When the pandemic hit last March, Intrepid Theatre was six weeks away from opening a festival with artists programmed from across Canada. They, like countless other arts organizations, were forced to shut down operations while they struggled to keep their livelihoods intact.
Today, they’re among the latest recipients of funding from the Government of BC as part of its $10-billion StrongerBC economic recovery plan.
The Province announced $14 million in new one-time supplements to 588 arts and culture organizations and an additional $2 million to help 47 organizations improve their existing spaces.
Combined with the $21 million already announced in September 2020, this brings the total amount of targeted recovery funding for the arts and culture sector to $35 million. The government has also doubled arts infrastructure funding this year, with $2 million distributed to 50 arts and culture organizations in January 2021.
Sean Guist, co-Artistic Director for Intrepid Theatre says “this year has been hard on the arts and culture, and even harder on the artists and arts workers who create and work on live theatre. As a small but mighty company, we normally present three annual theatre festivals, a series of touring shows and local cabarets, and run two busy performance venues. That came to a crashing halt last Spring. We have lost almost all of our earned revenues, including ticket sales, venue rentals, application fees, program ad sales.”
But he adds, they worked fast to set their pandemic pivot in motion.
“We moved quickly, when we realized this wasn’t a two-week shutdown, and created an online festival, UNO Fest Online. This was exciting, and we were one of the first festivals to turn to an online model of presenting theatre, but it’s not the same thrill as sitting in a theatre, experiencing a show together, in the dark, with artists in front of you.”
Intrepid approach to pandemic
Staff collaborated on various ideas, including a series of short livestreams from the stage of The Metro Studio and new ways of presenting their festivals, including the Victoria Fringe. They converted the Metro Studio Theatre from a 172 seat theatre with traditional seating into a 40 seat cabaret socially distanced space.
They’ve also been using their smaller venue, the Intrepid Studio, as a space for artists that are in their conVerge, OUTStages and Fringe Indigenous Arts Programs and as residencies for Queer and IBPOC artists to work on new or current work.
Arts and culture groups who received the funding will be able to use their supplement to pay for operating costs. For Intrepid Theatre, it’ll help them recover some of their lost revenue and keep core employees. “We have been so fortunate to be able to receive these supplemental funds from the government and our supportive granting bodies,” says Justine Shore, Managing Director, “and it really has allowed us to survive through this tough year. What even more important is that this funding will help us as we navigate the reopening of the arts sector. We may be stable now, but we need to see what the next few years will bring to really see if we can stay in business and continue to support artists and bring boundary-pushing theatre to the city.”
Community support vital for continued survival
Shore notes that along with the funding, they need continued community support.
She says “I think the biggest way that people can support us is stay connected. We have continued to offer online events, to engage and pay artists. Seeing the numbers of people that are still with us, still engaging, and still watching these amazing artists navigate a digital world, is so heartening. In an industry that relies on human interaction, it’s a lifeline to see people still engaged, even if it’s through a screen. We also hope that people will be jumping at the opportunity to return to the theatre when the restrictions are lifted. We are really excited with the prospect of in person events again and we can’t wait to see audiences and artists return to our theatres once it’s safe to do so.”
View the full list of supplement recipients here: https://www.bcartscouncil.ca/funding/recipients/
And arts infrastructure grant recipients are here: http://news.gov.bc.ca/files/3-24-21_TACS.pdf