Financially strapped Vancouver arts groups may lose crucial city grants
VANCOUVER -- They’ve already lost millions in ticket revenue. Now, arts groups like the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Arts Club Theatre Company and the Vancouver Art Gallery may not get their annual grants from the city.
“We have heard the mayor state that Vancouver is broke,” said Ashlie Corcoran, the artistic director of the Arts Club Theatre Company. “We do get an annual operating grant from them.”
So does the Vancouver Art Gallery, which expects to lose $2 million over three months in ticket revenue if it remains closed to the public until the end of June.
“You can’t get a sponsor to pay the hydro bill, so the city grant is absolutely essential for our livelihood,” said interim director Daina Augaitis.
But with the city facing huge budget shortfalls, the arts grants appear to be on the chopping block.
“If we’re in a situation where we have to cut hundreds of millions dollars out of our operating budget, of course those kinds of things are going to be discussed,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “We are having a furious debate here at council, it went all day yesterday, as to what things do you save?”
If the grants are cut, the president of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Angela Elster, said “it would be an unforgiving loss.” After cancelling its season, the VSO has a $3 million ticket liability.
“We are absolutely hoping the kind of government support we’re seeking will all be in place,” said Elster.
The Arts Club Theatre has had seven shows postponed or cancelled this season, with all three stages going dark. “It’s seven shows to not have on our stages when more than 80 percent of our budget comes from people coming to see shows, tickets that they purchased, the drink that they have,” said Corcoran. “We are definitely going to look for support to survive this crisis.”
An earlier version of this article said the Vancouver Art Gallery was losing $2 million a week, based on a figure provided by the gallery. A spokesperson has since said the estimate actually refers to the amount the gallery expects to lose over three months, if it is closed until the end of June.