A close-up of colourful ropes intersecting in a circle around the Canada Council for the Arts logo, which is also made to look like ropes, on a purple background.

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June 13, 2024

We are here to serve you

June 13, 2024

CEO letter to the community

Dear arts community,

As I near the one-year mark since taking on the role of Director and CEO of the Council, this seems like the ideal moment to reflect on the past 12 months and to look ahead to the future, which I hope we can build towards together.

Serving the arts sector and people across Canada

Looking back on the past year, I am so proud of what the Council has done in support of the arts sector. We delivered over $320 million in funding in 2023–24 alone—this is the largest annual investment in the sector in the Council’s history other than during the pandemic. This represents support for over 3,500 artists, nearly 2,000 arts organizations, almost 500 arts groups and more than 2,000 communities across the country.

This funding supported the entire arts ecosystem, ensuring that artists could create works across artistic disciplines and that arts organizations large and small could remain essential cornerstones in their communities, stimulating local and regional economies. The Council’s funding made it possible for people across Canada to experience art from coast to coast to coast, creating shared experiences, conversations and connections. And the Council is poised to continue to deliver strong support for the arts sector and to benefit everyone across the country in the years to come.

We also managed to accomplish all of this with incredible efficiency. At our 2024 Annual Public Meeting, I was asked how much of the Council’s funding goes towards administrative costs—a question I often get asked. My response was that close to 90% of our funding goes directly to the sector. With everything that we do, we have always prioritized delivering as much support to the sector as possible. We are here to serve you.

Acting on what we’ve heard

I have spent the better part of the last year listening, connecting on the ground and engaging with thousands of artists, arts administrators and cultural workers in every region of the country. Through travel and virtual events, I have been having conversations that are deepening my understanding of the many challenges that are being faced across the country. These interactions have been an eye opener for me, both in terms of the shared commonalities between arts communities in different regions, as well as the distinct realities of artists and arts organizations in these diverse communities.

My engagements over the past year have also provided the Council with invaluable discipline- and region-specific information that is helping it in its planning and decision-making. What we need to do now to complement all of these pieces is build an even more robust portrait of the current state of the sector across Canada. To that end, the Council will be launching a survey in the next few days, and I encourage you to fill it out. The results will be shared with the sector, and this evidence-based portrait can be used by all of us to ensure sustainable support for the arts. This has never been as important as it is now. 

In my exchanges with arts communities, I have often heard a call for greater human interaction with Council employees. In response, we have updated the contact information on our website as well as the employee directory. While these may seem like small efforts, I hope they will help deepen connections between the Council and the arts sector.

I am also committed to ensuring that the Council continues to be more transparent. I promised that we would share a detailed breakdown of the Explore and Create program’s funding results for its 2023–24 competitions so that you can see and understand the impacts of the Council’s funding. This breakdown is now available on our website. As this is the first time that we are releasing competition results in this concerted way, we look forward to your feedback on whether the information is clear and useful to you. Your response will inform how the Council publishes the results of future competitions as they are completed.

As part of its work to build trust, transparency and connection with arts communities, the Council is also committed to working more collaboratively. This year, we are convening a series of online discussions with arts service organizations from every artistic discipline and region. Over several months, we will discuss topics including financial resilience, the well-being of arts workers, climate adaptation and the important role of data, culminating in an in-person gathering at the Council’s offices in Ottawa in November. This is just one example of how we are working with communities to build a shared vision for the future.

Moving forward together

I remain confident and optimistic that we can navigate our shared challenges if we can continue to work together. I am committed to continuing to engage with the sector, and you will also be seeing more of my Council colleagues in your communities. Together, we need to develop a shared understanding of the underlying issues that are impacting our sector—across disciplines, communities and regions. And most importantly, we need to come together with a clear, unified voice to consistently communicate our sector’s impact and priorities and to reinforce how much the arts and culture contribute to every facet of life in Canada.

I wish you all a lovely summer season.

Michelle Chawla
Director and CEO