Editorial: Money for the arts not a waste

As local arts, cultural and library groups ask Coquitlam for more money, consider the good they do to create community cohesion

When it comes to tax time, many might argue that supporting the arts, library services, heritage and culture is a frill.

But ensuring local arts, cultural and heritage institutions can continue to meet demand in growing communities is as important, we argue, as making sure police have enough resources to make sure our cities are safe.

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It could be argued that subsidizing the arts, festivals, the library and cultural services with tax dollars helps makes the community safer because there are more opportunities for people to engage with their neighbours. These sorts of social gatherings promote community cohesion, collaboration and cooperation, and are the life blood of the Tri-Cities, especially as technology lures us to the glowing screen, alone and apart from one another.

Thus, we suggest Coquitlam council not be too parsimonious when viewing the 2020 budget requests from the Coquitlam Public Library, Evergreen Cultural Centre, Coquitlam Heritage, Place Maillardville and Place des Arts.

While these institutions also seek outside funding, such as grants from other agencies, and raise funds through ticket sales and fees, these agencies have clearly done a good job in raising their profile and increasing participation. They need support to stay vital without pricing themselves out of the market.

Indeed, they have become so popular that they are now victims of their own success, and require more help from the city to transition to the next level.

Coquitlam Public Library, for instance, is seeing an increase in business in the last year, with more demand for services. The two library branches are busy community centres and the public organization needs funds to boost and update its collections as well as help to fund a new Library Link library vehicle to reach areas not well-served by the library: Burquitlam, Burke Mountain and, soon, Fraser Mills.

Similarly, Place Maillardville has seen a large jump in participation, needs staff to avoid burnout among existing employees and will surely welcome a new hub. As well, plans are now underway for a new centre that will see Place des Arts, Coquitlam Heritage and Coquitlam Archives under one roof, if a redevelopment is approved by council next month.

These budget requests for city grants, which will be reviewed over the next several weeks, have to be considered along with other demands at city hall such as a request for more staff to deal with development and the stated need for two police officers.

We are not saying that the arts should trump other important areas of city business but neither should they be dismissed — by city councillors or taxpayers.

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