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Membership in CRD Arts Council a key question in Colwood council meeting

The municipality will need to become a participating service member if it wants access to arts funding

Pendray House. Photo: Courtesy of Colwood City Council

According to a data report prepared for the Arts Council by Hill Strategies that draws on Statistics Canada labour force trends, arts and culture workers have grown 50% since 2006 in the capital region compared to 8% nationally. But presenters from CRD Arts Council say the city of Colwood may miss out on future chances to make good on that growth if it doesn’t become one of its jurisdictional participant members.

Tuesday evening, CRD Arts Commission chair and mayor of Victoria Marianne Alto along with CRD manager of arts and culture Chris Gilpin made a presentation to the Colwood council explaining granting opportunities and to encourage Colwood to join in. There are currently nine jurisdictional CRD service participants; Saanich, Victoria, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, View Royal, Highlands, Metchosin, Sooke, and Southern Gulf Islands. All participant communities receive a seat on the Arts Commission, and based on CRD arts advisory council recommendations, have the opportunity to impact the future of arts funding in the region.

In the balance in its own decision to join, is the Juan de Fuca Performing Arts Centre Society’s (PACS) quest to build a 350-seat West Shore Community Arts Centre and greater support for local events and programming like the Bloom Art Show hosted at Pendray House. The decision, as was made clear at the meeting, also has impacts for arts organizations and artists in participant member jurisdictions who want to perform there.

The CRD Arts Commission manages five granting programs. The Ideas grants provide funds to non-arts organizations to support arts events. Incubator grants help new organizations get up and running. Project grants fund non-profits conducting series events and extended programming. Operating grants of which 22 are currently in effect, provide stable funding for arts programming and long-term planning, and finally, Equity grants are designed to support programs and communities that face significant barriers to accessing funding.

The problem for Colwood is that it is not one of CRD’s arts service jurisdictions and so is not eligible to apply for any of the CRD’s annual funding of $2.6 million. In addition, groups and arts organizations in other participating jurisdictions are not eligible to receive support to bring arts events to Colwood. Recently, the Sooke Philharmonic submitted a bid for support to tour in the Westshore, however, it can only apply for funding for events in Saanich but not in the Dogwood Auditorium on the grounds of Royal Roads.

If Colwood wants to continue to be a leader in the expansion of arts in the Westshore with the CRD Arts Council’s support, it might have to consider acting sooner rather than later. Chris Gilpin explained that it has two membership options. Tier one membership costs approximately $191,000 or $24 per average household and tier two membership would cost the city $60,000 or roughly $7.50 per household. He warned that the council’s “2025 funding estimates are already being calculated and that 2024 funding is already out the door.” But it’s not all just about the money. It’s about having a voice of influence in a growing arts scene. Mayor Alto also explained that the council will be reactivating a committee that has been evaluating arts infrastructure throughout the region and so as part of the commission Colwood “would have a very instrumental role in that conversation as well.”

And while the two admitted that Victoria receives the lion’s share of CRD Arts Council grants, Colwood need not think of itself as getting a mouse’s return on its investment but rather see itself as the forward-looking arts community better able to support local venues, have a greater voice in the region with respect to arts-based decision-making and more able to provide support to creators closer to home.