STRAIT AREA: Local municipal councils have agreed to meet with representatives of Cape Breton’s creative sector.

During the regular monthly meeting of Port Hawkesbury Town Council on March 2 and Inverness Municipal Council on March 4, correspondence was received from: Joella Foulds, performer/arts consultant; Rodney MacDonald, with The Gaelic College; Lori Burke, Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design; Mike MacSween, Celtic Colours International Festival and Celtic Heart of North America Co-operative; Wesley Colford, Highland Arts Theatre; Duane Nardocchio, Cape Breton Music Industry Co-operative; Hannah Ziss, Theatre Baddeck; Christy MacRae-Ziss, Theatre Baddeck; Noelle Doucette, Potlotek First Nation; Paula Davis, Town of Port Hawkesbury; Rebecca Silver Slayter, Cabot Trail Writers Festival; Lisette Bourgeois, Les Trois Pignons; Rodney Chaisson, Highland Village; Todd Hiscock, Boardmore Playhouse – CBU; Mary Pat Mombourquette, Miners Museum; Pam Leader, Savoy Theatre; Joeleen Larade, Conseil des art Cheticamp; and Tracey Boutilier, Vibe Creative Group.

They wrote that the global pandemic has been “particularly devastating” for arts and culture, despite their efforts to working collaboratively.

“Despite the progress made, the culture sector continues to need support from all levels of government in order to survive,” the letter reads. “We write to you now in the hope that you will be interested in further engaging with our efforts.”

Although the province did respond to their calls for action last September with programs such as the COVID-19 Emergency Support Program for Arts and Culture Organizations, and the Digital Project Grant, the letter states that the culture sector continues to suffer.

“Employment data from Statistics Canada shows that culture is the furthest sector from recovery and has been the hardest hit sector throughout the pandemic,” the letter said. “In August, about a third of arts and culture businesses said they could only operate at current levels for six months or less. The National Arts and Culture Impact Survey also found that a third of arts and culture workers are uncertain about their future in the arts. While many sectors are entering a recovery period, the culture sector is still struggling to survive.”

The letter said that ongoing public health restrictions for gathering and operational capacity are only one of the challenges the sector faces.

“Public sentiment regarding willingness to gather as audiences, attend cultural events, or enter cultural spaces means that the culture sector faces a long period of diminished operation before eventual recovery,” the letter noted. “We are at risk of losing arts organizations that cannot survive the pandemic. We are also at risk of losing the artists and cultural workers who are the fabric of the sector.”

Despite the value that arts and culture have in society, the letter said that the sector continues to struggle to find sufficient political and public support.

As a result, the group is pursuing creative solutions, such as a video campaign highlighting COVID-19’s impact.

Because municipal support for the culture sector has always been integral, the group is requesting town council meet with them.

Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton suggested town council invite the group to make a presentation at a future council meeting, something that town councillor Hughie MacDougall, deputy mayor Blaine MacQuarrie and the rest of the council agreed with.

Inverness Warden Laurie Cranton also had council agree to get municipal staff to reach out to the group about making an appearance at an upcoming meeting.