Scarborough Arts going strong

Money is no small matter for Scarborough Arts. This year, it’s running at a $25,000 surplus.

Announced at the Oct. 18 annual general meeting at Scarborough Civic Centre, this news comes after a proposal announced two weeks ago by Mayor Rob Ford to cut arts funding.

It’s resonating with communities and with funders

— Tim Whally

The extra money comes from an additional $16,288 in project grants and an increase of over $30,000 in government grants. In total, Scarborough Arts receives around $216,000 in government funding per year. Fundraising and donations have also brought in a combined $62,000.

“We’ve been getting more grants lately, and I think it’s just the model of the programming that we’re rolling out,” said Tim Whally, executive director. “It’s resonating with communities and with funders.”

With revenue of $351,966 for the year ending on June 30, 2011, Scarborough Arts, a non-profit organization, has used that capital to put on many festivals and artist development projects throughout the year.

“It really is a spectacular testament to staff and volunteers that we’ve been able to make so much with so little,” said Daniel Broome, treasurer on the Board of Directors for Scarborough Arts.

To keep costs low, Scarborough Arts makes use of roughly a dozen volunteers, many of whom are retirees or students.

“Our programs are almost always free,” Whalley said.

“We have been focused on working in communities where there’s not a lot of access to programs, and low income communities where there are barriers to participation,” he said.

In an interview, Whalley mentioned that Scarborough is home to six of Toronto’s 13 priority neighbourhoods.

“In these communities in particular, we’re really working on development; creating new artworks, providing volunteer experiences for youth that maybe they could use to help them gain other opportunities.”

Troy Beharry, 22, a hip hop artist who participated in Phase 2 Collective program, says it would have been much harder for him to start his music career if it weren’t for Scarborough Arts.

“It’s hard when you’re just starting,” Beharry said, “because you have to be the manager, you have to scout, you have to go look for shows, you have to collaborate with other people; you have to do your own everything.”

For musicians like Beharry, Scarborough Arts has provided free classes on different aspects of the music business in hopes of giving “under-served” neighbourhoods more experience in the field.

“There is a lack of opportunity in Scarborough and I think that we’re one of the organizations in Scarborough that’s doing the work that needs to be done,” Whalley said.

Some projects that have been organized this year by Scarborough Arts include the Subtext Multi-Arts Festival, digital media project Scarborough CARES, Art in the Park, and the I Have a Dream dance program.