Artists lament loss of arts grant

Govern­ment pulls fund­ing on pro­gram that al­lowed per­form­ers to go on tour

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - ASH­LEY MARTIN amartin@post­media.com twit­ter.com/LPAsh­leyM

Clas­si­cal gui­tarist Ram­ses Calderon spent most of Au­gust in Cen­tral Amer­ica, per­form­ing con­certs and net­work­ing. It’s the last such ex­pe­ri­ence he’ll have thanks to the Cul­ture on the Go grant.

The Saskatchewan govern­ment cut the grant in its March bud­get.

“The whole pur­pose of that pro­gram was ac­tu­ally to bring the pro­duc­tion that we have out­side, so that peo­ple know what we pro­duce in Saskatchewan na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally,” said Calderon, who lives in Regina.

Af­ter a near decade of sup­port­ing Saskatchewan artists in show­cas­ing their work, the fi­nal projects funded by Cul­ture on the Go (CoGo) are wind­ing down.

The pro­vin­cial govern­ment had funded the grant since 2009, when it was es­tab­lished as a three-year pi­lot pro­gram to be de­vel­oped and de­liv­ered by the Saskatchewan Arts Board. Since 2013, it had been jointly of­fered through the Arts Board and Cre­ative Saskatchewan.

While both or­ga­ni­za­tions sup­port the work of lo­cal artists, Cre­ative Saskatchewan has a spe­cific man­date to pro­mote com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity and prof­itabil­ity. It was given the bulk of the fund­ing for two of four years.

Net­work­ing dur­ing Calderon’s 23-day ‘Cuer­das de Amer­ica’ tour of four coun­tries led to two fu­ture gigs: An in­vi­ta­tion to Sao Paulo, Brazil, in De­cem­ber, and a tour of Paraguay in May next year.

“All those other projects that are com­ing up now, they wouldn’t have hap­pened be­fore. It al­lows you to be on the scope in that sense, in my case in­ter­na­tional … That’s thanks to the fund,” said Calderon, who re­ceived $17,550 in CoGo fund­ing through the arts board for his most re­cent tour, and has re­ceived the grant sev­eral times be­fore.

The grant did not only sup­port na­tional and in­ter­na­tional tour­ing.

Saska­toon’s Gor­don Tootoosis Nikani­win The­atre, for­merly known as the Saskatchewan Na­tive The­atre Com­pany, has re­lied for years on Cul­ture on the Go to bring its Christ­mas show to com­mu­ni­ties like Duck Lake, Beardy’s and Oke­ma­sis, La Ronge, North Bat­tle­ford, Maple Creek and Regina.

This year’s show, Cur­tis Pee­tee­tuce’s Ve­gas Va­ca­tion, will tour to at least 10 lo­ca­tions with a $35,000 CoGo grant through the arts board.

Next year, the com­pany will have to look to other fund­ing sources.

“That is a lot of money for us to re­place. I don’t know if any­body is go­ing to step for­ward and say ‘we want to do that,’ ” said Dar­lene Oke­maysim-Si­cotte, ad­min­is­tra­tor for the the­atre com­pany.

Tour­ing makes art ac­ces­si­ble to peo­ple who might not oth­er­wise ex­pe­ri­ence it, said Oke­may simSi­cotte.

CoGo’s can­cel­la­tion makes for “a void, es­pe­cially when they’re used to hav­ing it be de­liv­ered in their com­mu­nity, and they look for­ward to it,” she said.

Oke­maysim-Si­cotte es­ti­mated at least 2,000 peo­ple see the com­pany’s work on tour, which has opened up op­por­tu­ni­ties for Indige­nous youth.

“It’s ac­tu­ally a net­work­ing and re­cruit­ment op­por­tu­nity for the younger peo­ple,” she said.

“They get to see some­one like them­selves on the stage per­form­ing, speak­ing in their lan­guage, dress­ing up and do­ing light­ing, do­ing sound, di­rect­ing. It plants a seed of their own cre­ativ­ity, that there is an op­por­tu­nity out there.”

The Saskatchewan Arts Board has funded 112 or­ga­ni­za­tions and 249 in­de­pen­dent artists through CoGo over the years.

That in­cludes the Regina Sym­phony Or­ches­tra, which re­ceived $32,841 to fund its re­cently an­nounced tour with Buffy Sain­teMarie to three First Na­tions in the spring.

In 2013 and 2014, Cre­ative Saskatchewan was given the bulk of CoGo money, $600,000 as com­pared to the arts board’s $200,000.

In 2015, funds were split 50/50, then re­duced by half in 2016, be­fore be­ing cut al­to­gether this year.

Cre­ative Saskatchewan’s CoGo money was awarded through two ex­ist­ing and on­go­ing grant pro­grams, one for tour sup­port and one to help artists mar­ket them­selves else­where.

Be­cause of the CoGo cut, which would have topped up ex­ist­ing grants, the Cre­ative Saskatchewan well is dry un­til the next fis­cal year be­gins in April.

That’s frus­trat­ing to Regina singer-song­writer Jef­fery Straker, who ben­e­fited from CoGo grants through the arts board and Cre­ative Saskatchewan.

“There is some great mo­men­tum in a lot of projects that could re­ally use it,” said Straker, who is cur­rently on tour in Nova Sco­tia.

“The goal for every artist is ac­tu­ally to bring their work and make it avail­able to ev­ery­one, and I think it’s very im­por­tant in this case for Saskatchewan to give sup­port to their artists,” said Calderon.

“As a clas­si­cal gui­tarist,” he added, “how many con­certs can I give in Regina?

“The only way to be able to grow is by ex­pand­ing, and that was the main pur­pose of this grant … to be able to pro­mote what Saskatchewan brings … to the na­tional so­ci­ety but also to the in­ter­na­tional so­ci­ety.”

TROY FLEECE

Clas­si­cal gui­tarist Ram­ses Calderon’s most re­cent tour of Cen­tral Amer­ica was funded by a pro­vin­cial govern­ment grant. Net­work­ing dur­ing that tour led to gigs in Brazil and Paraguay for the Regina mu­si­cian.

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