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Things worse than ever: YK arts groups on relationship with City

Two cultural groups in Yellowknife say their relationship with the City is broken.

Representatives from the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC) and the Old Town Community Association wrote a strongly-worded letter to the editor in Friday’s Yellowknifer.

Within it, they say their relationship with city administration in particular is “worse than ever.”

While both groups are grateful for the funding they receive, they say they often pay back much of it through rental fees and fees to use public spaces.

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“We’ve struggled with this for several years now and we struggled to make this public because it’s difficult when you criticize one of your funders,” said Lisa Seagrave, president of the Old Town Community Association.

“We certainly don’t want this to be interpreted as ungrateful because we do appreciate the funding we get from the City.

“We just think that things could function better and things could be more user-friendly. We find it frustrating that they generously provide funding to us but then claw so much of it back.

“I think they’ve become more gatekeepers than facilitators and they feel like we’re trying to get away with something when we’re trying to contribute something.”

Marie Coderre is the executive and artistic director at NACC. She told Moose FM she’s especially concerned that core funding for the organization could be scaled back even further.

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Earlier this year, NACC learned that  it could receive a second successive funding hit as the city contemplated changes to its funding formula.

A grant review committee spent months reorganizing the way the City’s cash is handed out to organizations in need. But the latest proposal included a $50,000 cap on annual grants, which would mean another drop in NACC’s funding.

From 2009 until November last year, NACC received $80,000 a year from the city. In November that was cut to $65,000. Now, the new rules would reduce NACC’s share by another $15,000 – roughly a 35 percent combined cut.

“NACC has a big budget,” said Coderre.

“If that motion passes, that means we’ll go from $80,000 to $50,000 within two years which is quite a lot considering we have such a small team.”

Coderre says the organization was forced to cut a box office position recently due to ongoing funding concerns. She’s hopeful NACC can hire someone in the spring to fill the same position for six months of the year.

“The challenge for non-profits is that you have to plan a year in advance and you don’t know if your full budget is in place because you work from projections.

“We’re hopeful that we won’t have to cut any activities. It would have been great if the council last year sent us a notice of what would happen because we need to plan in advance.”

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Coderre says she wants to open up a dialogue with the City to improve relations between administration and arts groups in town.

During Monday’s municipal election, both groups are calling on Yellowknife residents to vote for mayoral and council candidates who they think will work towards renewing that relationship.

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