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Culture appreciation displayed for MLAs

Garrah, who hung prints and pieces from her own personal collection, said she wanted to add a little cultural flare to the wall outside the curling area where Friday’s speeches and meetings were held. 

“I heard a bunch of these guys were going to walk by a big blank wall. Overall most people just walked by, but if it was a big blank wall, it would bother me,” said Garrah, who met with the minister of culture and community spirit Lindsay Blackett. “I talked with him briefly. I told him this was his wall for the department of culture and community spirit. It’s the first time since the Lougheed years that Alberta has had a department of culture.”

Garrah points to Alberta’s Community Spirit Program, announced last spring, as an example of the province’s renewed dedication to the arts. The program is designed to let Albertans decide where funding will go according to which non-profit organizations people choose to donate. 

The government of Alberta will match up to half of funds donated through the program with $20-million available to spread throughout the province. Individual organizations cannot receive more than $25,000 per year or $50,000 over three years.

Blackett said the funding shows Alberta to be a province striving towards a higher quality of life.

“Right now if you look at us vis-a-vis all the other provinces, right now we’re second in per capita arts funding only to Quebec and we’re catching on them fast,” he said, adding that film and television in Alberta has been a thriving industry recently. “We’ve got a great television and film industry a lot of people don’t know a lot of things that happen in Alberta. We’ve got two CBC productions, television-wise, across the province. B.C. has none.”

Blackett said Albertans can expect arts and culture to continue to grow despite cutbacks at the federal level.

“Most of the recipients of those funds were never from Alberta to begin with. We gladly, as the great patriots that we are,  give 40 per cent of the equalization payments into the fund and we get very little back, but we’ll make sure that Albertans will not be compromised by it,” he said. “If there’s groups like the Alberta ballet that are traveling and they can’t access some of those traveling programs, we’ll make sure we step up and take care of it. Because it’s important to us, but at the same time, we’re not going to tell the federal government what to do.”

According to Blackett the 11 people who will make up the Council on Arts and Culture have been chosen and he’s expecting to announce the council in November. 

The council, which Garrah applied for, will promote arts throughout the province and liaison with MLAs to preserve Alberta’s “cultural legacy.” 

“We’ve come down to the list. We had 278 people to pick from a wide range of backgrounds, and a wide range of sector experience and some great names. We’ll probably announce something in November. But I think Alberta’s going to be very impressed with what we’ve done,” said Blackett.

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