Beaux-Arts Brampton has served as the city’s only artist-run centre downtown, offering galleries and art spaces and other initiatives led by artists themselves. Residing in the Heritage Theatre Block since 2002, Beaux-Arts Brampton has had over 250,000 visitors, showcased the work of more than 5,000 artists, and hosted an astounding 20,000 program participants since its inception.
In 2015 the city saw massive changes and cuts in grant funding and approvals for local community programs. One of the organizations that continues to be affected by this is Beaux-Arts Brampton, the city’s only legally-incorporated artist-run centre. (Visual Arts Brampton is similar, but does not exhibit art so is not in the same legal category.)
Before the restructuring, Beaux-Arts received much of its funding from the now-defunct Brampton Arts Council (BAC). Without the BAC negotiating on behalf of Beaux-Arts, the group’s funding was not only cut by almost 50 per cent, but the city also changed its funding model to a case-by-case basis, giving Beaux-Arts no guarantee of receiving any funding at all.
In July, Beaux-Arts found itself in a dire situation, standing on its last legs and ready to close. The organization petitioned city council for $50,000 over the following 6 months to keep them afloat and allow them to continue to operate. Council came up short of the organization’s request, for which Beaux-Arts provided evidence identifying the urgent need, by approving $43,000 to be doled out over 10 months.
Currently, the City of Brampton offers in-kind support in the form of subsidized rent, but the artist-run centre has faced challenges covering their operational costs — particularly hydro which continues to skyrocket.
Not having a lease for the current building that houses the organization at 70-74 Main Street North has also been a challenge for the organization. In May, the city decided to sell the Heritage Building block — the section of buildings that houses the Heritage Theatre, the Downtown Brampton BIA and Beaux-Arts.
Eligibility for government funding and other grant programs requires a lease, but because the city has the building up for sale, city staff have told Beaux-Arts there can be no lease, not even short-term.
While city council has always stated its verbal support for the arts in Brampton, allocating actual dollars has always been a challenge. The city’s public art funding, for example, comes up way short compared to the country’s other top 10 biggest cities, sitting at a measly $60,000 a year.
To put things in perspective, most artist-run centres in other cities receive upwards of $435,000 a year for arts initiatives from their municipal councils, more than 10 times what Beaux-Arts is receiving.
Though it feels that the city has not prioritized the arts in its budget, Beaux-Arts remains determined to continue its work of hosting exhibitions and workshops and trying to represent the arts community in Brampton.
“With the ongoing support of the City of Brampton in place, Beaux-Arts will continue to be a grassroots arts centre serving our community,” says Réagan Hayward, Executive Director of Beaux-Arts Brampton.
Hayward adds, “[we] will carry on showcasing art exhibitions and grow unique programming for Brampton’s artists and creative audiences, alongside the city itself, into a future-ready Brampton.”
The organization plans to regroup and go back to council this fall with a new proposal for more funding.
At the council meeting in August attended by Beaux-Arts members, board and delegated by the executive director, a motion was passed to issue Beaux-Arts, a one year lease that can be transferable to a new space once agreed upon. At that council meeting, direction was given to issue Beaux-Arts a one year lease by September 30th)
Correction: this article originally stated that Beaux-Arts Brampton was the only artist-run centre in Brampton. Because Visual Arts Brampton offers similar services–with some exceptions–we wanted to mention them in this article, despite not being the same legal designation as Beaux-Arts Brampton.