The community weighs in on Canada Council’s new strategic plan

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      The Canada Council for the Arts released a new five-year strategic plan earlier this week and yesterday (April 28), via Facebook livestreaming, representatives answered questions from the community.

      But the bigger announcement from Canada’s public-arts funding body had come in January when details of the plan to move from a disciplinary-specific model to an interdisciplinary one, reducing the number of programs from 147 to a streamlined six, were shared.

      The priorities outlined in the new strategic plan are:
      • Increase support to artists, collectives and organizations striving for artistic excellence and greater engagement in the arts by an increasingly diverse public.
      • Amplify the quality, scale and sharing of Canadian art through digital technology.
      • Renew the relationship between Indigenous artists, and Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences, for a shared future.
      • Raise the international profile of Canadian art and artists.

      Predictably, a number of the questions that came in during yesterday's live chat were requesting clarification about the new funding model, which officially launches next April.

      Questions regarding the strategic plan had to do with how the council was defining certain commitments and how they planned to stay the course.

      Digital technology came up from the community a few times, and is a concern of Vancouver’s Up in the Air Theatre Society managing artistic producer Daniel Martin. Martin is worried about a move away from the in-person interactiveness of live arts, but over the phone to the Straight said he will appreciate marketing help to “cut through all the digital noise", which is an aspect of the council's new strategic plan.  

      Additional news from the Canada Council came with the federal government’s budget announcement on March 22. The council received an increase in funding to $1.9 billion over five years, with $33.4 million of this year’s $40 million devoted to Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations next year. Artists are invited to propose one-of-a-kind, large-scale projects. More details on the parameters and application process will be released on May 9.

      Another area where money for this year can immediately be applied is within the $1.8 million {Re}conciliation and Indigenous Arts initiative. There will be no “top-ups" to existing program and grants, the director of the visual arts section, Sylvie Gilbert, clarified in answer to a question from a community member.

      Artists might have questions around the new funding model, but after yesterday's live chat, few seem to have issues with the new strategic plan. 

      “Sounds good to me,” said Vancouver-based visual artist Myfanwy MacLeod on the phone with the Straight, who was pleased to see an expanded approach to funding indigenous artists as well as the emphasis on international outreach.  

      Of course, these are early days and more details are needed to see exactly how these commitments will be integrated.

      Overall, though, artists have reason to celebrate: in yesterday's live chat, the director and CEO of the Canada Council, Simon Brault, said 88 percent of the new money will go directly to support artists, arts organizations, and collectives through grants, prizes, and more. It’s a bold statement he says he promises to honour.