Illustration of a painter's palette with a large stack of hundred dollar bills sitting on top of it beside the number $450,000


On Dec. 13, 2023, Regional Councillor Kari Williams brought a motion forward at the regional strategic planning and budget committee meeting to cut funding to arts and cultural institutions by 20 percent. The council instead voted on a 10 per cent cut.     

Raechele Lovell, chair of the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund launched a campaign to draw attention to cuts made to regional arts programs. The campaign is completely grassroots-based and includes a town hall, fundraising efforts, and a social media campaign to educate people on what is happening. This campaign comes on the heels of when other arts and culture leaders in the Waterloo Region have spoken out about concerns surrounding the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony declaring bankruptcy in 2022.   

“If you want to reduce their budget by 10 per cent or 20 per cent, you’ve got to notify these groups ahead of time. Last year it included THEMUSEUM and this year it includes the galleries,” Councillor Doug Craig said during the Strategic Planning and Budget Committee meeting.  

The Region of Waterloo Arts Fund received $392,820 from the region each year, however, this amount will be cut by $39,000 this year. Some of the regional councillors who opposed the discretionary funding cuts included Waterloo Mayor Dorothy McCabe and Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.   

“A number of these groups are depending on the funding that they thought they were going to get. Again, we are talking about key cultural institutions, and there are four groups there. And so what, are you going to give them $77,000 each?” Craig said.  

Other arts programs in the region are feeling the financial strain. THEMUSEUM in Downtown Kitchener is faced with cutting programming, hours, days and staff. Lovell’s “Save the Arts” campaign wants to make sure the community is aware of what is going on in terms of the arts fund, and that there is transparency between the council and their constituents.   

“And so, because of how constrained I’ve been with the region, and how they have really tied my hands with sharing with the community, I recognized that I needed a different avenue, which is where the Save the Arts campaign was created,” Lovell said.   

In the Stategic Plan and Budget Committee meeting at the Region of Waterloo Council on Dec. 23, 2023, the council members prioritized fostering an “empowered, people-centered culture.” Lovell and other arts leaders in the region are extremely concerned about their programs being able to continue past 2023.  

Lovell says she was unable to gain access to important documents until she spoke on the morning show with CBC news. Many arts leaders in the region, including Lovell have expressed concerns over transparency between the Region and its citizens about budget cuts.   

“I personally think this is a huge mistake. There are many groups out there right now in need, that will read in the newspaper that they have lost 10 per cent of their funding,” Craig said.   

During the strategic plan and budget committee meeting, the council resolved that the Region of Waterloo reduce the tax levy supported 2024 discretionary grant funding envelopes by 10 per cent. For the current 2024 budget toward “Major Arts and Culture Organizations”, the council proposed a 20 per cent reduction to the $340,000 provision.   

The reduction was approved by the council with ten councilors in favour and six opposed.