Arts community taps into $22 million from...
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Feb 28, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

Arts community taps into $22 million from billboard tax

North York Mirror

Funding and affordable art spaces are two of the biggest obstacles artists face in this city, but all that is about to change.

In an announcement at the Bathurst-Finch Hub Tuesday, Feb. 26, Ward 10 Councillor James Pasternak for York Centre, told a room full of artists and cultural workers that $22 million in arts funding is coming to Toronto.

“Where this funding decision is concerned, it’s revolutionary for the City of Toronto,” said Pasternak.

“We want to make sure they (artists) have that funding and go about making the city vibrant with theatre, in music, on canvas and in writing. That’s what it’s all about.”

‘We’ve been waiting for this moment for 10 years.’

The first installment will consist of $6 million drawn from the revenues received from Billboard taxes generated from 2009 to 2012. This is money collected from owners of third party signs, commonly known as billboards.

The remaining $16 million will be distributed to the arts community across Toronto over the next four years.

According to Scarborough Southwest Councilor Gary Crawford, who was also in attendance and helped Pasternak access the funding, this is an unprecedented amount of money being given to the arts community.

Out of the $6 million, $4 million is earmarked for Toronto Arts Council grants, funding that is much needed; the arts council often has to turn away 75 per cent of its applicants.

“We’ve been covering up the cracks as best we could,” said Claire Hopkinson, executive director of the Toronto Arts Council.

“We’ve been waiting for this moment for 10 years.”

As for the issue of art space, North York alone has more than 3,000 artists living in the area and only 118 art facilities, according to North York Arts.

A portion of the night was spent discussing the latest cultural space up for grabs – the John Bales house in Earl Bales Park. The house is available for a lease of $2 per month thanks to the city footing most of the bill, but it will cost an additional $2,000 a month for property taxes and utilities.

“If you can get three to five groups in there it’s not that much. It’s a beautiful house, in a great park and we can create a cultural hub right there.”

Local artist Joseph Muscat, who specializes in mixed media arts, isn’t interested in the building as much as he is in the funding.

“It’s very refreshing news in these days of constant cutbacks and it’s rather unexpected,” said Muscat.

“I think if people were made more aware that money spent on the arts isn’t money thrown out...I think we’d see even more funding. It’s a darn good investment for the city.”

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