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February 29, 2024

Supporting the Arts Community

February 29, 2024

CEO Letter to the Community

Dear arts community,

At the end of 2023, I committed the Canada Council for the Arts to being more transparent and sharing information with you in a timely manner.

Since the start of the new year, I have had the pleasure of connecting with many hundreds of individual artists, arts groups and organizations, in person and online. I am heartened by our dialogue and strengthened relationships, which serve as the basis for moving forward together.

Refocusing Government Spending initiative

You may have seen that the federal government announced the results of the Refocusing Government Spending initiative earlier today. As part of this government-wide initiative, the Council will lower its current spending incrementally over three years: $3.63 million in 2024–25, $7.33 million in 2025–26 and $9.88 million in 2026–27 and going forward. To clarify, these amounts are not cumulative; $9.88 million represents 2.7% of the Council’s current funding from the government.

Minimizing the impact on the arts sector has been top of mind for the Council, as we know the many challenges you are facing as you continue to rebuild. The savings will be achieved largely through lower administrative spending and through the phasing out of the Strategic Innovation Fund by 2025 – a fund that was intended to be time-limited. The Council will continue to support sector innovation through our regular granting programs. I would also like to assure you that these savings will not impact the Council’s regular granting programs nor our operating capacity.

Explore and Create program competition

On a different matter, many of you will be receiving your results letter from the Council from the fall 2023 competition of the Explore and Create program. This is our largest granting program supporting research, creation, development and production of artistic projects. In the interest of being more transparent with you, I am sharing the high-level results for this competition and what you can expect next as we strive to best support you, the arts community.

Through this competition, the Council is funding 1,125 projects and supporting the thousands of artists and cultural workers who will be leading and involved in them. In fact, we are distributing grants totalling $36.2 million. This is our single largest investment in any Explore and Create competition, not counting the exceptional period between 2020­–21 and 2022–23, when the Council distributed time-limited pandemic emergency and recovery funding on behalf of the government.

Through these investments, the Council continues to deliver for the arts community and for people across Canada. Specifically, the Council is:

  • supporting artistic and literary projects in every province and territory and allowing access to the arts for people across the country;
  • ensuring that applicants have a similar chance to be successful no matter where they applied from in the country; and
  • improving access to its funding for first-time applicants, official language minority communities and historically underserved and marginalized communities (Indigenous, racialized and Deaf and disability applicants) to better reflect the diversity of our society.

I understand that there were many deserving projects that we were unable to fund. To give you context, the Council received more than 6,750 eligible applications—a record high of applications in a single competition. As another indicator of the increases, between 2017 and 2023, we saw the volume of applications for the Explore and Create program triple. In this competition alone, we received requests totalling nearly $215 million, which represents more than two-thirds of the Council’s annual granting budget.

This demand, coupled with the quality of the applications, demonstrates the tremendous need for support for the arts, including funding.  In addition to engaging audiences across the country, the arts play a crucial economic and social role in communities. As the arts community struggles with increased costs and a slow post-pandemic recovery, we recognize the importance of reliable public funding, not only for you, but also for the diverse communities you serve.

This was a highly competitive process. The overall success rate in this competition was 16.6%. This low success rate reflects a combination of the unprecedented high volume of applications and the return to the Council’s regular budget now that the time-limited government funding for the pandemic has come to an end.

We know some of you are interested in more detailed funding breakdowns for this competition. I can tell you that we are planning to share this type of information with the arts community soon.

We know that those whose applications were unsuccessful would benefit from feedback. With the volumes noted above, you will appreciate that individual feedback is not feasible. That said, we are looking to pilot group feedback sessions for this competition with sign-up information available on the Council’s webinar page soon. We are also holding webinars to help orient new and existing applicants towards the various funding opportunities at the Council. The next webinar will be in early March; please visit the webinar page for more information.

I would like to acknowledge all the applicants who put considerable time and effort in preparing grant applications as well as the dedication and hard work of the many peer assessors and Council staff involved in this competition.

Looking forward

I look forward to seeing many of you in person or virtually at the Council’s Annual Public Meeting on March 27, 2024. Please register and submit your questions to apm@canadacouncil.ca.

I remain committed to hearing from and working with you—the artists, arts groups and arts organizations—on ways that the Council can best support the country’s diverse arts sector.

Michelle Chawla
Director and CEO