Why the dismissal of the Banff Centre board is problematic

The arts deserve to thrive, but the overhaul of the Banff Centre will impact their ability to do so.

The arts continually take a backseat, and I’m fed up with it. It seems institutions always cut funding to the arts first, and the provincial government is no different.

In late October, the Government of Alberta dismissed the entire board of directors at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. In their place, the government replaced them with one temporary administrator, Paul Baay. The exact reason for this dismissal is unclear. Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Advanced Education, expressed her appreciation for the former board. The provincial government said in their announcement that Baay’s role is to “review the internal processes and policies.”

This decision by the Albertan government is a giant step backwards in the flourishing of the arts in this province. The overhaul of the entire board, coupled with the addition of a temporary administrator, shows the government’s complete disregard for the arts in Alberta.

The decision also shows the lack of consideration for diversity in the organizational development at the Banff Centre. The arts are multidimensional — it is senseless to have one person speak for an entire organization. Having multiple voices advocating for the centre allows the arts to thrive. This new decision is harmful not only for the Banff Centre, but for the arts as a whole. 

The arts are not one-size-fits-all. So why have only one person speak for the arts on behalf of the centre? It is unjustifiable to have one person making all the decisions regarding creativity, artistic growth, and so much more. 

Now this is not to say that Baay does not have the proper qualifications. He has experience in arts organization and he’s the chair of the board of directors of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. However no matter how qualified he is, there is still one issue — he is acting solo.

No matter what anyone’s qualifications are, an institution like the Banff Centre requires a number of voices advocating for the centre and its values. Currently, the government plans to keep Baay as the administrator for six to nine months. This is far too long to have one person in charge. Replacing those dismissed in an efficient amount of time will allow the centre to run at its optimal potential.

Some people argue that this dismissal of the board members was necessary. They think the Banff Centre has lost sight of its original aspirations — a place to promote art, originality, and culture. These people believe that the centre has become more business-focused and that these artistic endeavours have been brushed aside. 

Frankly, I don’t disagree. I think it’s vital for places like the Banff Centre to be authentic in its production of arts development. However, I believe that in order to redirect the Banff Centre back to its original foundation, a diverse board is necessary. One person cannot be the only voice in arts advocacy. If the government’s plan is to revise the centre’s goals, they can do so by allowing multiple voices a place in this operation — especially if they are diverse as well. If a new board is brought on, I hope they will realize the importance of diversity within the centre and its values.  

Some of the events the Banff Centre puts on show insight into certain aspects of identity — religion, Indigenous culture, stories of immigration, and more. These stories show the range of creativity and expression that the centre aims to amplify. For that reason, it is important that the board that helps run the centre is equally as diverse. So, to have one man making the decisions regarding the structure of these values is absurd. 

Because art itself is diverse, it both provides and takes inspiration from the society its created in. Having multiple people contribute to artistic interpretations is what makes the arts so special. If one guy is in charge of Banff’s creative centre, how limited will the representation be?

This decision by the Alberta government shows that the arts always seem to be a second thought. Additionally, the reason for the board’s dismissal is unclear, which shows how ambiguous they are. There are many aspects to the arts that make them intricate. Having one administrator make decisions for a hub of creativity simply won’t do. It is important to have a diverse board in place at the Banff Centre so the facility can thrive. Let’s stop letting the arts get pushed to the corner. We deserve to shine.

Brooklyn Hollinger

Brooklyn is the 2023-24 Deputy Opinion Editor. She is a Classics major and Creative Writing Minor. She is a lover of fantasy books, peach iced tea, and can usually be found obsessing over pictures of her dog Zoey.

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