levels,” she said in her letter. “This recommendation, which was echoed by the submissions of artists and arts organizations province-wide, was supported by the government’s own committee who brought it forward for consideration in the March budget. The government rejected its committee’s strong recommendation for restoration. The devastating impact of that decision is now being felt by artists and arts organizations throughout the province as they receive notification of substantial cuts to their core funding.

“Instead of restoring the funding to the BCAC, the government announced the establishment of an Arts Legacy Fund — a surprise as much to the board as to the arts community. Even after the announcement, the board was not consulted for input, nor was it permitted to know the details as they were developed by ministry staff over a four month period. Meanwhile, the arts community struggled, some members with life-threatening uncertainty, as they reduced their programming, laid off staff and made poignant appeals to patrons and donors for further support. And the Board remained awkwardly silent until the government released more information about the Arts Legacy Fund.

“The (Arts Council) Act also specifies that the board support arts and culture through advocacy. This responsibility is virtually impossible to accomplish because the Board’s relationship to government is not at-arms–length. It has neither its own funding nor its own staff. It is dependent upon budget allocation for funds and ministry employees for human resources, both managed by a government employee. Furthermore, it has recently been made clear that the Board does not have a voice independent of government. The only independence the Board has from government is defined by the granting process.”

To be fair to Kreuger, Danzo thanked him for his support and his interest in the arts.

“Minister Krueger, you have been a strong advocate for increased funding to the BCAC , and, more broadly, for the arts and culture sector of British Columbia,” she wrote. “I am very grateful for that support, and, on behalf of the community, I thank-you very much.”

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald has long advocated improvements to supports to arts and culture in British Columbia which have declined drastically due to BC Liberal budget cuts.

“I commend Ms. Danzo for speaking out,” Macdonald said in a statement.  “It is a shame that she has to resign from the BC Arts Council in order to do it, but I admire that she is willing to come forward with her concerns.

“Ms. Danzo speaks in her letter of the devastating impact of budget cuts on arts organizations across the province, and there are examples of those cuts in each of the communities that I represent.”