Arts & Culture

Background: It is almost impossible to currently estimate the impact COVID-19 will have on individuals that work within the sectors or Arts and Culture and Tourism. Many of these workers are part of the gig economy, artists and artisans rely on a variety of income streams, including vendor shows and festivals, to sell their products. The CK Crafters and Artisans Guild had recorded over 100 events within a two hours radius of CK, but most of these are already cancelled. It is worth noting that, according to a 2017 study released by Stats Canada, shows the economic impact of culture industries was $58.9 Billion dollars, and Ontario fared the best out of the provinces. In 2017, culture industries outpaced: agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, accommodation and food services and utilities. It represents an impact that is 8x greater than the sports industry.
Even so, stakeholders within these industries feel alienated within CK, and suggest this might be the perfect time to have productive discussions that INCLUDE stakeholders about how to
restructure the Municipal Arts, Culture and Tourism departments to better reflect the importance of these industries.

Concern: The Municipality has not set up Arts, Culture and Tourism for success. Sectors are buried within complicated municipal red tape and cannot pivot quickly. Stakeholders report a general disconnect between themselves, the work they do, and the municipal department meant to represent their sector.

Concern: Municipal funding could be better allocated within an alternate structure. This topic has been brought up, across the board, by every stakeholder and respondent we have spoken with so far. This appears to be a serious underlying issue that has existed prior to COVID-19 but has only been made more apparent in this time of economic uncertainty. There was a great deal of discussion by the committee on this topic, and a variety of suggestions were made. There are many municipalities that structure their Arts, Culture and Tourism sectors differently, and make use of local stakeholders to create a holistic approach to these sectors. Some suggestions included:

  • Remove Arts & Culture and Tourism from Community Attraction & Leisure Services and Community Human Services and create a standalone Municipal department that works directly with stakeholders
  • Establish an Arts Council and Tourism Board that involve stakeholders and experts within these industries. Municipal funding and grants can be administered through these boards where they can make the greatest impact. There are many examples within Ontario of how this structure thrives:
  • From a respondent: Tourism cannot pivot and be responsive to local stakeholders as a department several layers down the administrative channels. If the municipal tourism department is dismantled, the budget could be redirected as annual core funding to a non-profit organization with a board of directors and non-municipal staff.
  • This could be set up with quarterly or annual reporting responsibilities to the municipality. This would allow revenue generating projects and quick action implemented by direction from stakeholders.
  • Grants might also be more available as it would not be a municipal department. Tourism London and Windsor-Essex-Peele Tourism may use this model. (More investigation on these structures would be needed)
  • This works the same way in many Ontario and Canadian Municipalities for Arts and Culture as well as Tourism. Independent NFPs that operate as Arts and Tourism Councils are well-documented.
  • Examples of other successful models were shared:
    • Guelph Arts Council
    • Prince Edward county tourism
    • City of Kingston:
    • Brampton

If the Municipality were to contemplate alternative structures for Arts and Culture and Tourism, funds could be better allocated. If boards were to be established, we could follow the lead of many other Municipalities and destinations that have established a tourism tax on overnight accommodations to help fund the initiatives of the NFP boards.

Concern: Grant programs for the arts do not actually address the needs of working artists Grant programs within CK don’t often contemplate the expense and complexity of creating an original work. A suggestion was made to break down the application process so that specific funding can be designated for supplies, and then other funding allocated for the artist. (For example, allocating a set amount of money for public art can easily be eaten up by the cost of materials, and little actually makes it directly to the artist).

We should develop a grant application process that allows artists to apply for these programs and outline the true costs of the project. Ideally, the project would be reviewed by members of the arts council, and grants would be administered through this channel.

Concern: There is no cohesive tourism strategy in place to make the most of CK’s unique Landscape. The findings and recommendations within the 2015 Municipal Tourism Report have not been fully realized, and a reshuffling within the municipal structure has seen Tourism fall far down on the list of perceived priorities. A suggestion was made that the Municipality could create a grant to fund a local company to build and maintain an online presence that lists all local festivals, attractions, events, etc. The general consensus was that this could be done more efficiently outside the municipal structure, but the local company would need to work closely with the municipality. This contract would also help create jobs within the local economy. (Ideally, this program would be administered by a newly established Tourism Guild).

Concern: There is far too much red tape and roadblocks involved in event applications
Suggestion: Create an online portal for event applications. Cut out the physical paperwork. Streamline the process for recurring events.

Concern: There is a disproportionate emphasis on events/activities run in municipal spaces, and not enough focus on grassroots initiatives. The rental of Municipal spaces is cost-prohibitive, and yet events that fall outside of those spaces do not get the same support and attention. The Municipality should do a review of the costs that are download onto local renters and stakeholders and find out how they can actually work with them to ensure municipal rental spaces are fully engaged for the good of the community. Often, events that start small are well-known and supported within the arts and culture communities, but there is a disconnect between the Municipality and these grassroots initiatives.

Concern: Signage from 401 and other highways is not adequate and extremely cost prohibitive CK is a corridor for many travelers, but signage is not adequate to attract these travelers. One member of the task force recalls a $75,000 allotment that was directed towards hiring a consultant to develop a signage program. If that’s the case, perhaps the money would be better directed towards signage. We could reach out to Elgin County for a copy of their signage policy, since it’s something they do very well. Municipality could lobby on behalf of rural business owners for relief from the prohibitive costs of purchasing and maintaining 401 signage. There is no cost differentiation for businesses across the 400-series corridors to have signage there. (For example, the cost to a local CK business to have 401 signage is the same as an urban, downtown Toronto business. Approximately $22,000 per year)

Concerns that are echoed by other sectors include:

  • Property tax relief for businesses with brick-and-mortar locations. These sectors were among the first hit, and may be among the last to recover
  • CERB makes it difficult for workers in gig economy to work. Often have multiple income streams, and if most dry up, they cannot rely on the remaining streams to cover living expenses, and must choose to leave that stream so they can collect CERB
  • What will the protocols be for reopening? How will we access PPE? What happens to property taxes if we’re forced to work at a diminished capacity for many months – it would be financially unsustainable.
  • Many events also have local businesses that are benefactors of these events. If the businesses are also recovering, it will take even longer for this economy to bounce back.