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City council boosts budget for myPG grant program to fund arts groups and not-for-profits

Mayor Yu considers current grant program funding level an embarrassment to the city
Dancers from Excalibur Theatre Arts perform at the Prince George Dance Festival last week at Vanier Hall. Local arts groups stand to benefit from city council's decision to increase funding and revamp its myPG grant program.

Arts groups and non-profit organizations who depend on municipal grants to enhance the services they provide will benefit from a decision Prince George city council made to increase the budget of the city’s myPG Community Grant Program.

The city will shift $263,152 from the myPG budget and add that amount in its own budget to sustain the current multiyear funding agreements for the Prince George Symphony Orchestra, Theatre NorthWest, Folkfest/Coldsnap and the Community Arts Council of Prince George and District.

Taxpayers will provide $313,152 in myPG grant enhancements, to be phased in over the next three years, which will allow increased funding to not-for-profit groups. The revised program gives council a role to provide oversight and direction and a new mechanism will allow quick-response grants to a maximum of $2,500.

Mayor Simon Yu said he’s “embarrassed” the program budget has not kept pace with the rate of inflation and has remained unchanged at $500,000 since 2017. Referring to the four arts groups that receive 52.6 per cent of the myPG grants through multiyear service agreements, Yu said the annual grant budget program should be 10 times what it is.

“It’s too small for the size of the community and the work they all do,” said Yu.

The remaining 47.4 per cent of the grant budget is disbursed to other not-for-profits in the spring and fall intakes of the myPG grant cycle.

While endorsing administration’s preferred option of three proposals for a revamped grant distribution program, Coun. Kyle Sampson told council he served as an MC at last week’s Prince George Dance Festival, which for eight days brought hundreds of dancers and their families to Vanier Hall and he spoke of how that impacted the local economy by filling hotel rooms and restaurant seats.

“It’s really key that we give some stability…and leave no uncertainty to particularly those four groups that are relying on that consistent and stable funding from us, but also the other organizations that are planning multiple years in advance looking at the myPG grants and wanting to know those funds are going to continue to be there,” said Sampson.

“This is the kind of stuff municipal dollars should be spent on, not these other things that are other levels of government’s responsibility. We should be spending it on our arts community, our parks, our trails, not on the social services that are a provincial responsibility.”

Theatre NorthWest artistic producer Marnie Hamagami attended Monday’s public meeting at city hall and was pleased the direction city staff and council have provided to increase grant funding.

“It was great to hear all the support for the arts being demonstrated by mayor and council, I was really excited by the report in general, staff has obviously given it a lot of thought,” said Hamagami.

“The arts community has always existed on a shoestring and we’re really good at amplifying the money we’re given. That said, we definitely need more, especially in the face of inflation and in the wake of COVID 19. I saw some numbers from my sector nationally and costs are up about 35 per cent across the board (since the pandemic) where people were staying home and got in the habit of staying home.”