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Final push to support the arts in city budget

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In a last ditch effort to keep the arts alive in London, Ont., major arts organizations have banded together to ask for a larger piece of the city’s budget pie, or for council to find other ways to support the arts.

At Museum London, the situation is dire, according to Executive Director Julie Bevan.

“What it means for the museum is that we have to find ways to make cuts, reduce services, and ultimately it will involve staff layoffs,” she said.

Museum London is part of a coalition of arts organizations expressing concern about the city’s budget, as the budget process winds down towards final approval.

“Knowing that we have existing commitments to London-based artists, to organizations, to school children - we’ve got programs booked through the year. We don’t have flexibility within our budget to make reductions in terms of operations,” said Bevan.

In a letter to city council, the group is calling for councillors to explore shared or in-kind services to support the organizations.

Julie Bevan, executive director of Museum London, seen on Feb. 26, 2024. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV News London)

“This letter specifically addresses how we can partner with the city in a better way to provide better information so they can make informed decisions in a better way, not based on their own bias,” explained London Arts Council Executive Director Eunju Yi.

Janet Antone, who serves as the London Art’s Council’s Speciality for Cultivating Allyships, said the city is not living up to its commitment to truth and reconciliation.

“The arts play a direct connection to that through colonization. And with the implementation of residential schools arts and culture was one of the first things that was stripped of us,” said Antone.

In the 2024 budget, the Grand Theatre sees no increase to its funding. The London Arts Council sees an increase of $115,000 to the base funding it has received for more than two decades. The London Public Library receives an extra $5.8 million in one-time funding to stave off library closures. Museum London sees an increase of 3.9 per cent, short of the 8.1 per cent it sought.

“What we asked for is just the money we need to maintain our existing services,” said Bevan.

The tax hike currently sits at 8.7 per cent. The public has one final chance to weigh in with a public participation meeting on the budget set for Tuesday at London City Hall beginning at 4:00 p.m.

Eunju Yi, executive director of the London Arts Council, seen on Feb. 26, 2024. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV News London)

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