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In the eye-for-an-eye department, the Alliance has launched the Beautiful City Billboard Fee (BCBF) campaign with the aim to democratize the city's public space by funneling a proposed tax for billboard advertising into Toronto's art funding. The thinking: Why pollute our visual landscape with giant ads that offer no significant returns? (Here's looking at you, Joe Camel)

The Alliance, along with artists, activists and city council members is steadily preparing their case to take to Town Hall.

For a rundown on Saturday's BCBF meeting, Devon Ostrom (local curator, arts advocate and founder of the Alliance) invited me around to the ROM, where he is guest curator for the multi-platform Housepaint Exhibition. Earlier that day, he conducted the Sketch component, an exercise on issues of homelessness, built into the ROM's Kids program. Devon's schedule would leave even the most aggressive arts admin flat out and consequently, one of the problems he cites when talking about Toronto's arts funding is how time consuming the depleted system can be. "I spend most of my time hustling. I'm a curator. I should be working with the artists. There's just not enough money in the pot."

In projective terms, the Alliance expects to be able to net approximately $18 million annually from billboard advertising taxes (or annual licensing fees) creating an "historic" inflation in our arts funding. That's more than enough to double the number of individual artists receiving grants, or to fund hundreds of art projects around the city. Devon also notes the importance of intensive arts funding to marginalized communities and youth art projects.

So far, the BCBF initiative is backed by several city councilors, 40 organizations and over 1400 individual signatories on its way to becoming being accepted. But according to Devon, there is still a long way to go and more policy-makers to win over. "It's almost certain that the tax will go through," he says. It's the final destination of those taxes that's up for debate.

The next step: taking it to Town Hall. "The Town Hall will give people an opportunity to network and have their voice in the process," says Devon. "It will be an place where we can get the public, press and councilors all on the same page."

The proposal is slotted to go to Executive Committee on June 2nd and Council by early July 2009. Asked about how he feels they'll fare against other such proposals, Devon shrugs but assures me that BCBF supporters are a fairly rowdy bunch who know how to take care of business.

Mark your calendars for Tuesday, May 5th at 6:30pm where BCBF members, supporters, city councilors and media will meet up in Committee Room 2 to open discussions. Or to view and sign the petition, go right to the source.

Photo by Xenomancer.

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