Arts Advisory Committee Meeting Follow-Up

 Hi everyone, RUE is lucky to have a guest post by Hilarey Cowan! 

Hilarey has a Bachelor of Architecture from Carleton University in Ottawa, where, later, she worked as an Intern Heritage Advisor for the National Capital Commission.  Hilarey spent the past year in Paris as an au pair, soaking up the city.

Her interests and projects include affordable housing, heritage issues, urban farming, soundscapes, edge conditions, underutilized / forgotten space, density and identity. She’s an artist at heart, always observing, photographing and sketching.

Here’s Hilarey’s post on the December 6 Arts Advisory Committee Meeting.

 

On the agenda: Creative City Centre (spoiler alert). 

A variety of supporters showed up, about 15 people, and the presentations given were passionate and eloquent. Presenters included Harold Hague, Dean Renwick, Dr. Christine Ramsay, Nick Faye, Deanna Tanner, Chelsea O’Connell, Brenda Shenher, Michelle Brownridge and Judith Veresuk. Unfortunately Marion Donnelly, volunteer CEO and all round head honcho of the CCC, was out of town and unable to speak directly to the board. But there’s only one Marion (unfortunately) and this is really what this appeal for funding comes down to. Getting her some paid staff and the support she needs to continue running this invaluable venue.

Because the $42,000 worth of funds on contingency were already dispersed to other arts groups (including the already solidly funded Globe Theatre and Mackenzie Art Gallery) Dr. Ramsay, U of R fine arts professor and member of the CCC’s board of directors, made it clear that the centre was requesting $30,000 from the City Special Events Fund. 

Harold Hague, founder of the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District and for whom The Hague Gallery at the CCC is named, attested to Marion’s keen business sense using her organization of the Legion’s 80th anniversary celebration as an example. One of the reasons the Arts Advisory committee gave for denying funding was that the financial projections were “overly optimistic” with which Mr. Hague took particular issue. The Legion’s 80th anniversary fundraising goals ($30,000) were also deemed overly optimistic. He said Marion did an outstanding job and in the end handed the Legion a cheque for just under $45,000. He also reminded everyone that this country wasn’t built on conservative goals and estimates. 

As an aside, the reason the projections in the CCC business plan look so “optimistic” is because after 2 years, the centre will have access to provincial and federal arts funding. Which would mean more staff, more events and a huge increase in profitability. But until they reach the 2-year mark, the city is their only option for funding.

Nick Faye, who is one of our talented local musicians, emphasized to the committee that the CCC is truly a gem. He’s heard first hand from musicians / performers, coming from all over the country, that they are envious that we have this type of place in our city. Not only somewhere that has a great atmosphere, but is extremely supportive of the artists themselves. 

Dean Renwick, a designer who is part of the Regina Fashion Collective and runs his own studio downtown, drove home the point that the city should be standing behind, and supporting its citizens. Especially in a place where so much collaboration and mentorship is taking place.

Brenda Sheher, a Gemini-nominated costume designer, quipped that while energizing downtown, only so many people can go drinking at O’Hanlons. Which I think is an extremely valid point. It’s important to have a diverse range of activities downtown, which can in turn feed off one another, getting different groups of people out and about. This type of diversity is key to a sustainably active downtown. 

Michelle Brownridge from the printmaking collective Articulate Ink spoke of how Marian and the centre help artists become entrepreneurs, an extremely valuable skill in the art world today if you want to make a living.

Judith Veresuk, Executive Director of Regina Downtown, referenced some key points in the Regina Downtown Neighbourhood Plan:

7. Securing the establishment of key cultural institutions in Downtown.

Artists should not be expected, as a matter of public policy, to provide services under fair market value. 

Cultural institutions require sustainable capital investments, and they require civic partners. Securing elite and private cultural institutions is as important as securing local and not-for-profit cultural institutions such that the attractiveness of downtown for cultural services casts a wide net on the citizens of Regina.

Section 7.5 Culture Action Plans p.227 (link)

It can’t be put more plainly than that. 

But there seems to be a disconnect between plans and statements such as these, and the actions the city chooses to take. 

The appeal from Creative City Centre appeared to be just a formality for the committee. It was plainly stated that CCC wouldn’t receive funds from the special events fund because they didn’t fall under that category. But if this appeal was being seriously considered, where would this $30, 000 come from now that all the money (save for $500 I believe) has been dispersed?

After the presentations Glenn Gordon, one of the committee members, invited the participants to leave or stay, but the meeting would continue on. The impression was that the portion of the meeting dedicated to Creative City Centre was over, but just as I was about the leave the room I caught that the committee would actually be discussing the presentations, so I sat right back down. 

One committee member said they felt “pounded” by the presentations and seemed to be surprised, hearing about the 81 different events CCC has hosted, stating she wished Dr. Ramsay had put those figures in to the appeal… Though I find it a little unbelievable that the committee didn’t know about or have access to that information beforehand. 

In the end, the Creative City Centre’s appeal was rejected. They will be eligible to apply for programming funding in the New Year.

I’m of the opinion that the Creative City Centre will continue to carve out its place in downtown Regina simply because of the will of the people involved in the project. It really is a buzzing, pulsing place. But denying and delaying funding puts a severe handicap on something that should really be nurtured, or at the very least, supported by the city. It also places unneeded pressure on Marion and her small team of volunteers. I think the majority of people would be hard pressed to come up with a better return on investment than what comes out of the CCC. I hope the city can make the right decision next time around. In the meantime, CCC will keep on chugging.

Just a sampling of the 81 events that have happened there since May: 

Slam poetry, life drawing, improv, art exhibitions, music concerts, various workshops, and film screenings. The Centre also houses Articulate Ink, Regina’s very own printmaking collective and the Regina Fashion Collective.

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Arts Advisory Committee Meeting Follow-Up

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