Culture in the city isn’t going to be managed – council takes a pass on the cost – maybe next year.

By Pepper Parr

February 21, 2014


There isn’t going to be a Cultural Manager in Burlington during 2014 – perhaps in 2015, but a Standing Committee just didn’t see a compelling case for hiring a new person for a job that wasn’t as clearly defined as it could have been.

The arts and culture community brought its existence to the surface – the city learned a lot more about who they were, what they are and what they do.  Their lobbying efforts blew hot and cold.  They certainly pulled the Mayor into their circle – but that wasn’t enough.

Staff, particularly general manager Kim Phillips, who is the lead on culture in the city, didn’t do all that much to support the creation of the position.

Council seemed to feel that a full-time cultural planner was enough for now and would revisit the needs of the cultural community next year.

What was nascent and budding – has been stunted at the administration level. What was nascent and budding – has been stunted at the administration level.  It is going to be up to the artists to create whatever structure is needed.  What the city will see is various initiatives – and there is some very solid work being done by individual artists, but people who are not always the best at administrative stuff aren’t going to be able to market and move the idea that Burlington is a legitimate cultural centre forward very much.

There is some hope but it doesn’t exist at council nor at the senior staff level.

The unveiling of the Spiral Stella outside the Performing Arts Centre on a bright summer day was thought to be the beginning of a breakthrough point for the arts and cultural community. Hasn’t worked out that way, yet – but art perseveres – their day will come.

Discussion on this item that was on the books for $128,000 + a one time set up cost of $8,320 started with  Councillor Lancaster saying she was not on for this one – mostly because she didn’t think there was all that much to manage –and on that point she was right.  The arts community saw this as a person who would do some ground breaking and seed planting.

Mayor Goldring followed Lancaster saying he would not support the expense – at least not this year.  Councillor Sharman said he was where the Mayor is – not at this time.

Councillor Craven wanted to know what the impact would be without a Cultural Manager – he seemed to think that with the cultural planner in place whatever had to be done would get done.

General manager Phillips conceded that the Cultural Action Plan that Council has approved will certainly proceed much slower.  She added that there is some cultural mapping being done –people are adding data on who they are and what they do to the web site.

Councillors Taylor and Dennison took a pass – made no comment.

The city’s cultural planner is all the arts community has at this point. There is some cultural mapping being done – which is useful in itself but won’t do all that much to build the tremendous potential culture has in this city. Angela Papariza will use her well-developed culture background and training to work with people like Trevor Copp – not likely to see much more in 2014.

For Councillor Meed Ward – it was also a “not now – re-evaluate later” an odd decision given that much of the cultural activity is in the downtown core which is her bailiwick.  Meed Ward could see where this was going.

The question now is – what is the cultural planner going to do?  The current occupant of the position certainly has cred within the arts and culture community but Burlington has had good people working the culture file in the past – and they have all moved on.

The hope for many was that with the surprising energy that was seen within the arts and culture community (it was always there – just not seen or appreciated) the time had come to get serious and develop the opportunity.

The Arts and Cultural Collective did as much as they could – and then some.  Trevor Copp sent out a last-minute plea to the Collective membership:  “Without this position, Arts & Cultural Grants, an outside Arts body, use of space and bylaw reviews in our favour is seriously jeopardized. All our work may go up in smoke. Let them know how you feel please”.

What happens next will depend on the kind of energy and leadership that comes from the general manager handling this file.  Don’t get your hopes up.

Background links:

Turns out the art community didn’t get anything from the cookie jar.

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3 comments to Culture in the city isn’t going to be managed – council takes a pass on the cost – maybe next year.

  • Yvonne

    Excellent decision on Council’s part . considering the latest cultural projects recently ,i fail to see the benefit in this position . Let’s concentrate on infrastructure and people first .

  • Jim Riley

    There are “things” that I know as a cultural worker that apparently city councillors and staff? do not seem to know or comprehend. I consider them basic. I am finding that city hall just doesn’t get it. That being written, I am going to give Councillor Meed Ward credit for asking questions and seeking out information about the arts in Burlington. I don’t think that all the details are known to the councillors and they are trying to use oranges to make an apple pie.

  • Karla Morrison

    Is Councillor Meed Ward giving up on the people that have supported her over all these years?

    Is she turning into a settled career politician like the rest of the right wingers on council?

    This community needs to secure a full time representative of culture and arts at the city hall.

    How can this city administration feel good about paying all those lawyers and not recognizing the benefits to be gained from one full time staff committed to making this city a better place to live? This position may even help this city in it’s economic development which would more than cover the cost of one salary and one more employed person.

    I feel like crying.