The cover of this week’s paper is not devoted to Sports, News, or Opinion. Instead it features former UFV student, and rising singer/songwriter, Billy the Kid. Billy is typical of Fraser Valley artists in that she had to leave her home town and gain acceptance in the rest of Canada and the US before she gained any credibility locally. Many times this phenomenon is inevitable as artists leave for the larger markets of Vancouver and beyond. Abbotsford, however, seems to be a microcosm of Canada as a whole in that we rarely recognize and support our own talent until someone else does.
Abbotsford is often maligned as no-fun town, perhaps an extension of Vancouver’s no-fun city, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Building a thriving community means supporting the arts, and it appears that the municipal government here may finally be recognizing this fact. Tamaka Fisher is leading a committee that proposes 1% of the municipal budget, or approximately $68,000, be used to fund public art in Abbotsford.
This number is miniscule compared to the approximately $450,000 shelled out by Abbotsford taxpayers to the Abbotsford Heat professional hockey team as per the contract with the team that guarantees they do not operate at a loss over the next ten years.
In response to the call for public art funding, Mayor George Peary said that “There’s no accounting for taste when it comes to art – in this case, public art.” Well there is no accounting for taste when it comes to anything, actually. I, for example, hate the Calgary Flames and by extension their local farm team the Abbotsford Heat. I would rather sell my kidneys for spare change than support anything to do with the Calgary Flames, and it seems that many local sports fans agree with me, hence the low attendance at Heat games resulting in the $450,000 tab.
To me it is embarrassing that both Mission and Chilliwack spend more on the arts per capita than Abbotsford. Abbotsford actually finds itself at the bottom of a long list of B.C. municipalities in terms of public art budgeting. In fact, there is no budget for public art currently in this city. Mayor Peary went on to question whether “this is the time for it?” regarding establishing a public art budget. Given Abbotsford’s atrociously dismal record of supporting the arts in the past, my response to the mayor is if not now, when?