CVRD will select a new chair before deciding on arts funding request

Arts community wants more consistent funding: referendum on arts taxation possible in fall election

Guest pianist and composer Alain Lefévre performs during a Sept. 21 presentation by the Cowichan Theatre Society — one of several valley arts organization seeking a new funding model from the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

Pitching Cowichan’s first arts-and-culture committee — with an eye toward tax funding — will wait until January.

Wednesday’s regional services committee backed Cobble Hill Director Gerry Giles’ motion to refer debate about an arts committee. It would be mulled under a new chairperson, being decided in six weeks.

Mike Walker, regional services’ current chairman, said Giles’ motion allows more time for directors to learn about and digest the arts-committee concept.

“There’s lots of work to put into that (arts) committee.”

Walker was aware the funding question could go to referendum, perhaps with other referenda, during fall’s civic election.

“The fear is having too many referendums on the ballot, and people saying ‘To hell with it.'”

Still, Kirsten Schrader, Cowichan’s arts-and-culture manager, wants formal recognition of — and public money for — Warm Land’s web of artists and cultural groups.

“I want to come back with a strong presentation when there’s a new chairperson. Maybe it’s better this way.”

Formally touting and funding Cowichan’s arts, culture and heritage arms was backed by culture vultures at Tuesday’s information meeting in the Cowichan Thaetre.

“If the public want this (funded arts committee) they absolutely have to let their elected officials know,” Schrader said.

She plans a power-point show on how the committee would use public funds to fertilize — and draw tourists to — Cowichan’s long string of struggling artists, musicians, actors, poets, film makers, youths, museums and festivals.

Individuals and groups would apply for arts committee grants, vetted through a results-oriented panel.

Schrader cited five cultural models spanning the Cariboo, Prince George, Nanaimo, Comox, and Victoria.

She warned some models are bureaucratically sketchy; others work well.

Cowichan’s cultural committee would boast the best ideas, infused with input from the Cowichan Valley Arts Council, citizens, artists and groups.

Schrader also visualized CVRD arts awards, an arts and culture wall of fame, and friendly ears for folks’ ideas.

Data backing the committee concept is being charted on the arts council’s cultural map (cowichanculture.ca), explained CVAC’s Judy Brayden.

Tenor Ted Rhodes of the Cowichan Symphony Society, explained “the annual cost of a coffee and doughnut from everyone in the valley” would provide tons of arts seed money for groups foundering with box office sales.

Paul Fletcher doubted arts funding could come from a belt-tightened CVRD. Bob Johns suggested raising arts money from private sources.

Rhodes suggested family bequeaths. Gail Robertson feared a bland world without the arts.

Joyce Scott was angry about federal spending on prisons and fighter jets, while the arts begs. “If we support the little people, we’ll have fewer people in our prisons.”