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'I will not sign:' Nenshi against Creative Calgary's funding ask

Group is asking for $20 million in arts funding going forward so Calgary can catch up to Edmonton, and become an overall better city.

Creative Calgary meets at Municipal Plaza to tell council about where they want to see arts funding in the next term.

Helen Pike / Metro

Creative Calgary meets at Municipal Plaza to tell council about where they want to see arts funding in the next term.

Calgary's arts community is beginning to paint a picture of how they want election candidates to move forward with funding in the future.

More than 60 people gathered outside of city hall, most with matching Creative Calgary T-shirts, to demand more for the arts – at least as much as Edmonton gets.

And for the group, that's about 0.7 per cent of the city's budget, which would be an approximate $20 million investment in the arts.

"I'm very pleased with their initiative, I'm very pleased with what they're doing, I will not sign the pledge in its current form," said Nenshi. "As I've said from the very beginning, I don't believe in input-based measures."

Nenshi said the city has to focus its spending on where the biggest bang for the buck is, which could mean an increase in arts spending, but that it shouldn't be based on what other jurisdictions are spending or arbitrary numbers.

Aritha Van Herk, author and University of Calgary professor, said a creative city will attract new businesses and entrepreneurs, which will help it towards the hallmark of a world-class city.

"Edmonton gives twice as much per-capita of civic support to the arts than we do," Van Herk said. "I want us to at least give as much support as Edmonton does."

She said more funding for the arts will help enhance the city's ability to attract a diverse economy and boost the quality of life.

"Everybody worries about their jobs, their homes, feeding their kids and education," Van Herk said. "One dollar of art investment doubles its return, and it triples its return when you take into consideration tourism. I think people forget that."

Irfhan Rawji, a member of the Creative Calgary advisory group said the arts group wanted to bring arts into focus for council and the mayor, as well as anyone running for the Oct. 16 municipal election.

"That message of being a creative leader is important," said Rawji. "If you look at what Amazon said a few days of the four points they made (when looking for HQ2) was they were looking for a city that was thinking big, and thinking creatively – unfortunately Calgary can't make that claim."

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