Our New Grant Programs
Posted 3 June 2015 by Simon Brault, O.C., O.Q.
In January of this year, at our Annual Public Meeting, I announced that the Canada Council had embarked on a journey of profound renewal to remain a vibrant, responsive, agile and relevant organization in a rapidly changing world. We are committed to fully delivering on our mandate to promote the creation and enjoyment of the arts in the 21st century, just as we’ve done - with equal passion and determination – over the past 58 years.
We are now at an important milestone in that journey of renewal, the announcement of 6 new funding programs that will replace our current granting programs by 2017. And yet, this is only one step along our journey, with important milestones still to come, including this fall when we will share more details about the programs.
I want to emphasize that unlike many arts funders around the world which have had to restructure due to budget cuts and other external pressures, we have undertaken this exercise proactively from a position of strength – on our own terms – to respond to the changing needs of the Canadian arts sector. Needs that have been stated and reiterated in numerous conversations and consultations.
Our goal is to reinvent ourselves in a way that honors our history and expertise, and the learnings that we gain each and every day from artists, cultural workers and arts organizations. And so we will move from a prescriptive model to a more open one in which artists and arts organizations conduct their quest for excellence on their own terms.
Let me also emphasize that we are re-affirming, updating and integrating our core values into our new funding model. Our commitment to artistic excellence and peer assessment, our respect for and promotion of Canada’s official languages, our specific support for the languages, stories, traditions and contemporary arts practices of Aboriginal peoples, and our appreciation of the diversity and the practices of deaf, disabled and culturally diverse artists – these all remain at the heart of the model we’re building.
Additionally, public engagement is a transformative theme running through all of our activities. We are committed to making the arts a part of the everyday lives of all Canadians and to the principle that every citizen must have the opportunity to see, hear, experience and participate in artworks that have been supported by public funds.
The conversations and consultations that we’ve had with artists from every discipline and region have highlighted complex and pressing challenges and opportunities related to the creation and sharing of art. These are the challenges we want to address with the 6 new funding programs. These conversations will continue, notably after we announce the details of the 6 programs in the late fall.
One thing that we’ve heard loud and clear is that we need to simplify and lighten our application processes. We are working on this.
We also heard that our current suite of programs, with strictly defined disciplines and genres, is limiting for an increasing number of artists who work across disciplines. In the 21st century, with cultural lines of all kinds blurring in profound ways, and with a wide range of new practices emerging, practices that no longer fit into traditional disciplinary categories. We believe a non-disciplinary approach to granting, an approach based on artistic interventions, processes and impacts rather than disciplines, will deliver the greatest benefits to artists, arts organizations and audiences. Therefore, before the end of 2016 the Canada Council will be reducing the number of granting programs it offers from 147 to 6 national, non-disciplinary programs that include all fields of artistic practice.
Like most Canadians we also understand that this is a pivotal moment in the long and troubled history between aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The Canada Council is proud to have helped to nurture a generation of Aboriginal artists whose talent, and whose national and global impact is remarkable and undeniable. Now we are ready to break new ground, by establishing an ambitious and culturally self-determined program dedicated to creating, knowing and sharing Aboriginal arts.
We also need to have our artists represented in global networks, collaborations and exchanges. These can only enrich their practices and perspectives here at home, and ensure Canada is even more recognized worldwide for its creativity, excellence, diversity and innovation.
The new programs are the first step in a positive transformation to scale up the impact of all our actions and interventions. I assure you that everyone who is currently eligible for our programs will also be eligible for the new programs, and that the funding envelopes currently reserved for each discipline or priority, such as equity, will be the baseline for the new funding model. The transition between the many current disciplinary-based programs and the new simplified model will be carefully planned. It will be done smoothly, respecting funding commitments in place and the many needs of the artists and organizations that are currently clients, and in a way that welcomes the aspirations of a new generation, and hopefully for the next 10 years.
The new funding model will give us greater flexibility and agility over time to carry out strategic priorities as they emerge, and to measure and report on the impact and results of our interventions. And ultimately to respond to the needs of a new generation of artists exploring today’s approaches and organizational models.
We look forward to sharing more information with you this fall, and to continuing the work we do every day with the arts community, finding more ways to develop the appreciation, the value, the access and the participation in the arts in Canadian society.