Evangelos Lambrinoudis II/the Gauntlet

Rise up for fine arts

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In response to cutbacks to fine arts education in recent years, community group Save Our Fine Arts is hosting a rally to engage Calgarians in conversation about the future of Alberta’s art education programs.

Save Our Fine Arts is organizing a panel of business leaders, artists, educators, students and government officials to discuss the importance of art in society following recent decisions to suspend music performance and theatre arts diploma programs at Mount Royal University and to cut enrolment in the University of Calgary’s faculty of arts by 200 students. Both decisions resulted from the removal of $147 million from post-secondary operating grants by the provincial government, which left Mount Royal struggling with a $14-million budget shortfall.

“That’s a typical example of what happens,” says Lyle Bennett, co-chair of Save Our Fine Arts. “Everybody says ‘yes, it’s valuable,’ but when it comes to being short on money, the first thing that goes is the arts.”

“We need to talk about how we stop that from happening,” Bennett says. “If it truly is of value then we’ve got to find another way to do things or to not make it so vulnerable.”

Save Our Fine Arts began in October 2009 as a community response to proposed changes by Alberta Education to the fine arts curriculum. The group rallied 2,500 people who sent letters to Alberta Education. It has since grown into a group dedicated to preserving, expanding and promoting fine arts programs in schools.

Save Our Fine Arts aims to rally hundreds of Calgarians on the evening of June 12 at the Max Bell Theatre to discuss ways of dealing with the problems arts education faces. Bennett says he hopes to have people from government and the arts community so that all parties can begin working together to determine solutions and means of creating sustainable funding for the arts.

Panelists will include Terry Rock, president and CEO of Calgary Arts Development; Patrick Finn, a professor in the drama department and department of communications and culture at the University of Calgary; Naomi Johnson, chief superintendent of the Calgary Board of Education; and Tim Tamashiro, host of CBC Radio’s Tonic jazz program.