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NWT Arts Council gets $200,000 funding boost

Michael Hugall/ NNSL photo Brian Weadick, 32, known on stage as 'Baby Brian," plays a melody on the NACC stage, Monday. Weadick is one of three artists preforming at the Northern Series Showcase on Thursday.

The lobbying efforts of arts advocates have paid off.

Michael Hugall/NNSL photo
Brian Weadick rehearses for the Northern Scene Series at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre. The performance venue got a $5,000 grant from the NWT Arts Council this year.

Following pleas for increased funding from the territory's arts community, the minister of finance will add $200,000 to the NWT Arts Council's 2018-19 budget.

The arts council typically gets $500,000 a year from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, which it uses to fund projects around the territory.

But every year the council gets more requests for funding than there is cash to go around, said Boris Atamanenko, manager of the GNWT's Community Cultural Development office.

Usually about 80 per cent of projects submitted to the council are granted full or partial funding, he said.

The extra funds will raise the council's budget to $700,000, which will allow it to award more grants that support the “creation, presentation, education and appreciation of new works of art,” Atamanenko said Tuesday.

Atamanenko said the arts sector plays an important role in promoting Northern culture.

“The creative works that are produced are certainly distinctive to the North and they're often rooted in the traditions of our original peoples and of people who live here... There's a focus on the land and where we live in the arts,” he said.

“Artists and cultural organizations are really helping to support strong healthy communities and they do have an important role in diversifying our economy.”

With the territory's lottery act going through a review, arts advocates have been pushing to be included among those who benefit from the sale of lottery tickets.

Lottery proceeds in NWT have typically gone to sports and recreation organizations.

On Feb. 7, a group of advocates gave impassioned testimony before a committee of MLAs about the value of arts programming in the territory.

They spoke about the economic and mental health benefits of a vibrant arts scene, and the ways in which the arts shape northern cultural identity.

An online petition calling for the lottery act to be amended to allow for the funding of arts projects got 314 signatures.

In the legislature last week, Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadali noted the “passion” with which witnesses spoke about the arts at the lottery committee meeting and the petition underscored their conviction.