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A task force created by Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman has finished its report on the status of arts and culture in the city. 

The task force created and mandated to examine and recommend ways Winnipeg can move forward in supporting and structuring Winnipeg’s vibrant arts, culture, and heritage sectors has submitted its final report and a new liaison committee will be established to advise Council on next steps, Bowman announced yesterday. 

The task force also says the city should give tax breaks to arts groups and museums. 

They have come to the table with eight specific recommendations, including: 

  • The Museums Board be dissolved following a two-year transition period during which a special services agency for City-owned museums and a peer assessment process under Heritage Winnipeg be established to allocate museums funding;
  • Reinvestment and reallocation of the Gail Parvin Hammerquist Fund to support on-going built heritage conservation and redevelopment efforts;
  • The establishment of a dedicated capital fund for the arts, culture and heritage sub-sectors;
  • The establishment of a maintenance fund to support the City’s own heritage, arts and culture facilities;
  • Better enforcement of heritage-related by-laws and fees, as well as the creation of property tax rebates and incentives to support;
  • The establishment of the necessary policy and frameworks to support long-term strategic investment in the arts and culture sub-sectors;
  • A more efficient permitting and application process be developed to support unique events led by Winnipeg artists and cultural groups; and
  • The establishment a Liaison Committee to continue collaboration among arts, culture and heritage stakeholders, and to provide strategic advice to the Mayor and Council on related issues.

Bowman says arts and culture is vital to Winnipeg's economy, and he wants the city to become a destination for travelers and artists. 

"Without a doubt we have tremendous artists doing great work in Winnipeg," Bowman said at the Mayor's Luncheon for the Arts. "But we can't rest on our laurels. We need to continue to look for way to better support and embrace all of their work and contributions and the task force recommendations provides us with a road map moving forward." 

Winnipeg’s arts, culture and heritage sectors are estimated to contribute over $1 billion annually to the City’s gross domestic product representing over 6 percent of Winnipeg’s workforce, the city says in a release. 

City Councillor Mike Pagtakhan, who chaired the task force is excited about this unique opportunity. 

"This the first time I know of with the arts, the cultural - including museums, and heritage aspects are coming together at the same table to talk about how we can make the cultural identity of our city stronger," said Pagtakhan. "These are really good recommendations and it's good to see the Mayor is going to act on it by establishing a committee that can move these items forward."

Not all of Pagtakhan's council colleges are completely on board with the task force recommendations, but he says he's not overly concerned. 

"I think all councilors are supportive of the arts but in terms of their level of support, that can have some diversity of opinion and there are certainly some folks that are more supportive of it," said Pagtakhan. "I think they will continue to have an open mind about it and I'm going to continue talking with my council colleagues and listen to their concerns." 

Carol Phillips is the Director of the Winnipeg Arts Council. 

She says this is a good first step forward. 

"With 2015 and 2016 the arts in Winnipeg were fortunate to get increased funding in the city and we have to keep it going because it's really important in the city," said Phillips. "Talk is wonderful and we have to keep that up but there has to be action as well." 

The Mayor emphasized that recommendations made in the report exist as recommendations only, and will require additional review by the new liaison committee and as well as Council approval prior to implementation.

The task force’s final report is publicly available on Mayor Bowman’s website, www.mayorbowman.ca.