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City ignores artists as vital part of community

The Editor, Re: Rent hikes threaten arts and crafts groups, News, Dec. 9. Ted Townsend said, Most of the user groups are comfortable with the charges.

The Editor,

Re: Rent hikes threaten arts and crafts groups, News, Dec. 9.

Ted Townsend said, Most of the user groups are comfortable with the charges. Just because the groups are not setting up an Occupy Richmond outside the Arts Centre, it does not mean that groups are happy.

All the arts groups are weighed down with the rate increases. One group has moved out already.

Recently, Arts Strategy meetings, with hired consultants planning for greater expansion and greater focus on Richmonds arts groups were held. This shows a recognition of the importance of the arts to the city that is not supported by current actions.

Artists are essential to a culture and play an important part in the community. Richmond is bringing in new residents who mostly live in high-rises where there is no space for a studio, let alone a kiln.

Participating in art in any form is a healthy social activity. Richmonds arts groups represent all ages and all cultural backgrounds and are great for building a sense of community.

Many cities around the world make special tax breaks for artists and encourage arts groups as a way to energize an area. Richmonds artists support many community activities such as Winterfest, DoorsOpen, The Maritime Festival, Olympics, Cultural Days, Finn Slough Art Show and the Grand Prix of Art Steveston. Richmond Artists Guild hosts the summer Fraser River Festival of Art.

Local artists support fundraisers and charitable events such as Gateway Theatres Cocktail pARTy, Richmond Hospital Foundations fundraiser Cork and Canvas and many other community causes as well as broader based groups such as the Cancer Society.

Local artists have donated paintings for permanent display in Richmonds hospice and Richmond Hospital. Richmonds artists make a major contribution to enrich the quality of life in Richmond.

We feel Richmond has reneged on a promise to the arts community. Years ago, arts people were told to be patient and the centre was finally delivered after more sports facilities came first.

I was on a planning committee and the centre was planned to be available for artists of all ages working in many forms and media. We were urged to use the rooms as much as possible to show the public what was available in Richmond.

Now we are being priced out of a facility built by taxpayers. Rooms were planned for specific uses. Bustling with activity, they bring a life to the community. Sitting empty, they speak poorly of the citys priorities.

A 300 per cent increase may very well empty those rooms. Could you imagine the citys response if a union demanded a 300 per cent pay increase, using only the fact that union members havent had an increase in quite a while as the only justification?

As a unified group we did petition council to look into this situation last year. All they did was refer it back to staff. The only time any action took place was just before the election. Now that the election is over, council can go back to sleep for three more years.

It is interesting that Townsend referred to the groups as user groups when just this last year we were told this term was no longer acceptable and we had to agree to being called Resident Arts Groups or else pay even more, lose our storage cupboards and face other penalties.

If the city is truly considering the interests of the entire community, as Townsend suggested, then there should be proper support for the arts. A 300 per cent increase in rental rates is not support.

Loraine Wellman, Vice President

Richmond Artists Guild