UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Local government support of the performing arts : a planning viewpoint Bladen, Katharine M.


The combination of two trends in modern Canadian society, the trend to increasingly rapid urbanization and the trend to increasing leisure, points to a pressing problem for the future in our cities: the provision of the amenities of urban life which will be needed for leisure use. The general planning concern in this study is thus the provision of community services and resources for leisure. The performing arts are taken to be one facet of the cultural opportunities which should be included in planning for leisure. Although the performing arts have traditionally been linked to urban, centres, the present situation in Canada seems to indicate that the cities have not acknowledged their full responsibility in supporting cultural activities. The need for increased local government support of the major performing arts organizations to ensure their continued existence is examined. The technological and economic problems inherent in the nature of performance make it impossible for productivity to keep pace with costs so that the gap between box office revenue and expenditure is inevitable. In addition, the performing arts may be considered as a public good, for which there are collective benefits. The gains to the urban community indicate that increased local government support of the performing arts should be expected. This study includes a comparison of the financial situation for the major theatre and symphonic organizations in five Canadian cities and a projection to 1975 of the minimum local government support that should be provided to ensure the maintenance of the major performing arts organizations in Vancouver. Local government officials show a great reluctance to provide financial support for cultural activities. The suggestion that this situation stems from a lack of knowledge of the gains associated with their presence lead to the development of a framework to display the returns to the urban community as a means of providing a more informed basis for local government support of cultural activities. To develop such a framework, several concepts associated with the PPB systems approach, and its underlying analysis, have been used in approaching the problem of providing information to the decisionmaker. A framework called the "matrix of returns" is proposed. The application of this framework to the Vancouver situation suggests that its success cannot yet be judged. There is a lack of information about the urban community that would be necessary to complete the measurement of returns. The collection of such information was considered beyond the scope of this study. The preliminary matrix of returns does suggest, however, that while the gains are enjoyed by all the urban communities in the metropolitan region of Vancouver, these communities have not been providing a reasonable share of the necessary support. A metropolitan basis for support of cultural activities seems to be needed.

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