Arts Nova Scotia is born!Posted by Paul Caskey on December 2, 2011
Yesterday marked a momentous occasion in Nova Scotia, as two pieces of legislation were tabled by Darrell Dexter’s New Democrats, the first to establish Arts Nova Scotia, a new arm’s length arts council, and the second to formalise the structure and mandate of the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council, an advisory body that will lead the development of a provincial culture strategy.
As part of the committee charged with the responsibility of developing the terms of reference for Arts Nova Scotia, the past several months have been an extremely exciting period that I feel privileged to have participated in (A copy of the Arts Nova Transition Committee Report can be found here). Pam Birdsall, MLA for Lunenburg, chaired a committee composed of Leah Hamilton, Chris Shore, and myself, and lead our meetings in a fashion that was wonderfully collaborative and open to very frank discussion. As a relative newcomer to the province, it was amazing to witness the collective wealth of knowledge of this province’s cultural history embodied by this group. We spent a fair bit of time discussing “arm’s length”, looking at existing models, and brainstorming how to apply best practices to our region. Given the, some would say brutal, demise of the previous council, we were particularly concerned with creating a body that had teeth and that the arts and culture community could trust to represent their interests. The “teeth” part of the equation relates to budget: the old council was perpetually under-resourced and thus lacked the ability to be truly effective. “Trust” is another story and brings us back to the question of arm’s length. Given that any and all arts funding agencies are ultimately accountable to some political master the question becomes: what length of arm would be acceptable?
After much pro’ing and con’ing, all the while looking through the lens of today’s fiscal reality, we have what I feel is a pretty decent length of arm: Arts Nova Scotia will be governed by an independent board of directors who will have authority to hire an Executive Director, with the Chair of the Board reporting to the Minister of Communities Culture and Heritage. The offices will be housed within the space currently housing the Department of Communities Culture and Heritage and staff will be shared between the two. While this is not the ideal scenario some would have, it does, in my opinion, represent a resourceful solution to creating a new entity while continuing to get $$ into the hands of artists and arts organisations.
The run up to yesterday’s announcement was fast, with legislation being quickly produced in time to be tabled in the legislature before the holiday break. What this means is that ArtsNS could and should be a reality in the government’s next fiscal year! Rejoice Nova Scotia!
Finally, I am compelled to mention that Deputy Minister Laura Lee Langley and her staff moved mountains to make this happen so quickly and were incredibly accommodating, supportive, and collaborative throughout the whole process. While this legislation is but a first step towards the future, it bodes well that the people involved are firmly committed to making this happen.
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