Rebuilding communities through arts and culture – and decent work
By Randall Terada
Art creates the pathways that bring people together. It nurtures connection and builds community. And looking to the future, Ontario’s artists and cultural sector are re-engaging communities for an equitable, collective recovery from COVID-19. Workers, organizations, and funders alike are all stepping up.
As WorkInCulture program manager Stephanie Draker reminds us, “Scores of artists and nonprofit arts organizations are leveraging digital platforms to bring us live performances, tours of galleries, instructional classes, talks, and showing how artists in the nonprofit sector play a crucial role in re-starting an equitable recovery. It’s paramount that we acknowledge the value of this sector and continue to evolve our support for it.”
Some recent examples of community engagement include:
- The Social Distancing Festival, created by Toronto-based playwright Nick Green, showcases the work of artist especially those whose work is affected by COVID19 disruptions
- The Ottawa Art Gallery is hosting virtual in-studio workshops for youth
- FirstOntario Arts Centre in Milton has created an ArtSparks community, featuring movement classes each week, suitable for all ages
- Guelph-based Focus on Nature virtual photo gallery and contest is providing young people opportunities to explore and connect with nature through photography
For her part, writer Amanda Parris argues we need to start paying artists their dues; and this includes decent work for Ontario’s cultural workers and organizations working in Ontario’s Nonprofit sector.
Funders, too, are showing their support, recognizing the importance of moving to decent work practices by providing funds for more general support to individual artists and nonprofit arts organizations, extending timelines, and showing flexibility on reporting requirements to grantees during the pandemic. Examples include:
- Ontario Arts Council: Operating grant recipients will not be required to return funds if plans cannot process as originally proposed. Grant funds can also go towards unexpected costs such as cancellation fees
- Toronto Arts Council: The TOArtist COVID Response Fund, now suspended, has received more than 1,900 applications
- Glad Day Bookshop: The bookstore has set up an Emergency Survival Fund for LGBTQ2S artists, performers, and tip-based workers
- Ottawa Music Development Fund: Provides $500 grants towards education and artists’ needs (for members of the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition)
- Additional resources: CBC has published a list of supports for artists, including its own Creative Relief Fund
Finally, governments at all levels are also thinking now about recovery, and are looking closely at what levers they can pull to make an immediate impact. We will share information on policies and resources as they emerge.
Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations play an absolutely critical role in the recovery process. People turn to the arts because artists instill inspiration, hope, and renewed confidence in our communities. Ensuring every nonprofit arts and culture organization receives decent work funding to support their mission will provide the creative pathways to bring people and communities together again.