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Region of Waterloo denies THEMUSEUM’s request for $150K grant

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The Region of Waterloo won’t be giving THEMUSEUM in downtown Kitchener a one-time $150,000 emergency grant, after the motion lost in a 9-6 council vote.

Last month, the City of Kitchener approved $300,000 in funding with the condition that the region cover half that amount. A decision on that amendment was due before July 1.

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, speaking to regional council on Wednesday, said he doesn’t want to see THEMUSEUM end up like the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, another local organization that filed for bankruptcy last fall.

The day after the meeting, Vrbanovic told CTV News he was disappointed that the motion was defeated.

“[We] need to do some real soul searching because we've already seen what's happened to one organization, where the right folks didn't step up when it was necessary,” he said.

Vrbanovic added that he is proud of the regional councillors who voted with him. He said arts and culture are among the things that make a community a great one.

“If we want to see the kind of community we talk about, a world class city or region on the rise to a million people, then these are the kinds of things we need to step up and invest in,” he said.

At the regional council meeting, $306,000 was approved for other arts and culture organizations. There were ten other organizations approved for that funding through the Major Arts and Culture Organizations grant program. 

CEO reacts

David Marksell, the CEO of the THEMUSEUM, said he too is disappointed with the region’s vote.

“I have a lot of emotions about this,” Marskell told CTV News. “The whole arts sector is broken and in the hands of council.”

While the one-time emergency grant was not approved by the region, Marskell said hope is not lost. In August, the region could reassess funding in another way.

“That will be a defining moment,” he added.

Vrbanovic clarified that in August the region will be looking at ongoing funding for all of the key cultural institutions – including THEMUSEUM – so it isn’t the same as emergency funding.

Marskell said his hope is that the amount they get from the region changes after the August meeting.

“If they cut our funding, if we stay status quo… that'll be tough for us to continue,” he explained.

Marskell said they’ve received $385,000 annually from the region since 2016. But he feels that amount should have changed due to inflation.

“Cities of Kitchener and Waterloo have to give annual inflation increases,” he added.

The City of Kitchener is still committed to the $300,000 emergency grant that they promised in May, with or without the region’s assistance.

Marskell said he is meeting with the city regularly to discuss what options are next and to figure out a new funding model that is sustainable and helps the organization grow.

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