Surrey city council has approved 74 grants under the Surrey Cultural Grants Program, to a grand total of $420,570 in awards for this year.
According to a corporate report by Laurie Cavan, Surrey’s general manager of Parks, Recreation and Culture, and Kam Grewal, the city’s general manager of finance, the grants program is set up to support a “wide range of arts and cultural activity” in Surrey.
This includes music, dance, theatre, literature, visual art, media, as well as interdisciplinary, community based and Indigenous arts, and cultural celebrations and events “that reflect Surrey’s diverse heritage and community.”
The report states the approved budget for grants this year under the program is $500,000 and on top of that, an “unallocated balance” of $130,032 from other years has been carried forward to bring the funding available to council for allocation in 2021 to $630,032.
According to the program’s guidelines, up to 20 per cent of the Cultural Grants budget can be held back to cover late applications and as a contingency fund. “Therefore, the balance of available funds ($209,462) remaining is reserved for emerging applicants—including the unsuccessful applicant invited to reapply—and special projects throughout 2021,” the corporate report states.
Councillor Linda Annis asked staff if the money in the reserve fund can be put into a program for people in the arts and culture community to “come up with some innovative ideas on how they might be able to proactively promote their particular area of expertise” during the pandemic.
“That might be a very helpful way to help them,” she said.
Vincent Lalonde, Surrey’s city manager, replied that “basically the reserve is there to kind-of act as a reserve and so that’s why we’ve not been dipping into it, so to speak.”
Cavan told council, in response to Annis’s request, that the city could “definitely look at that.”
She noted applications for grant money typically come in over the course of the year “that we would also adjudicate and bring back to council for your consideration and authorization to move forward to spend, any of this unallocated grant money.”
Cavan recommended that council continue with the existing program.
“But we will definitely keep that in mind of how we can reach out and work with our community to try to bring more opportunities back,” she said. “We certainly want to see these resources utilized to strengthen our cultural community.”
Annis noted that a “residual amount” was left over from last year and pressed the point she would like to see that used to “look at” how else the city can support local arts groups that are “struggling so much.
“Even if we took half of the money that’s in the reserve,” she said, “just to give them that little extra boost during COVID, I think that would really be a nice things to do.”