(Rifflandia/Instagram)

The BC Arts Council announced today that it will provide a total of $1.19 million for community Arts Festivals, visual artists, and co-op placements for the arts and culture sector.

More than 70 community arts festivals will be able to receive funding.

Community Arts Festivals will receive 72 grants to pay artists for playing; visual artists will receive 46 grants to support them creating new works; and 20 grants are reserved for co-op placements for students to gain experience in the sector.

In fall 2020,  the federal government announced they were investing $181.5 million in the Supporting Arts and Live Events Workers in Response to COVID-19 Initiative to stimulate employment in the arts and culture sector and support ongoing operations during the pandemic. 

Who can access these grants?

Victoria Buzz spoke with event producer, Dave Bain, to see whether any of these grants have been applicable to live event venues and festivals.

“A lot of these grants are reserved for not-for-profit organizations that the government sees as being able to reemploy the sector, right now” Bain said.

Most festivals and venues work on a contractual basis, hiring workers out as subcontractors, but cannot currently employ anyone due to provincial health orders.

“Most of the grants you see released by both the Provincial and Federal governments are for not-for-profits or those that can apply for Canadian heritage funding for culture, history, and sport [respectively]. Meaning, they don’t necessarily apply to a lot of people’s favourite independent live venues or festivals,” said Bain.

Festivals like Brewery and the Beast and the Cheese and Meat Festival cannot access these grants, and venues like Capital Ballroom and Distrikt do not qualify for these grants either.

While some venues have been urged to open their doors for smaller shows since the pandemic began, Bain said that’s also a challenge.

“Without these grants, it’s hard to open the doors. Most places are doing layaways because they can’t afford rent. Businesses are required to pay their full insurance for their fire code capacity, despite some having only 15 per cent capacity. They aren’t open because they can’t, they’re not open because there’s nothing for them,” said Bain.

Even before the pandemic, live music venues and most festivals operated without government funding and the fact that grants have not been available to them now, is no surprise.

Event workers have tried contributing in more creative ways.

“A group of us, consisting of some of the largest event organizers and producers in the province, offered to help the Province with its vaccine rollout — since organizing people is what we do best — but we were scoffed at,” said Bain.

“If you aren’t running on government funding right now, you’re running on thin ice,” said Bain.

Will we see live music festivals this summer?

The short answer is no.

“It takes a minimum 9 months to organize a festival, and that’s if we have money,” said Bain.

Despite this, many people are optimistic that BC’s vaccine rollout, that promises a vaccine will be available to anyone who wants one by July, will allow festivals to operate this summer.

Bain said that’s eager-thinking, but understands why some might think that it’s possible.

“It’s tough when we see the US government give their independent venues and festivals $15 billion dollars in funding, and then we see festivals currently being booked for their summer, while we sit idle,” said Bain.

The Save Our Stages Act in the US dedicated $15 billion in funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions.

“We work hard to put on our shows when we can, but if we’re not being supported financially, we can’t do them. You have to put money into a festival before it can actually happen,” said Bain.

Victoria Buzz asked if there were any unions available to live music venues or event workers and currently nothing is available.

“Most people who did these jobs have moved on to do other things, so it’s unclear what will be left when restrictions are eventually lifted.”

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