Canada House

Making great strides towards our commitments

January 28, 2020

Making great strides towards our commitments

February 3, 2020

Michelle Chawla’s Speech
Annual Public Meeting, January 21, 2020

As our Chair pointed out, the Canada Council’s current strategic plan will come to an end in 2021.

In that plan, the Council made four commitments, which focus on arts support, digital technology, Indigenous creation, and the international presence of the arts. The plan also reaffirms our longstanding commitment to equity, as well as to the next generation of artists and audiences.

We publish key information on the progress of our commitments online—but I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the activities we undertook this past year that exemplify how we worked towards these commitments.

Towards increased support 

An important part of our commitment to increase our support to the arts was a focus on reaching young and emerging artists.

We undertook several activities and initiatives to make sure we met this goal. For example, last March we launched the New and Early Career Artist profile to make it easier for artists to apply for their first grant.

And this past summer, we piloted another initiative to make the granting process easier for first-timers with the launch of “Collab,” a multi-day outreach event with sessions designed to help artists, groups, and organizations apply for their first grant.

These sessions were held in Toronto and across the Greater Toronto Area this past June with partners from the City of Toronto, the Toronto Arts Council, and the Ontario Arts Council.

More than 350 artists participated in:

  • grant application writing workshops;
  • demonstrations of the Council’s online application portal;
  • roundtable discussions with artists from the community who shared their experiences;
  • open forum breakout sessions;
  • and individual meetings with our officers.

This past year, the Council also continued to deliver outreach sessions to artists and arts workers at all stages of their careers, as well as to organizations.

These sessions took place across Canada—in cities, regional centres, and remote communities. Some of the places we went included:

  • Dawson City
  • Vancouver
  • Moncton
  • Hamilton
  • Fort McMurray
  • Whitehorse
  • Calgary
  • Kelowna
  • Red Deer
  • and North Bay—to name just a selection of locations.

We’ll continue our outreach work in the coming year to make sure we reach a wide range of artists and arts organizations—and, in particular, new applicants.

Towards our digital commitment

Outreach was also an important part of our commitment to amplify the quality, scale, and sharing of artistic and literary creation through digital technology.

This past year, our Digital Strategy Fund program officers were also on the road. They visited thirteen communities across Canada to further engagement with the Fund, and to create networking opportunities for those working at the intersection of the arts and the cultural industries.

We also know that we reached a large number of people with our online sessions for the fund.

And we’re pleased that the Digital Strategy Fund has had a wide reach across Canada—including in the north and rural communities.

We’re starting to hear about the impact of the nearly 200 projects funded so far:

  • We’ve heard how the Fund has raised awareness about the digital changes and specific challenges for the arts sector.
  • We’ve heard how the Fund has launched important conversations related to ethics, discoverability, data, privacy, and digital rights management.
  • And we’ve heard about how the Fund has helped Canadian artists and arts organizations build bridges with international partners and access new networks.

As part of our digital commitment, this past year we also announced the Creation Accelerator.

The Accelerator is an exciting pilot initiative in partnership with CBC/Radio-Canada. We invited Canadian artists to submit a concept for a digital creation project with the potential for distribution on one of CBC/Radio-Canada platforms, our partner in the Creation Accelerator.

We were blown away by the interest in this initiative, with over 530 applications submitted for consideration. And we can’t wait to see what inspiring digital creations emerge from this partnership—be they sound art, podcasts, web series, digital graphic novels, animation, and more.

Towards our Indigenous creation commitment

We are also working toward tripling our support to Indigenous creation, and at this time we’re well on track to reach this goal by 2021.As of 2018-19, we’ve delivered $17.8 million towards our target of $18.9 million.

A large part of this commitment has been delivered through our permanent Indigenous program, Creating, Knowing, and Sharing: the Arts and Cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.

Towards our international commitment

We continue to strive for the presence of Indigenous perspectives in all of our work.

With our work to raise the international profile of artists and arts organizations, for example, we made sure the work we shared with global audiences included that of Indigenous artists.

One of the most exciting moments for Canada on the world stage this past year was the 2019 Festival Internacional Cervantino, in Guanajuato, Mexico, where Canada was the guest country.

Cervantino audiences discovered Canada’s vibrant, culturally diverse arts scene in a way that international audiences have never before experienced—with 17 inspiring music, dance, and theatre shows, including:

  • A Tribe Called Red, featuring Lido Pimienta for the festival’s opening event;
  • Elisapie Isaac
  • 2b Theatre
  • ILL-Abilities Crew
  • Shawn Jobin
  • Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
  • And the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

The Council was proud to support Canada’s participation at Cervantino in collaboration with our partners from Global Affairs Canada and the Embassy of Canada in Mexico.

The Canada House program, presented by the Embassy of Canada in Mexico, presented audiences with three weeks of visual, literary, and performing arts to deepen their experience of arts and culture from Canada. And Telefilm Canada presented nine original films exploring Indigenous and youth-related themes.

In 2020, we will continue to champion and support arts from Canada on the global stage—notably throughout Germany, where Canada will be the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2020, and in the Ivory Coast with the Abidjan Market for Performing Arts (MASA) this March, where Canada will also be the guest country.

Both of these opportunities exemplify the growing international interest in Canada’s arts and culture scene.

An ongoing commitment to equity

As I noted earlier, in the current strategic plan we said that we would also deepen our longstanding commitment to equity.

In this area, we recently launched the Expanding the Arts II strategy.

This strategy supports the expression and engagement of artists who are Deaf or have disabilities, and of the arts organizations across Canada that work with them. Expanding the Arts II which builds on our first from 2012.

You can read the strategy online or watch a video about the strategy with interpretation in American Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language.

A turn to the future

All of this work grew out of our strategic plan commitments, which was developed with input from our stakeholders.

With our current strategic plan coming to an end in 2021, and preparations for our next strategic plan on the way, we want to hear from you.

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