The recent provincial budget announcement held a number of grim announcements, none more serious than those for reduced funding for arts, culture and heritage.
The Wetaskiwin Heritage Museum is one smaller museum that is being forced to do more with less; the museum has recently announced a new fundraising drive and other revenue-generating projects such as a raffle and wintertime dinner gala.
Dr. Karen Aberle, noting the museum raises funds every year, nonetheless said this year’s project, “Help Our Heritage,” aims to raise funds for this year’s set of goals, which include building up a bit of a reserve and giving the museum a chance to develop a new business plan.
“I do not believe that we can continue to move forward with our current strategy that relies on at minimum a quarter of our revenue coming from grant funding,” said Aberle.
“This is not a sustainable plan as it remains unclear whether this resource will be available in the future. The Board and I need time to develop a new strategy, while not reducing our current services and programs for the community. This is why we are trying to raise $100,000, which in essence is ½ of our annual operating budget.”
Aberle, who also sits on the board of directors of the Alberta Museums Association, quoted an AMA press release that noted only large museums in Calgary and Edmonton either kept their budgets the same level, or saw increases.
All rural facilities, even large ones like the Royal Tyrell in Drumheller, saw their budgets cut according to a press release from the AMA. Aberle pointed out smaller facilities usually get their funding through AMA grants rather than directly from the government.
She noted the provincial budget is a major event this year for the museum world. “It will significantly impact not only the way this museum delivers public services to its community but also museums across the province,” said Aberle at the museum Nov. 20. “The cuts that I’m seeing are devastating.”
Aberle said she was disappointed to once again see arts, culture and heritage in the crosshairs of budget cutters, as most people involved in the arts world know such facilities tend to run on fairly tight budgets to begin with. She noted the value of arts, culture and heritage sometimes is more subtle than others.
For example, she said arts, culture and heritage are components of a healthy community that can help attract new residents and businesses.
On top of the recent provincial budget, the Heritage Museum’s 15 year financial agreement with the City of Wetaskiwin comes due soon; Aberle recently presented to council on the museum’s role and value to the community and negotiations for a new deal continue.
There are several projects coming up to help the museum financially. “Help our Heritage” is asking the Wetaskiwin community to support the Heritage Museum financially; Aberle noted any donation over $20 will receive a tax-deductible receipt.
The Glens Grill is sponsoring a benefit gala dinner Jan. 18, 2020, a five-course dinner with proceeds to benefit the Heritage Museum.
Becoming a member of the Heritage Museum is a great way to support it; memberships are only $15 per year and are available at the museum during regular hours.
The museum’s gift shop is another place to easily support the museum and find unique gift ideas not available elsewhere in town.
The Wetaskiwin & District Heritage Museum is located at 5007 50 Ave., Main Street. Hours are Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday 1 to 8 p.m. Aberle said Thursday previously was late night shopping in downtown Wetaskiwin. You can phone the museum at 780-352-0227 for more information.