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Indefinite Arts Centre project on pause after Alberta budget doesn’t deliver funding

News from Alberta’s budget 2020 means a Calgary infrastructure project for accessible arts in the city may have to scale back while it rustles up a new source of funding.

For the time being though, it will be business as usual, said Indefinite Arts CEO, JS Ryu.

The group had applied for $7.5 million in support from the provincial government, which would then have been matched by the federal government through the Investing in Canada’s Infrastructure Program (ICIP), for their $21.5 million Indefinite Arts Master Plan project.

Right now, they’re located in what’s left of the Fairview Arena, the southeast Calgary recreation facility where the roof caved in two years ago. They provide programming for more than 300 Calgary artists living with disabilities each week.

‘Make it or break it moment’

Ryu told supporters in an email Thursday afternoon after the delivery of Alberta’s budget that this was a “make it or break it moment” for their request for support.

“Unfortunately, it has been confirmed that our project has not been endorsed or supported for funding from the provincial government, thereby locking us out of the opportunity to pursue federal support,” Ryu wrote.

He also said the province told him that all funding for the program had been allocated.

Screen capture of the 2020 Alberta budget. $0 left for Community, Culture and Recreation.

In a follow-up interview with LiveWire Calgary, Ryu said they would continue with their current programming for the interim.

“The fact that, at least for the short term, that our facility is not going to have the support to be rebuilt means that for the most part our programming remains status quo within a building that has a bit of a questionable future,” he said.  

Ryu said he was disappointed. To his knowledge, some of the funded projects didn’t quite fit the ICIP goal of providing further opportunities for vulnerable populations.  He’s also concerned that some projects were scored higher because they had an existing track record for private funding, something he said wasn’t in the criteria.

Scaled down, staged growth for arts hub

Their initial plan, had the funding been secured, was to ramp up construction within the next six to eight months. Those plans now will change.

“One of the things we could entertain is a far more scaled down,  and much more of a staged process in terms of how we envisioned that accessible arts hub to be built,” Ryu said.  

In the email to Indefinite Arts supporters, Ryu said the centre’s management and board would examine short- and long-term plans for their location.

“We will continue to break down barriers and showcase our artists’ talents and creativity on the global stage,” the email read.