PEI cultural groups in the Island Arts and Heritage Stabilization Program
by Anne Bergstrom
The Island Arts and Heritage Stabilization Program (IAHSP) is partway through its mandate to strengthen arts and heritage organizations on PEI. It is an initiative of the Community Foundation of PEI. The majority of its funding is from the private sector, led by the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation, with additional support from the Province of PEI and the Department of Canadian Heritage. Its mission is: “To enable increased financial viability, self-reliance and capacity for PEI-based arts and heritage organizations in a manner that allows the artistic missions and managerial practices of those organizations to be brought to a new level over the long term.” The program is designed to cover a 3-year period, 2003-2006.
Many of PEI’s cultural organizations, large and small, have in recent years faced decreases in government funding, along with increased competition for private-sector sponsorship. A number of the smaller groups function with a volunteer board and no paid staff, or minimal staff. Groups often operate on the basis of day-to-day survival, rather than planning for the future. The Stabilization Program has been designed to help arts and heritage groups to “more effectively respond to opportunities in the changing marketplace, thereby increasing revenues and building a wider base of community support upon which to build a sustainable future.”
Groups who met certain criteria were encouraged to apply in 2003, and ten organizations were selected. Executive Director Katy Baker is very pleased that PEI has more groups involved in this program than some much larger areas. Participating organizations are: Victoria Playhouse, the PEI Symphony, College of Piping, Harbourfront Jubilee Theatre, Indian River Festival, PEI Music Awards, Carrefour de l’Isle St-Jean, PEI Crafts Council, The Guild, and the Friends of Farmers’ Bank. All their needs are, of course, varied, but some are shared. Fundraising is probably the largest. Building the audience (“getting bums in seats”) is another, along with attracting and keeping volunteers. For groups which own the property they use, maintenance and renovations are also important. Long-term planning was a seldom-addressed concept for a number of them. The IAHSP has given them the tools and the ability to take a much broader view.
The specific areas addressed were the same for every organization: governance, financial management, organizational effectiveness, short- and long-term planning, and marketing. The goal is to help each organization to find out what issues they need to look at and make recommendations for how to go about that, with funds provided to accomplish for a number of the initiatives. Executive director Katy Baker says it’s a “what you put into it is what you’ll get out of it” arrangement. Board and staff members have to get involved and keep up with the tasks that are requested by the Stabilization Fund in order to receive the money.
According to Baker, the total funding being allocated over the three year period is approximately $800,000. This averages out to about $80,000 for each organization. The money has to be used for specific, outlined initiatives, applied for and approved in advance, to help the organization achieve that “new level” mentioned in the mandate. It cannot be used for ongoing operational expenses, nor for reducing the deficit.
For example, the IAHSP has provided 2-year funding for the PEI Symphony to hire a part-time administrator, develop a comprehensive board governance policy, and develop a new marketing plan, among other initiatives. In return for these and other types of assistance, the Symphony board was asked to do a list of nine other unfunded projects. According to René Hurtubise of the Indian River Festival, the Stabilization Plan has helped them to look at the long term, instead of just short-term survival. The Festival has been able to invest in structure, policies, marketing, and equipment, allowing them to do a better job of presenting a top-quality summer music festival.
Thanks to the IAH Stabilization Fund, ten arts and heritage groups on the Island have benefited from a learning process and a boost of financial assistance that should help them all run much more smoothly, at a “new, higher level.”