Bay of Exploits with Ed Riche: Audit ArtsNL

Image by Mark Wagner
"These are the same people calling for a doubling of funding to Arts NL, a decision that will cost every citizen of the province AN EXTRA THIRTY THREE CENTS PER MONTH!"

The boondoggle that is the Muskrat Falls Festival of the Arts is now of such dimensions that the Government must immediately call an inquiry into the troubled microproject.

The three day celebration of Arts and Culture was to cost $26,000, but overruns will see that nearly double to $40,000.

Delays in booking travel for the artists appearing at the festival mean that some will be arriving a full day ahead of the event and each incurring an extra day of  Arts NL (formerly The Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council) stipulated per diem of $49.00.

Only because hotel rooms were not available on short notice were the artists billeted for that night with festival volunteers, otherwise the event would have borne the cost of the extra night’s lodging, for as many as nine people, at Hotel North.

Firing the previous artistic director after she had resigned means the festival is responsible for both her taxi fare to the airport, and a meal voucher for a Normie Special or Hot Wings at Jungle Jim’s in Goose Bay.

Concerns remain that the stage, at an elevation of almost one metre, is not stable, and might collapse under a 5000 year Running The Goat event.  Despite several theatre technicians and three actors jumping up and down on the stage to test its reliability, the best we can get from the project managers is “I dunno, suppose it’s okay.”

The visual art exhibition tied to the festival is signatory to extortionate VANL-CARFAC artist fees, resulting in some visual artists receiving as much as $372.00 for the two week long exhibition of their work.

A post-it note from a stage hand warning that costs for the festival were spiralling out of control was reportedly given to festival organizers but blew out a car window before being read.

The Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation’s tweet that an audit is not being undertaken because no one could be arsed is unacceptable.

The decision to sanction the festival was likely an impulsive response to years of our talent being exported to Canada at exceedingly low rates, but that is no excuse for the commitment of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to keep our threatened culture on life support.

Arts and culture events such as the festival overwhelming feature and attract young people, but we live in a province known to have a rapidly ageing population.

Defenders of the event say that arts funding is the lowest cost option to save Newfoundland and Labrador, but these are the same people calling for a doubling of funding to Arts NL, a decision that will cost every citizen of the province AN EXTRA THIRTY THREE CENTS PER MONTH!

While arts and culture give meaning to life in Newfoundland and Labrador, and are a central plank of the Government’s efforts to diversify the economy, add considerable value to the place as a destination for tourists, and attract and retain a younger demographic, it’s going to take the province minutes if not hours to pay off this foolhardy venture.

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