Canada Council For the Arts announces funding restructuring

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On Tuesday January 20, at its annual public meeting, The Canada Council for the Arts CEO and Director, Simon Brault gave an address over Skype, which was shown at Artspace in Peterborough.

The main announcement of the night was that The Canada Council is planning on streamlining their grant programs from 142 down to “less than 10 major, national, non-disciplinary programs that cover all fields of artistic practice and its outreach in Canada and the world”.

Brault was quick to stress however, that no artist or organization would lose any money and that these changes were more about making the organization easier for artists and arts organizations to access and navigate the sytem.

Essentially, if the government wanted to direct arts funding for artists from, for example, immigrant families in the age group of 18-25, under the old system they would have created one or more new separate programs and application processes.

Under the new system however, that money would be directed simply by allocating a certain percentage from each of the 10 major programs.

According to Roger Gaudet the Director of Arts Disciplines Division in a blog posted to The Canada Council Blog (titled “On The Development Of A New Arts Funding Model At Council”), “At this point, we are shaping and defining our revised suite of programs. Our thinking has been guided by the feedback received in our recent disciplinary and cross-disciplinary consultations and from peer assessors. We anticipate that by the summer of 2015 we will be communicating our plans in much greater details, and that they will be implemented by 2017.”

As Brault said, “We want more sweat and tears put into artistic forms and not application forms.”

The changes were inspired by recent transformations at the Australia Council for the Arts and their efforts to streamline their own national granting process.

While details about the new programs were sparse, new programs were announced for First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, although they would also be eligible to apply for the general programs. This program will be run out of the Canada Council’s Aboriginal Arts office.

Brault also announced that they would have rolling application dates to help simplify the application process, as opposed to the old system in which every program had its own application process.

Once the presentation was over, The Canada Council hosted an on-line question and answer period and responses seemed generally optimistic, if mixed.

Some were concerned that placing everything under a small collection of headings would change the system from being driven by peer-jury processes to having only a small handful of people decide the funding for a wide variety of applications.

Others seemed more enthusiastic as commenters noted that under the old process, applicants would sort through often hair-splitting distinctions in order to figure out what programs they were eligible for (for example, deciding whether or not one qualifies as a ‘travelling’ artist or ‘touring’ artist).

Brault also announced that The Canada Council would also make itself more accessible to applicants by changing the methods by which the applications could be produced.

Says Brault, “The next generation, they want to be able to send a video explaining their project, not a grant application of 25 pages written by someone else.”

The Canada Council’s goal, ultimately is, as Brault explained, “to simplify our administrative and decision-making processes so that artists and organizations can devote more of their creativity and energy to their art practices and interactions with the public, and less trying to wade through the maze of an excessive number of programs.”