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B.C. art attack: Interview with VIVO General Manager Emma Hendrix

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Emma Hendrix is a multi-media artist and sound designer.  He is the General Manager of VIVO Media Arts Centre.

Q - How has VIVO been impacted by the cuts to the arts?  How has this impacted artists?  

This year VIVO was pretty lucky in terms of funding.  We are one of the few organizations who actually received Gaming money. We certainly weren't expecting it, but I think we managed because we apply under Human and Social Services instead of arts.  Our funding came through largely, I believe, because we are not just an 'arts' organization but are an educational institution.

That being said, VIVO did lose approximately $20,000 in BCAC (BC Arts Council) funding this year.  Additionally, as a Production centre, we are expected to generate revenues, and when there is less money in the sector in general, it means we are less able to meet our budgets and must struggle to find solutions to our deficit.  Obviously, when VIVO is running a deficit we are less able to support artists with donations, discounts, and other forms of access. 

This year VIVO has had to cut back on staff hours. This means the centre is less accessible to artists wanting to produce, distribute, or exhibit work. The most direct impact on artists utilizing VIVO is through fewer distributed tapes and fewer exhibitions.  Part of Video Out's mandate is to help artists to generate revenue from their work, but with fewer hours and fewer galleries showing work, we have to struggle in order to get artworks out there.  We also are not able to pay as much in artist fees this year for exhibitions.  The fear for a place like VIVO is that more and more energy gets put into survival rather than helping artists create, and that can lead to a break down of community.

I should also mention that all of us who work here are artists and when we lose paid hours at our day job, it affects us in how we are able to survive. Most of us work around the clock generally and are not paid enough as it is, and now we work just as much and get paid less.  It's really an unsustainable situation.

Q - The Chair of the BC Arts Council recently resigned.  How was this viewed in the arts sector?
I think most people feel this was an incredibly bold and important move.  People were surprised but it was heartening to know we arent alone.

Q - Recently, some funding was restored to the arts budget.  Will this make any level of impact?  How is gaming funding changes impacting arts organizations?
The money that was restored to the BCAC (BC Arts Council) could very well have an impact, but that remains to be seen.  It's hard to say where that money will end up.. It is entirely possible it won't make its way to any smaller organizations... I imagine it will, but after this last year, I'm not counting on anything anymore.  Of course, for some orgs, its too late.  The reality is that even with this funding restoration, BC is so far behind other provinces that its a little embarrassing.  The worst part is that all these completely underfunded organizations and artists are competing nationally with provinces that have far superior funding structures, giving them the upper hand at accessing federal funding or foundations. 

The positive thing that has come of this is that the arts community in vancouver, and BC in general, has really come together for a common cause.  Organizations are talking to each other, sharing resources and information... essentially the arts community is getting stronger because of all this... I mean stronger as a community of people with a common goal.

Q - Small organizations seem to be particularly affected by cuts.  What are some things you have been hearing in terms of the impacts of the arts cuts?  Has there been a politicization of arts funding?
The big story around here is the helen pitt almost disappearing. an organization with a 35 year history was almost completely lost. 

Q - With Vancouver's affordability and issues and now further cuts to arts budgets, is there a legitimate fear that artists will relocate from Vancouver and BC generally?

I would say yes. And I say that as someone who is considering moving to Ontario because it is just such a struggle to survive here.  It's difficult for some people to understand about the impact of something like these cuts... but really, for me, it's so much more than just a monetary issue.  After fighting so hard for so long to improve the community in vancouver, it's like a slap in the face to read about people that are think culture should disappear and has no value.  I mean really, who wants to live in a society that doesnt appreciate culture? And I realize that obviously many people in the province do, and in the end I hope all this results in votes and we get a new government in place, but it is incredibly disheartening to have your livelihood, as meagre as it always was, taken away and labeled 'unnecessary.'

Q - Anything else?   

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