Dear Minden Hills council
I am writing this open letter on behalf of the members of the Arts Council – Haliburton Highlands Board of Directors to express our dismay at the cuts to the Minden Hills Cultural Centre.
The Minden Hills Cultural Centre, which is a valued member of the Arts Council, has been a major contributor to and influencer of arts and culture in Haliburton County since its inception. It has provided a venue for artists to show and sell their work to the public, for the public to interact with many forms of art and culture through their exhibits and programming, and as an anchor point for exploring Minden’s heritage.
Budget cuts to the Minden Hills Cultural Centre not only affect the Centre itself, but the whole arts, culture, and heritage community. While visitors to the Centre are important, equally so are the people who utilize it – the artists, historians, writers, and community groups. Many of these people call Haliburton County home because within our major settlements arts and culture have such a presence.
While we understand the need to be fiscally responsible, it is distressing that while politicians seemed to see the value in the Cultural Centre and the need to revitalize it during the most recent municipal election that it now becomes the easy cut. The oft heard refrain that “no one is going to that corner” simply does not ring true when at the same time the challenges of enticing people “over the bridge” are also remarked on. With a number of thriving businesses, hospital, school, arena, and one of the County’s busiest library branches, people are indeed venturing more and more over the bridge and to that corner. However, cutting nearly a third of the budget of Cultural Centre over two years after a period of disengagement from the previous municipal government will not encourage further growth, in fact it may only help to undo any progress that has been made.
It is also disheartening that the summer student positions at the Cultural Centre will be eliminated. While we understand that there is a financial commitment to the Municipality for summer students through these programs, it is important to realize how these student positions support the youth in our community. Having worked at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre as a student for a number of years, and knowing many others who have, I can attest to how such a position can influence the career trajectory of a young person in a region that has limited opportunities for them. At the very least the Municipality of Minden Hills should see these positions as investing in our community’s youth.
We also recognize that bringing the Cultural Centre out of a period of stagnation and into a period of growth takes more than money. It takes passionate and engaged community members who are willing to partner and support an institution that has played a major role in supporting the arts. We encourage artists and community groups to realize the resource they have in the Minden Hills Cultural Centre and support its use and activities. We encourage council to look beyond the bottom line and recognize that arts, heritage, and culture are an important part of the economic engine that drives Haliburton County, and how these substantial cuts to the Cultural Centre may create lasting damage.
We hope that the desire of Minden Hills Council is to see the Cultural Centre thrive again. However, this must happen by investing in its facilities and staff, not by making culture the easy cut.
Chair, Arts Council – Haliburton Highlands