Museums, the Arts, Cuts and then what?

Recession, that dreaded word, of which you hear almost constantly, ever since 2008. Recession, cuts, budget cuts, salary freezes, etc, bla bla bla. We are almost used to it that we have grown numb to hear it. Shocking we do not seem to find this situation anymore as that word is thrown around every day. You only need to look back a few weeks and you read about the tumultuous situation in Greece; now, Spain faces trouble and who knows what could be next.

Not being an economist nor one fully cogent and trained in financial advice matters, I am not one to speak about the recession and its impact on the global economy. Yet, what frightens me is opening the newspaper to read about one after another budget cut in the arts and culture sector.

The arts in Canada

In March, shocking news were made public that the Vancouver Playhouse theatre company was shutting its doors despite running successfully for nearly five decades (1). To make matters worse, Canada’s ruling party, the Conservatives, recently announced dramatic cuts to this sector, in particular, the CBC having its budget reduced by 10 % (2)! Luckily, though, national museums and the Canada Council for the Arts were mostly spared from these reductions (3).

The Situation around the World

The situation in other parts of the globe is not very different. In Italy, an art museum in Naples has made headlines this week as it drastically started burning several pieces in its art collection out of protest. Why? The cuts in spending in the arts (4). Yes, such actions prove a point, but, of course, does it really have to go this far to be heard? In the UK, charities have even been hit as caps are coming in place on wealthy donors in the form of tax relief (5). In perhaps another shocking development, it is revealed that one in ten of the cultural organizations that received funding from the Arts Council England will close as a result of their funding having ended in the beginning of April (6). The Council’s chief executive Alan Davey stated:

The arts council has never funded all the art that takes place in this country, nor do we have the means to do so. It’s always a difficult decision to stop funding an organisation, but faced with an almost 30% reduction in our budget for the arts, we had some choices to make. (6)

Effects on Culture

What effects will these developments have in the future (7)? Perhaps it is prudent to explore what a cultural organization such as a museum means to the community. As they say, a picture speaks more than a thousand words:

the Museum, the Artist & the Public
the Museum, the Artist & the Public (8)

This notion of culture, that one word, which has been around for more than we can remember. Yet, because of exactly these cuts, culture has less and less room to grow in and it becomes less every day. Just like the picture says, a museum is a school, where the artist learns to communicate, but the public learns to make connections. And it is exactly these connections, which are being made more difficult to attain…

Notes

  1. CBC News (last updated: 9 March 2012) “Vancouver Playhouse Theatre company to shut down” – LINK.
  2. National Post (last updated: 29 March 2012) “CBC takes a 10% federal funding cut in Canada’s 2012 budget” – LINK.
  3. CBC News (last updated: 29 March 2012) “National museums, Canada Council spared cuts” – LINK.
  4. Vancouver Sun (last updated: 19 April 2012) “Italy museum burns art to protest against crisis” – LINK.
  5. The Guardian (last updated: 4 April 20120) “Tax relief cap plan puts Cameron on course for row with charities” – LINK. For the reaction from charities, an excellent article in the Guardian is found here (last updated: 7 April 2012) “Charities lose critical funding as George Osborne hits the richest donors” – LINK.
  6. The Guardian (last updated: 29 March 2012) “Culture cuts: one in 10 companies who lost funding will close” – LINK.
  7. Several provocative articles have been written recently in response to these cuts. In Canada, Jacques Bensimon of the Huffington Post Canada ponders “why chop the arts down”? [Huffington Post Canada (last updated: 7 April 2012) – LINK] As part of the Guardian on the Northerner Blog, Harriet Harman presents her take on culture [The Guardian (last updated: 30 March 2012) “We have to make the case for culture” – LINK].
  8. Photographed this week by the author on the campus of the University of British-Columbia.
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