New Nova Scotia arts council established: Arts Nova Scotia

Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister David Wilson introduces the new arm's length council and formalized structure and mandate of the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council

From a press release minutes ago from Christopher Majka (Nova Scotia Cultural Action Network), came the exciting and encouraging announcement that Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister David Wilson will be tabling two bills before Legislature, one to establish Arts Nova Scotia, a new arm's length arts council to fill the great void left after the Nova Scotia Arts Council was destroyed 10 years ago by the Hamm government. The other bill will formalize the structure and mandate of the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council.

Grab a glass of champagne and read on:

"It was with inestimable joy and satisfaction that I attended an announcement today by Communities, Culture, and Heritage Minister David Wilson that he will be tabling two bills before the Nova Scotia Legislature. The first will establish Arts Nova Scotia, the province's new independent, arm's-length arts council. A second bill will formalize the structure and mandate of the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council.

It was on 27 March 2002, that then Tourism and Culture Minister Rodney MacDonald liquidated the Nova Scotia Arts Council, an institution that had taken over two decades, and the work of hundreds of dedicated professional artists to build. It was established in 1996 by a unanimous vote in the Nova Scotia Legislature, and in its six years of existence, despite ever diminishing budgets, it was able to leverage a prodigious amount of creative activity throughout the province. We had, literally, never seen anything like it.

Then in an extraordinary action—never previously undertaken in any province, state, or country—an independent, arm's-length, arts council was liquidated by ministerial fiat, its assets seized, its staff locked out by security guards, and its directory summarily fired. This act by the Hamm government left artists and citizens in Nova Scotia—and across the country—stunned. Over a thousand signed an open petition published in the Chronicle Herald calling on the government to restore the arts council. Hundreds marched in a demonstration to the Legislature, drowning out debate in the chamber as they chanted on the steps of Province House, demanding the return of the arts council.

The then leader of the official opposition, Darrell Dexter, told the crowds that if the Hamm government persisted in its wrongheaded move that "we are only one election day away from the reinstatement of the arts council." To its great credit, in this, its first term in office, the Dexter government has delivered on this promise, and like the proverbial phoenix, an arm's-length, independent, arts council with its own enabling legislation will rise from the ashes.

This is very important step in the recognition by government that funding programs for professional artists (Arts Nova Scotia programs will not apply to the cultural industries, nor to programs in the community arts) should not be subject to political control and that professional artists—like members of other professions—deserve to have an arm's-length organization that represents their interests in society.

Arts Nova Scotia will have its own Board of Directors. This board will then select and hire a director of the organization, and program staff dedicated to its functioning, and other administrative expenses, will be paid for from the budget of the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage. Arts Nova Scotia will have an initial budget of $2.4 million (twice that of the former Nova Scotia Arts Council) which it will use to fund programs of assistance for individual professional artists, organizations, producers, and presenters and to run programs like the Portia White Prize and the Art Bank program. Arts Nova Scotia will again assume control over the $1 million Arts Endowment Fund that was seized by the Hamm government when the last arts council was destroyed.

The framework for this very important initiative was developed by the Arts Nova Scotia Transition Committee consisting of Lunenburg MLA (and master potter) Pam Birdsall, Live Art artistic director Paul Caskey, arts consultant Leah Hamilton, and Theatre Nova Scotia director Christopher Shore—a stellar team whose report to Minister David Wilson was accepted in its entirety.

This is an important day in Nova Scotia, redressing a wrong that had been inflicted on the professional arts community almost a decade ago, and an important step in healing the wounds which have persisted across the cultural community since that day. We congratulate the government on this step and look forward to working with them, Arts Nova Scotia, and the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council on initiatives that will benefit the artists of the province, the rich creative economy that is the result of such activities, and all Nova Scotians who will reap the artistic and economic fruits from a thriving artistic and creative sector.

Christopher Majka
Chair: Nova Scotia Cultural Action Network"

For more information on the announcement see:

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