Good morning, Madam Chair, and members of the committee.
Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge National Volunteer Week and recognize the 12.7 million Canadian volunteers and thank them for their contributions.
The Guild is a not-for-profit arts and cultural hub with a provincial mandate to support new and emerging professional artists, creative industries, and community organizations through subsidies, mentorship, training, and professional development opportunities. We present and produce first-class theatre 12 months of the year in our 200-seat black box performance space. Each year, our gallery at The Guild presents six months of curatorial artists' paid exhibits and an additional six months of community-based exhibits in our public gallery. We also offer versatile rehearsal space for artists as well as networking and promotional opportunities for PEI artists, the public, and the cultural sector.
We are proud owners of a building in the heart of downtown Charlottetown, formerly a Royal Bank of Canada branch. In addition, we have a recording studio, a musical theatre for grades K to 12, and office space for several other creative industries.
Six years ago, I was hired by the board of directors to take my experience and achievements and use them to save a struggling cultural organization and turn it into a vibrant hub in Prince Edward Island. With the support of an active board, an energetic creative team, government partners, and the community, we have completed three infrastructure-improvement projects with the generous support of Canadian Heritage's cultural spaces fund, ACOA, and the Province of P.E.I.
We have hired students through the Canada summer jobs initiative. We've created a theatre mentorship program with the help of the P.E.I. government, and we have received support under the Canada arts presentation fund. The Guild has become a venue where artists get much-needed exposure, where arts groups have a space to create, and where the community has a gathering spot in which everyone feels welcome.
The Guild's operating budget has grown from $250,000 annually to over $1.5 million per year in just over six years. We have also increased our box office revenue to nearly $1 million per year, in comparison with only $50,000 per year in 2012. We have five full-time employees, doing the work of many, and more than 25 part-time support staff members. In addition to this, The Guild is indirectly responsible for an additional 65 part-time cast and crew from our mainstage six-month production of Anne and Gilbert: The Musical, Atlantic Blue, our TD Confederation Centre Young Company, and our other festival productions.
The Guild is located directly across the street from the Confederation Centre of the Arts. A 1,105-seat theatre with a national mandate, the Centre is the home of the longest-running musical in Canada, Anne of Green Gables: The Musical. In this shadow we have flourished and found creative ways to present year-round entertainment to a population of only 37,000 in Charlottetown, coupled with the 1.5 million tourists who visit Prince Edward Island annually from June to September.
The Guild has secured contracts with Holland America cruise lines. We are a venue for Music PEI and the East Coast Music Association. We are an MBS Radio co-presenter. We're an artsVest partner, a CARFAC member, and a SOCAN supporter, and we continue to grow our partnerships and sponsorships with Atlantic Canadian business.
Having said all this, we are a small organization doing big things. To continue to operate, we rely on the support of the community, local business, individuals, and most importantly, our three levels of government.
We must continue to have open and transparent relationships with our government partners and work together to reduce the stumbling blocks that continue to affect the creative industries. Lengthy applications for funding grants and investment dollars, lack of resources and recognition that the creative industries are an economic driver, and our inability to succession-plan our future with certainty—these are some of the barriers that we face daily. Changes such as increasing the terms for Canada summer jobs for students and expanding the eligibility of students in the recently announced work-integrated arts organizations might seem like small improvements; however, they would greatly benefit organizations like The Guild.
It is my hope that you will recognize the importance and vital role that cultural hubs like The Guild play in their communities, their contributions to Canadian tourism and the cultural sector and, most importantly, to acknowledge our proven ability to be both fiscally responsible and culturally aware. Financial support enables us to meet strategic and cultural targets while continuing to nurture and celebrate the artistic community and engage the public. We will continue to exemplify positive cultural outcomes in Prince Edward Island and in Canada.
To close on a positive note, 2018 will mark our sixth year presenting The Guild Festival, which includes our mainstage six-month six-shows-a-week production of Anne & Gilbert: The Musical, which, I might add, was presented at the National Arts Centre in 2015; our weekly francophone Ceilidh series; our tribute to Atlantic Canadian songwriters, Atlantic Blue, starring Tara MacLean; and everything else Canadian, from babies to burlesque, which you will see performed on The Guild stage in 2018. The Guild is a true reflection of Canadian culture. We are inclusive, relevant, accessible, exciting, and entertaining.