Folk Arts Society denied funding, suing province, Arts NL

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Folk Arts Society denied funding, suing province, Arts NL

The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society is suing Arts NL and the provincial government over $44,000 in funding it was expecting to receive over the next two years.

"It's foolishness," said Folk Arts president John Drover.

The group provided Arts NL financial information in hard copy but forgot to fill out the yearly online database report, he said, and as a result, Years 2 and 3 of a three-year sustained funding project were nixed.

'Complete oversight'

"In past years, when there was a problem with our application … we would just get a call from them and they would ask for whatever they needed and we would give it to them and everyone was fine," Drover said.

"You're dealing with volunteer-led organizations who sometimes have some staff and sometimes have no staff putting together these massive documents to report on what you've done, and there's bound to be an oversight or a mistake."

Drover said the Folk Arts Society was on a three-year funding cycle to make it easier for the organization to budget.

It assumed it would be given $22,000 this year and again next year — like it was given in 2016 — but now, he said, both years have been dropped and the group can't reapply for the same program until 2020.

"There's an obvious problem now with the arts funding model in Newfoundland and Labrador that the government just hands over a grant to an independent Crown agency. That Crown agency does what they like, there's no government oversight, and there's no recourse," he said.

The Folk Arts Society has been receiving money from the government since its inception in the '80s, according to Drover.

The group relies on that money for rent, day-to-day expenses and to help run programs and its annual Folk Festival in St. John's each summer — an event that's planned well in advance.

Folk Festival going ahead 

"The Folk Fest is going ahead regardless," Drover said. "I mean, we're certainly not going to cut any activity. We'll find some way to raise $22,000 a year."

Drover is a lawyer who has access to legal resources but, he said, the Folk Arts Society wasn't the only group to lose funding over a "complete oversight," and the other organizations don't have the means to start litigation.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Arts council has declined a request for an interview, saying the situation is now before the courts.

CBC has also tried contacting the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation. Interview requests have gone unanswered.