It never ceases to amaze me what a talented community we have. We have people who are conversant in so many arts they make my jaw drop in sheer envy. Sometimes, though, I wonder if we value these people enough. And although there are those who would rather walk through a bed of red-hot coals than admit they have any use for money, I suspect most artists appreciate being properly compensated for what they do.
When I look at a fine Ed Hill print or watch a hilarious amateur theatre presentation, something happens to my outlook that's priceless. It releases me from my usual narrow attitude to view life in a different light.
Perhaps that's why, when I hear about arts' organizations in our community getting the royal shaft from the federal government, it makes my blood boil.
This year, for the second time in three years, the Festival of the Written Arts (FOWA) has been refused its request for student help under the Canada Summer Jobs program. Last time the FOWA managed by loud squawking to have the funding reinstated, but who knows for this year? It doesn't sound promising.
All that would be bad enough in itself, but to add insult to injury, the process festival producer Jane Davidson had to go through just to find out whether the FOWA would have funding was ridiculous.
She first called the toll-free number on the summer jobs page of the Services Canada website, only to be informed that the toll-free number did not work in this region - further proof, I think, that Canada ends at the Ontario/Manitoba border. At any rate, Jane persevered and decided to try the Service Canada office on 10th Avenue in Vancouver. After an eternity in voice prompt purgatory, she finally arrived at the summer jobs option only to be told to call another local number. When she tried that number, she got "the number you have reached is no longer in service" recording. Finally, by using a personal contact she got hold of a nabob with Services Canada who promised to let her know what the answer was. The answer came from a clerk at the office: "No." According to that bearer of bad news, the hold up in the process was at our MP's office. Apparently Blair Wilson has a lot of say over who gets the funding. And while I wasn't able to verify this information by press time, it's an explanation I've heard given to other organizations with the same funding woes.
For an organization that's been bringing writers to the Coast for 25 years and has provided valuable work experience to students for many of those years, this arbitrary process is completely frustrating. I think it's about time the government made the arts a priority, and this would be a great place to start. It's high time their outlook changed.