News / Calgary

Lack of funding threatens Calgary arts

Mayors Lunch ends with call to support the arts through tickets and sponsors

Mayor Nenshi visits youth artists set up in the lobby before the Mayors Lunch. He said more people need to visit Calgary’s art institutions.

Aaron Chatha / Metro

Mayor Nenshi visits youth artists set up in the lobby before the Mayors Lunch. He said more people need to visit Calgary’s art institutions.

The troubled economy is causing a financial drama for the Calgary arts scene.

At the annual Mayor’s Lunch for Arts Champions, Mayor Naheed Nenshi drew attention to the fact that fewer sponsors are writing cheques to support the city’s arts organizations.

As an example, officials said the average Calgary Opera production costs $800,000 for three nights. That’s using existing sets.

It’s been 10 years since the opera saw an increase in funding. Nenshi noted that even if they sold out every show of their 2,000-person venue, the production would not break even without outside financial support.

“I’m a little bit worried that some of our particularly large arts organizations are at risk of losing some of their corporate sponsorships at this point in the economic cycle,” he said, adding that it’s important for Calgarians to buy tickets and write cheques to keep Calgary’s arts scene vibrant.

The arts scene is important to attracting people to the city as well, according to Peter Balkwill of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop, who won the Doug and Lois Mitchell Outstanding Calgary Artist Award.

“Inglewood’s a perfect example,” said Balkwill. “Artists used to hunker down into the Inglewood community and, as a result, made it vibrant and a super interesting place. Then, other people want to live there because of the artistic and creative impact, and energy, of the environment.”

Balkwill said it was incredibly encouraging to see Old Trout’s work recognized at the Mayor’s Lunch.

In total seven Cultural Leaders Legacy Artist Awards were given out with cash prizes of $5,000.

Nenshi ended the lunch by asking Calgarians to take three people, who have never been to theatre before, to see a local show.

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