It started with a catchy Pat Benatar song.
Matthew Payne, treasurer of Victoria's Professional Arts Alliance, walked into a meeting to discuss the province's cuts to arts funding singing Love Is a Battlefield, after hearing the song on the radio.
Ian Case, artistic director of Intrepid Theatre, remarked that the music was appropriate, Payne recalls, since arts funding appeared to have dropped to 1980s levels.
Thus was born the idea for Total Eclipse of the Arts. The song parody of Bonnie Tyler's 1983 rock ballad Total Eclipse of the Heart, posted on Theatre SKAM's website, has gone viral in a few short days, with links being spread through e-mail and social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter across the country.
The karaoke-style satire features local talent Rielle Braid and David Radford, with lyrics like "Every now and then I get a little bit terrified, then I see the budget and cry," and a bridge spoofing the cuts with references to '80s songs like It Cuts Like a Knife, You Give [Arts] a Bad Name and Here I go Again on My Own.
"We want to change the perception among politicians that the arts is an issue they can use to swing voters, by cutting 'frills' during a recession," Payne said. "But the reality is they are cutting the one bright spot in their portfolio right now. The arts makes money for this province, which means cutting funds cuts profits."
Canadians artists reacted similarly to $45 million in cuts to federal arts funding last fall, with Wrecking Ball political theatre concerts staged across the country, including Victoria.
In the B.C. budget delivered Feb. 17, Finance Minister Colin Hansen announced core arts funding would be reduced to $11.7 million for 2009-10, from $19.5 million last year. Next year, it will be cut to $9.6 million, then $9.9 million the following year.
The B.C. Arts and Culture Endowment Special Account will drop to $3.35 million this year, from $8.33 million last year.
However, a one-time $15-million supplement from B.C.'s surplus will be divided between grants for arts projects and the conservation of historic provincial sites.
That kind of surplus likely won't be available in coming years, said Vancouver-Burrard NDP MLA Spencer Herbert, the opposition critic for arts and culture, who received the Theatre SKAM song link from a friend.
Herbert said given that the arts is an economic generator, it's "not smart" to cut the sector in a recession.
Bill Bennett, minister of tourism, culture and arts, could not be reached for comment yesterday, but earlier noted that the extra grant this year will actually increase total funding for arts.
He said he plans to focus next year on finding the resources to continue that sustainable budget, adding that to even maintain the arts budget for 2009-10 is a victory given the economic crunch most governments are facing.
Bennett noted B.C.'s creative industries generate $5.2 billion a year, employ 78,000 people and are the fastest-growing sector in tourism.
ON THE WEB
- Listen to Theatre SKAM's Total Eclipse of the Arts: www.skam.ca/skamaoke.htm
- Watch Culture en Peril, Quebec artist's one-million hit response to federal cuts, on YouTube: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=Uhgv85m852Q& feature=related
- Watch the B.C. Parliamentary debate: www.leg.bc.ca/index.htm