Visual Arts Section Consultations on Support to Arts Organizations

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1 Visual Arts Section Consultations on Support to Arts Organizations In 2013 the Canada Council for the Arts published Backgrounder: Canada Council for the Arts Review of Operating Grant Programs and launched the first of a series of discipline- based consultations as part of its review of operating grant programs. The review formally began in October 2011 in response to growing pressures to ensure Council s programs stayed in step with the considerable changes demographic, technological, economic taking place at the community level. The backgrounder highlights that operating grants make up almost two- thirds of the Council s granting budget, and that these programs have long played a critical role in building and sustaining artistic practice in Canada. The sector is growing much faster than our resource base, however, and the Council wants its granting investments to remain as relevant as possible and have the greatest impact. Five objectives are described in the Backgrounder: Canada Council for the Arts Review of Operating Grant Programs to revitalize support to the arts: A more holistic approach by the Council in its support to the arts sector A strategic, relevant and more sustainable funding system Flexibility in responding to changes in the arts milieu and within each artistic discipline that the Council supports, including cross- and multi- disciplinary work Flexibility in the movement of funds through transparent, competitive decision- making processes Enhanced measurability of program outcomes It is from this context that the Visual Arts Section seeks input from the community to ensure our programs of support to arts organizations responds to changes in the environment. What is this consultation all about? The environment is changing and we want to know the best way to support the sector now, and in the future. The Visual Arts Section believes that it is important in today s context to structure a dialogue with multiple stakeholders to encourage a sector- wide understanding of the challenges and opportunities that are impacting the community. These meetings will bring together diverse and competing interests to consider the dynamics that are at play in the sector. We want to engage the

2 community in a fulsome and productive dialogue that will guide our directions and strategies for the future. Specifically, this phase of consultation will comprise of two main activities: A series of workshops in 11 cities that will bring together multiple stakeholders in a structured discussion of the current situation of the Visual Arts Sector and Council s funding programs for it. An open online national survey that will complement the information gathered from the regional workshops and extend our reach to people we cannot meet face- to- face. The regional workshops will take place in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, Saskatoon, Montreal, Quebec, St. Johns, Halifax, Fredericton and Ottawa. Twenty participants will be invited to each of these meetings, comprising directors of both funded and unfunded organizations and collectives, artists, representatives of arts service organizations, as well as arts funders. Information gathered through the workshops and online survey will help to identify important trends that will inform future directions for how the Visual Arts Section supports the community. Our Purpose To facilitate an inclusive, productive and empowering conversation with the visual arts community that is focused on an evolving sector- wide perspective. The outcome of these consultations will be a shared understanding of how the visual arts landscape is changing, its impact on artists, arts organizations, audiences and funders; and a clear sense of the visual arts community s aspirations for the future. A successful consultation process will provide the Visual Arts Section with deep insights into how to structure its intervention to better support the visual arts sector achieve its aspirations. Our Guiding Principles The principles that will guide this consultation are: Artist centred we recognize that artists and their work are at the centre of the visual arts sector Arts organization focused we understand that arts organizations are instrumental in bringing audiences in contact with artists and their works Transparent we are committed to a transparent exchange of ideas Inclusive through both the face- to- face workshops and our online survey, we seek the diversity of perspectives in the whole visual arts community Arts community empowering we desire a productive conversation about change that enables the arts community to create new opportunities Sector- focused we wish for our intervention to stimulate a vital and diverse visual arts sector Future- focused we are looking to the future needs and aspirations of the visual arts community

3 What We ve Done to Date Over the period of , the Visual Arts Section introduced Council s rationale for its review of operating programs and the need for greater flexibility in movement of funds. The new Regular Adjustment Policy and existing Fair Notice Policy were implemented to allow for greater flexibility in allocation of funds in our current multi- year programs. In November 2013, the Visual Arts Section organized a gathering with younger generation of artists, architects, curators and educators to identify current practices and future trends that will shape the sector in the medium and long term. A number of themes emerged from this conversation: The growing transdisciplinary nature of arts practice (breakdown of silos between practices, bleeding edges, fluidity and intersections) The idea of sustainability, as opposed to growth models or stability paradigms New conversations between various practices that are perceived as occupying the margins of visual arts New ways in which artists are connected and live as artists: working collaboratively, building relationships, sharing resources and networks The reason for this conversation was to better understand how artists are shaping their activities as organizations, as well as how artists expectations of arts organizations are changing. What We ve Observed We see continued growth in the number of artists, diversity of practices, ways of working, producing and disseminating works; as well as increasing diversity of arts organizations, organizational models and platforms. Funding sources and revenue streams are becoming increasingly diversified and the financial impact of Council s support is thinning. Technological change is challenging organizational models, offering potentially new ways of working for artists and arts organizations: new ways of consolidating communities of practice, reaching and interacting with increasingly diverse audiences. The Challenges We Face Our interventions can no longer underpin growth in the sector as they were intended in the past. Despite increased Council funding to the Visual Arts sector in the last 15 years, many artists struggle to maintain their practice and many arts organizations that receive operating support remain fragile and unable to fully realize their aims. The greatest proportion of the Visual Art Section s budget is dedicated to two multi- year programs, creating a dramatic dichotomy of scope and type of support between these and project- based programs.

4 The relatively low amount of funds available for project support results in few and small grants directed to a large pool of organizations. Our programs are less and less able to respond to diversity of practices, organizational models and timely projects of ambition and scope. What we wish to know We wish to deepen our understanding of how the visual arts sector sees itself in the current environment. What are the major preoccupations and aspirations of artists and arts organizations? Given the scope of our funding, what might be the best way we can contribute to the sector now and in the future? Workshop participants and survey respondents are asked to consider the following questions: Which changes in your environment are impacting your work? How are you responding to these changes? In which future directions do you wish to evolve? What is your ambition? What do you need to get there? As a national arts funder, how can Council best help the visual arts sector? How can Council best intervene effectively for the benefit of the overall sector in the years to come? Towards which activities? When? Are there other areas or ways for Council to help that have not yet been considered? Help Us Go Forward The Visual Arts Section aims for a fruitful conversation with the community that ultimately helps us to be: More strategic To locate Visual Arts Section support in a holistic view of the sector and with realistic expectations of what we can achieve To better know and communicate the impact of our support To better respond to dynamic contemporary art initiatives in the full variety of forms that they are currently occurring More flexible Flexibility in responding to changes in the Visual Arts sector Flexibility in the allocation of funds Flexibility to respect the self- determination of arts organizations More forward looking To consider the feasibility of a suite of funding options beyond the current program structure To take into consideration new ways of working To ensure our interventions are for the benefit of the visual arts sector as a whole

5 What Will Happen After the Consultations? We will analyse the information from the workshops and the survey to identify issues that require our attention including less obvious implications or opportunities for us to consider. We will write and make public a report on the consultation findings which will inform any proposed changes to funding programs. Further communication with the community will take place before programs are changed.

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