Summary of Changes to the Inter-Arts Office (IAO) Programs

April 2014

Here’s a snapshot of what you’ll find below: 

  1. A simpler definition of inter-arts work (exploratory and integrated artistic activities that result in hybrid forms outside of existing artistic disciplines at the Canada Council)
  2. That the maximum project grant amount for organizations will increase from $25,000 to $40,000 and a two year multi-year grant for organizations while the Canada Council undertakes more research on cross-disciplinary activities
  3. The Canada Council will foster increased online sharing of information and the development of more national and international opportunities


The Inter-Arts Office (IAO) was created in 1999. Its mandate is to foster and support creative diversity, vitality, recognition and continued excellence in inter-arts work. The IAO regularly adjusts its suite of programs, in consultation with the other sections and offices in the Canada Council, in order to remain up to date with changes in this rapidly moving and expanding art community. For more information see the Inter-Arts Office 2013 Consultation Background Document [PDF, 628.3 KB].

What informed the upcoming changes?

Between 1 May and 31 July 2013, the IAO went on the road to consult the inter-arts communities focusing, for the most part, on how IAO’s grants to organizations relate to the guiding principles and funding options outlined in the Council’s Review of Operating Grants [PDF, 367.3 KB] exercise. The Inter-Arts Office also took note of many useful comments. On 1 November 2013 the IAO published the 42-page What We Heard report, which captured ideas and suggestions from the consultation. These five main themes listed below emerged:

  • The meaning of Access: application process, definitions/art forms, equity, public engagement in the arts
  • The significance of Assessment: peers, artists and community collaboration, measuring impact
  • The implications of Boundaries: interactions with artistic disciplines and other sectors, positioning the inter-arts sector
  • The dimensions of Operating Grants: financial considerations, program design
  • The opportunities of Sharing: distribution of resources, historical funding patterns, isolation and networking and research

The IAO received a wide range of feedback during the consultation with ongoing dialogue with the arts community about inter-arts issues through blogs such as Zan Chandler’s Change and future in Toronto's performance scene and Claude Schryer’s Questions Out of CHAOS. Equally significant was the dialogue that took place within the arts community and the solutions proposed by the community itself. Many suggestions were too large in scope to implement in the short term and require further research and reflection. Responses, however, will continue to roll out over time.

Overall, the consultation seems to have been well received by inter-arts communities as noted in this excerpt from the What We Heard report:

  • ‘We salute this vast consultation operation that will allow an update of the programs taking new realities into account’.

1. The simpler definition of inter-arts work

We will apply the following definition of inter-arts work in all of our IAO programs:

  • “Inter-arts work is exploratory and integrated artistic activities that result in hybrid forms outside of existing artistic disciplines at the Canada Council.”

Council’s support to contemporary circus arts at Council

  • Our approach continues to be to encourage and award support to a range of artistic genres and approaches in contemporary circus art. Artists and arts organizations can apply through:
    • Inter-Arts Office, for exploratory and integrated circus work
    • Theatre Section,  for work that employs a theatrical vocabulary
    • Dance Section, for work anchored in dance vocabulary
    • Audience and Market Development Office, for access activities aimed at audience development and creating and accessing new market opportunities.


The simplified and clarified definitions are shorter and allow for a higher degree of flexibility and self-definition for applicants while ensuring that disciplinary and multiple discipline activities are still supported by relevant disciplinary sections or combinations of disciplinary sections when appropriate.

What we heard during the consultation about definitions

  • keeping the definition of inter-arts focused and narrowed to true integration and research would help contextualize and simplify the boundaries of the program
  • one day, there could be a division for assessment of circus art as a separate entity however for now the sectors complement each other’s nicely and the peer assessment process does not need to be rethought
  • the arts are changing fast and technology is changing faster. Any definition that is set would become irrelevant within months of being publicized. IAO is in a rare position in Council to be open to these changes. Let IAO be the place where that exploration can occur

2. You will notice that the maximum project grant amount will increase from $25,000 to $40,000 and a two year multi-year grant for organizations while more research is undertaken

  • Inter-Arts Office: Project Grants to Organizations (with deadlines on November 15, 2014 and November 15, 2015) will remain in place however the maximum grant request amount will be increased from $25,000 to $40,000 in order to allow for more flexibility for organizations to undertake more extensive projects. These grants are intended for professional arts collectives or non-profit organizations with a mandate in inter-arts work that have lighter administrative structures and who operate from project to project and/or whose inter-arts activities are a portion of their overall activities. The Artist and Community Collaboration Program (ACCP) will continue to be delivered on a project basis and will evolve based on the outcome of revisions currently underway.
  • Inter-Arts Office: Multi-Year Grants to Organizations (with a deadline of 15 November 2014 for the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons) will replace the former “Grants to Organizations” program and are intended for professional non-profit arts organizations with a mandate in inter-arts work that operate on a full-time basis with a longer term planning cycle directed by professional staff and who have the capacity to maintain the CADAC financial information requirements. The two-year grant stream will call upon the Council’s Regular Adjustment, Fair Notice and Concerned Status policies. This grant type has a minimum grant of $20,000 and provides a confirmed grant over a two-year period of activity. The guidelines will state that ‘this funding is for a two-year period only (2015-2017) and that ‘future funding opportunities will be announced before the end of the funded period’. Applicants that are unsuccessful for a two-year grant could be considered for a project grant. Multi-year support for organizations will continue to be offered for a two-year period on an interim basis to allow the Council to engage in further research and consultation on how its cross-disciplinary interventions can be more flexible and responsive.


The ‘project’ and ‘multi-year grant’ approach provides options for organizations based on their organizational structure and activity level. Use of the regular adjustment policy (decreases by the peer assessment committee will not exceed 20 percent of the previous grant) and fair notice policy (any grant reduction of more than 20 percent requires advance notice and will be applied at the next competition deadline, unless an applicant is on concerned status) has and will continue to allow for more movement of funds between competitions and for organizations to choose the grant type that is most appropriate to their organizational structure.

During the consultation process a recurring theme that the Council heard was that the boundaries are shifting for art forms and organizational structures. Artists informed the Council that they are increasingly engaging in cross-disciplinary activities that sometimes challenge current structures, such as multidisciplinary organizations or art practices that are constantly in flux. We also heard that artists are increasingly interested in cross-sectoral practices and new ways of engaging areas outside the arts (e.g. arts and science, and the private sector).

The expansion of art forms and practices is evident in the applications to Inter-Arts Office programs, which include activities that cross over with other disciplines and sectors of activity of the Council. Likewise, within the traditionally defined arts disciplines, established artists are increasingly including activities, forms and artists from other practices. Over the next two years, Council will undertake a series of research projects on cross-disciplinary activities in order to gather data and identify trends.

What we heard during the consultation about support to organizations

  • a mix of short and long term funding options makes sense in order to provide both flexibility and continuity of support
  • multi-year funding helps build capacity and reduces the reporting and administrative time
  • longer term project grants make sense for many organizations in this region with lighter administrative structures (collectives or artist-led companies). It is useful to know how much funds applicants have for a project well in advance. This helps artists realize their vision…

What we heard during the consultation about artistic boundaries

  • there is no question that interdisciplinary work is visible everywhere and is moving even further in this direction. Dialogue should be encouraged between disciplines and the Council should find ways to support collaborations that result
  • inter-arts practice is at the edge of where other work is shifting.  It is a critical lens into where the community is going…
  • we sometime feel like artistic disciplines are putting artists into a box: how does one step out of one’s home discipline?

3. Increased online sharing of information and the development of more national and international opportunities

In addition to administering programs, the IAO will provide enhanced information to nourish the inter-arts community’s development and offer tools for applicant. Examples may include:

  • a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section including a background document on peer assessment in the IAO;
  • audiovisual clips from funded activities that demonstrate the range of artistic work funded by the IAO, including testimonials from applicants;
  • more data, analysis and information from a national perspective on the inter-arts community;
  • information about national and international opportunities in the inter-arts community initiated by the Inter-Arts Office.


The inter-arts community will benefit from more information on how to apply to the IAO, and some in the inter-arts sector that feel isolated from the rest of the arts community would like to see increased dialogue and access to new opportunities. The IAO will publish a background document on its approach to peer assessment that outlines how representation of peer assessors is undertaken and applications are tracked and how the impact from funded activity is reported.

The 2013 consultation is an example of the ‘share and generate knowledge and information about current and emerging artistic practices within its scope’ component of the IAO mandate. We heard during the consultation that given the relative isolation and diversity of the inter-arts community that the IAO can serve as a catalyst to harness opportunities and help artists and arts organization to connect more with opportunities that would otherwise be difficult to access. There was also recognition during the consultation of the IAO’s leadership in terms of shaping and advancing inter-arts practice but that it can’t resolve these issues on its own. Infrastructure, isolation, a lack of presenters, and territorial issues, for example, are areas that will need to be looked at strategically and in partnership with others.

What we heard during the consultation about sharing and assessment

  • education on the peer assessment process is the only way to make it understood that this is a workable system
  • have a stronger emphasis on videos showcasing both the work of the applicant as well as the contextual value of the applicant with respect to region/location; this would allow for greater access for the whole of this hugely diverse sector
  • more collaboration within the sector and artistic disciplines could help identify commonalities and develop a stronger culture of sharing
We would like to reiterate our thanks to all who participated and to invite you back to the Inter-Arts Office web page as content and tools are constructed. Feedback and suggestions are welcome at any point: