It's an excellent question!

It's an excellent question!

Posted 11 June 2015 by Simon Brault, O.C., O.Q.

After several months of diligent work, we recently announced the outline of our new 6-program funding model. Many of you have shared your comments and questions. We’ll be in a better position to answer some of these questions as we develop the new programs in the months ahead. But we can answer some of your queries right away.

Where does artistic excellence fit into all of this?

Artistic merit is – and will remain – a vital criterion for Council funding. All applicants must demonstrate that their work is guided by a quest for artistic excellence. Each program will also have other criteria including to encourage the creation and sharing of art, increase the impact of organizations, encourage innovation, foster the renewal of artistic practices, and highlight national and international outreach for artists and organizations.

What exactly will change for applicants?

The grant application process, whether for individuals, groups or organizations, will be more straightforward with fewer decision-making steps. Our goal is to simplify the entire process – from submitting and processing applications, to assessing and responding to them. For you, this clarity is essential so that you can spend time on your artistic practice rather than trying to figure out how to conform to our programs. For us, it allows us to show more accurately the impact of our grants and other initiatives in the professional arts sector on Canadians.

What does “non-disciplinary” mean in terms of assessing applications?

Peer assessment, like artistic excellence, remains a core value for funding. We’ve heard some concerns that applications will not be assessed by a committee of experts from one’s own discipline. This is not the case. We will keep disciplinary expertise in the assessment process.

What we want to eliminate is the isolating effect and the multiplication of programs that has taken place at the Council as a result of organizing our structure according to disciplines. A granting approach based on the intentions of the programs – rather than on the ecology of each discipline as an end in itself – will help us to better measure the impact of public funding for the arts, so that we can better promote and defend such funding. For example, for any given program – say the Arts Abroad program – we’ll be able to compare the needs, visibility or scope of a specific discipline, or even all artists or emerging artists for all disciplines at the international level. We would then be better equipped to support artists, promote their accomplishments, and make a convincing case for ongoing and adequate funding for the arts.

Will the non-disciplinary nature of the programs dilute the funds and penalize certain practices?

No. We won’t lose our ability to measure the level of support we give to any specific discipline or practice. We know where we are starting from and we have no intention of developing new interventions to the detriment of the practices and disciplines we support. We want to be able to understand emerging needs and opportunities so that we can convincingly make the case for funding them. Since we want this model to be relevant over a 10-year period, we want to be able to anticipate and adjust our spending based on the objectives of the 6 programs and the opinions, observations and findings of our peer assessment committees and consultations with arts professionals across Canada.

Will equity be lost without a dedicated program, and with so many applicants applying to fewer (6) grant programs?

Equity is a fundamental value for the Council. Our respect for official languages, ethnic and regional diversity, and Aboriginal peoples’ artistic practices remains unchanged. I know – it’s not enough to say the door is open to ensure equitable access to our programs for everyone. Our programs will reflect our commitment to equity. Equity practices will be built into our processes from the moment an application is submitted until it has been assessed. We will monitor the strict and timely application of these principles. And our Equity Office will continue to support this principle within Council by constantly working to improve access to our 6 programs.

Doesn’t reducing the number of programs from 147 to 6 sound like budget cuts?

Absolutely not, and for 3 reasons!

First, the transformation we’re envisaging isn’t based on any budget cuts: our budget has remained unchanged for the past few years.

Second, the rationale for fewer programs is based on greater efficiency, impact and awareness of the current realities of the arts: emerging technologies, changing operating models, and the increasingly participative role of the public in the arts. Our report on consultations [PDF, 619.5 KB] with the arts community gives a good overview of this reality and the community’s expectations.

Finally, the answer is no if the question implies that budgets would be allocated in a way that would favour certain disciplines at the expense of others, or that would give preference to artists rather than organizations. We will work to ensure that funding envelopes remain equitable, and that the transition to the new model complies with our current financial commitments (funding envelopes) to arts disciplines and their organizations. As with peer assessment, our non-disciplinary programs won’t cause us to lose sight of specific levels of support to a discipline, or a specific type of applicant or practice – quite the contrary! We are careful drivers – we will not upset the balance of the arts ecosystem and we will design a model that accurately reflects the Canadian reality and its full potential.

We are listening

We know that you will have other important questions to ask. Leave a comment on this blog or on Twitter (#newfundingmodel) or Facebook. My team and I will be publishing another post with answers to future questions, so feel free to be as frank and open as you like.

Simon Brault

About the Author: Simon Brault, O.C., O.Q.

Simon Brault is the Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts. Author of No Culture, No Future, a collection of essays on the rise of arts and culture on public agendas, he has participated actively in initiatives such as the Agenda 21C de la culture au Québec. An initiator of Journées de la culture, he was also a founding member and chair of Culture Montréal from 2002 to 2014. In 2015, he received the Quebec CPA Order’s prestigious Outstanding Achievement Award for bringing together “two worlds that were once disparate – the arts and business – an alliance that significantly benefits society at large.” Follow Simon Brault on Twitter: @simon_brault

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