Bringing back the fire, December 21-22, 2009
"Still Here" pine sculpture by CIRAC Coordinator Thomas Schoen of McLeese Lake overlooking One Mile Lake, morning, Dec. 22; Bill Horne photo.

Claire Kujundzic & David Newberry warm up by the fire around 8 pm, Dec. 21; Bill Horne photo.

Bill Horne ready to trek back into Wells, morning, Dec. 22; Claire Kujundzic photo.

Wells residents brave bitter cold to protest arts cuts and bring back the fire!

On Monday, December 21, Wells residents and visitors gathered at the One Mile Lake picnic site on Cornish Mountain to celebrate the winter solstice transition to longer days and to protest the BC government's cuts to arts funding. Throughout the afternoon, children and adults came by snowshoes or skis to sip hot chocolate and roast hot dogs or marshmallows on the fire. Bonfire organizer, Kate Sulis, said, "As a health-care worker, I see the need for there to be healthy balance in everyone's life. Creativlty, play, and laughter are missing in our lives and we are worse off for it."

Judy Campbell, a District of Wells Councilor and an Executive member of Island Mountain Arts' Board said, "cuts to cultural industries do not make economic sense." She points out that in small northern communities, the impacts of cuts to community-based organizations can be devastating. "Not only do these groups supply services and opportunities that city dwellers take for granted, they do it on a shoe string."

David Newberry, fresh from his cross-Canada tour, warmed up at the fire at sundown and sang his original tune, "We Reap What We Sow". Claire Kujundzic and Bill Horne, who moved from Vancouver to Wells in 1996 and renovated the former Catholic Church as a gallery, studio and live-work space, showed their commitment to BC culture by camping overnight, waking to -32C temperatures the next morning. "It was definitely colder than forecast," said Horne, but if the government thinks it can freeze out the arts, it's wrong."

Horne, an Executive member of the Board of CARFAC BC, believes the combination of arts cuts with the dissolution of Tourism BC* and the introduction of the HST will damage the BC economy, especially in the hinterland. "Many seasonal operations subsist on very small profit margins, and the loss of gaming money to a local non-profit or a forced 7% increase in restaurant prices may cause a negative ripple effect on small businesses." He is hopeful that the government will listen to its Finance Committee's recommendations, but believes it will take sustained pressure from the public to restore arts funding to previous levels.

For further information, contact Bill Horne at Amazing Space Studio, Wells, BC 250-994-2332 mazing at claireart dot ca

*see the official Ministry News Release (PDF)
and COTA's "B.C. Tourism Industry Responds to Dissolution of Tourism BC"

Some important addresses to write to:

British Columbians and Canadians Speak Out Against Funding Cuts

"Government is gambling with other people's money", The Province

"Flex Your Muscles, BC Arts Community", The Tyee

"Budget Cut Blues' Played for Politicians", The Tyee

"Government cuts steal colour from life"

Article in The Straight including reactions from individual artists

Visualize the cuts (CARFAC BC on Facebook)

Organizing against Campbell's cuts to the arts (Facebook)

Images of Solidarity with the arts from:

Small town small businesses opposed to HST
Pulp and paper

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