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July 6, 2021

Investing in the Arts, Now More Than Ever

July 6, 2021

Blog post by Director and CEO Simon Brault

The pandemic upended the arts sector. Its impact was devastating. But artists, groups, and arts organizations, to their credit, were resilient. They continued to create and find new ways to reach us. Their resilience became ours and their artistic offerings, our protection against isolation. Art remained on the side of hope and life.

Now more than ever, we must support recovery and build back better. I am optimistic—realistically optimistic. The scope of the work that awaits us will require considerable public and private investments, the return of existing audiences in great numbers, the presence of new audiences, and increased access to arts and culture. Collectively, we must have the courage to recognize the failures that undermine our sector and to fix them to support artists and their collaborators for the good of our democracy. Unity and determination were necessary to weather the crisis—and they will be even more so to rebuild a more equitable and resilient sector.

Additional funds from the federal government and transitioning into sector recovery

We are transitioning out of the pandemic crisis. Sector activities have resumed. In light of this, the Council is making two major exceptional investments, which have been made possible through additional funding from the federal government.

An additional $116.5 million

In April 2021, we began investing an exceptional $116.5 million to support projects that create jobs for artists and cultural workers. The Digital Now initiative ($50.5 million) enables groups, collectives, and arts organizations to adapt existing works or create new ones to be shared online with various audiences. The Council has injected another $66 million in the April and October 2021 competitions under its Explore and Create program.

And another $75 million

On June 28, 2021, the Minister of Canadian Heritage announced that the Council would be receiving $75 million for sector recovery and to resume activities with in-person audiences. The Council will distribute the money based on sector needs and in alignment with the vision set out in its 2021–26 strategic plan, Art, now more than ever. We will share the details of our approach in the fall.

For each new investment or initiative, the Council considers the overall situation of the sector and its ongoing evolution. While we ensure that arts organizations can fulfil their mandates, we also seek to maintain strong and direct support to Indigenous, Deaf and disability, racialized, and official language minority artists, groups, and arts organizations.

Innovating to build back better

In addition to the investments I mentioned above, this fall we will announce a series of initiatives to support innovation as a driver for sustainable sector rebuilding. The initiatives will be the cornerstones of the great innovation agenda at the heart of Art, now more than ever.

We intend to support the innovation process—from capacity building to conceptualization, exploration and implementation—by taking into account the sector’s very diverse needs and capacities. The goal of these initiatives—both digital and non-digital—is to rebuild and strengthen the sector into one that is more inclusive, equitable, environmentally friendly, resilient, connected, sustainable, recognized, and supported. The innovation we are discussing must not be confused with artistic creativity—it must be understood as a way to remedy the problems that weaken, curb, or threaten the very future of the arts sector and all its workers.

We will soon launch two new digital initiatives as part of our innovation project: the Digital Generator, for organizational transformation and innovation, and the Digital Greenhouse, for seed projects focused on resilience, sustainability, and equity. Stay tuned for our announcements this fall with more details on these two initiatives and more about our innovation agenda.

A recruitment campaign for a fairer and more inclusive future

Our recruitment campaign designed to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Council, which was launched on February 2, 2021, is a tremendous success. The Council will reach—and even surpass—its goal of filling 70% of available positions with Indigenous, Black, racialized, or Deaf people or people living with disabilities. To date, 35% of our senior executives are Indigenous, Black, or racialized people. I want to thank you for your support during this campaign and reiterate our commitment to fostering diversity and representation at the Council and throughout Canada’s arts sector.

Inclusion and the representation of this country’s diversity in funded organizations, both in their programming and everyday activities, are essential to deepening their roots in our communities, attracting audiences, and engaging with the arts.

Hope on the horizon for fall programming

As vaccination campaigns progress across Canada, we can hope for in-person activities this fall. I am very much looking forward to seeing you again in person and applauding your work. I am also looking forward to our joint progress in implementing Art, now more than ever. We are already hard at work:

  • investing in rebuilding the sector and innovation;
  • growing the benefits of the arts for society at large; and
  • encouraging and enhancing collaboration and partnerships within the sector and with other sectors.

This plan is a response to the challenges highlighted by the pandemic. It is a call for the emergence of a stronger arts sector that can contribute to the advent of a better, more just world. The implementation of this plan will be incremental. And so, the Council seeks to remain flexible, to listen actively, and to stay humble. It also seeks to work with reliable data and be accountable for its decisions in a clear and transparent manner.

In the fall, we will invite you to continue the conversation around the implementation of our strategic plan and our innovation-related initiatives. Like my colleagues, I look forward to speaking with you.

In closing, I want to say that I sincerely hope that we can all take advantage of the summer ahead to recharge our batteries and prepare to re-enchant the world together, because the world needs it.