17 Apr 2024

Pleas to keep funding for Christchurch's Arts Centre

4:09 pm on 17 April 2024
Christchurch, New Zealand - September 16 2019: The Arts Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. Once home the the Civic Creche

Arts and cultural leaders pleading for to continue Christchurch's Art Centre funding. Photo: Chris Putnam

Arts and cultural leaders are pleading with the Christchurch City Council to keep funding the city's Arts Centre.

The council has not included any funding for the trust that owns the collection of heritage buildings on the edge of the city's CBD in its draft long-term plan.

The Art Centre's director warns without that money it would fold.

Packed public meeting at the Art Centre's Great Hall.

A packed public meeting at the Art Centre's Great Hall. Photo: RNZ

There were impromptu performances, speeches, and tears when more than 100 people packed in the Arts Centre's Great Hall on Tuesday evening for a public meeting to defend its funding.

Drucilla Kingi-Patterson, who helped restore the Art Centre's iconic stone buildings following the 2011 earthquake, said the centre brought a huge amount of value to a lot of people.

"I love these buildings, I've got tons of memories here and I'm sure other people have as well," she said.

"The thing is with the city, people are actually tired and we need the arts to help our souls. To expect the trust to carry the whole load, that would be wrong. The council needs to be more accountable."

The trust had no guaranteed ongoing funding from central or local government, but during the past three years had received $5.5 million from the council in the form of a grant to complete restoration projects.

Art Centre director Philip Aldridge said without further funding, it would be forced to dissolve.

"This place- like all arts organisations- relies on public funding. To withdraw that means that any arts organisation would fail, and that is what will happen here."

Arts Centre's director Philip Aldridge

Arts Centre director Philip Aldridge. Photo: RNZ

Aldridge said if that happened the assets would have to be assigned to a new owner - likely the council - but the council would not get the grants, sponsorships, or donations the trust had.

He said arts were not just a 'nice to have' but were essential to society.

"We're the home now of over 70 organisations. We have thousands of kids, the cinemagoers, the choirs, the coach loads of visitors, the festivals, the lunchtime concerts. It's vivid and it's diverse."

The Arts Centre needed at least $1.8 million a year to stay afloat, Aldridge said

The city council was facing its own financial difficulties with a 13 percent rates rise on the cards this year.

Mayor Phil Mauger said many organisations were struggling.

"We've had more people asking us for money this year than we've ever had in the past because we're seen a little bit as the lender of last resort.

"We've just got to look at all of the information and see what the LTP process pokes out at the finish."

Mauger said the council's grants to the Arts Centre were for rebuilding and now the trust was asking for operational funding.

"This is day-to-day running, and this is totally different. They need to look at how they operate and look at ways they can reduce costs as well."

Public submissions on the council's draft long-term plan close at midnight on 21 April.

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