Annual Public Meeting 2011 Transcript
Canada Council for the Arts Annual Public Meeting 2011
October 18, 2011 – 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Theatre Junction Grand, Calgary, Alberta
TAMMY SCOTT (Facilitator and Director, Communications and Arts Promotion, Canada Council for the Arts): Welcome. Bonjour. My name is Tammy Scott, director of communications and arts promotion at the Canada Council for the Arts. I will be your host for today’s annual public meeting.
I would like to ask Phil Ponting to come to the podium to say a few words of welcome.
PHILIP PONTING (Board Member): As a member of the Board of the Canada Council for the Arts residing in Calgary, and an active supporter of the arts in Alberta, I am very happy to welcome you to the Council’s Annual Public Meeting.
I have had the pleasure of introducing my fellow Board members from across the country to some of the dynamic and exciting arts activity in this fine province over the past two days. We met with artists and arts organizations in Edmonton and Calgary yesterday and today and will head off to Banff on Thursday.
I am pleased to see such a large turnout for today’s meeting and I hope you will stay for the reception which follows. It will give you an opportunity to chat with the members of the Board on a more informal basis and ask questions or share ideas about the arts.
Now, I will turn the meeting over to Tammy Scott.
TAMMY SCOTT: Before we begin, I want to take a minute to mention the videos that you were watching before the meeting began.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the Governor General’s Literary Awards which recognize literary excellence in seven categories and both languages. The Canada Council administers these annual awards and will be announcing the winners in November. To mark the 75th anniversary, we asked a number of well-known Canadians to speak about the impact a previous Award-winning book had on their lives. As you can see, they are all passionate about Canadian authors and reading. They are airing on the Council’s web site as well as on CBC Books and zone d’écriture on the CBC/Radio-Canada sites.
Now for the housekeeping items:
- Please turn off your cell phones and pagers. We want to ensure there are no buzzes, dings or rings during the meeting.
- You will have the opportunity to ask questions of the Chair, Vice-Chair and Director after their presentations. Please limit your questions to one and if we have time, we will allow you to ask a second later in the meeting. However, we request that you please ask only one question. We also ask that you keep the questions short to enable others to ask questions. We may be able to answer additional questions later.
- This meeting is being videotaped and translated for posting on the web so we ask that you use the microphone when you ask a question.
- After the meeting, members of the Board and Council employees will be available to answer questions and speak with you. For those of you who are shy about speaking in front of a crowd, you can speak directly with the Board members and staff at the reception that follows.
We will start the meeting with brief presentations by the Chair, Joseph Rotman, Vice-chair, Simon Brault and Director and CEO Robert Sirman.
This will be followed by a question and answer section. The Council also received a number of questions by e-mail and we will answer some of them at that time.
The meeting will end at 5:30 p.m. Please feel free to stay for our community reception which begins at 6 p.m. in the foyer.
So, without further delay, I would like to introduce the Chair of the Canada Council, Joseph Rotman. Mr. Rotman was appointed to the Council in 2008. He is currently Chair of Roy-L Capital Corporation, a private family investment company. His business career has focused on establishing a number of private and public companies active in oil trading, petroleum distribution, oil and gas exploration, merchant banking, real estate, and venture capital. Mr. Rotman was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for his contribution to the educational, cultural, economic, health care, and research communities. Many organizations have benefited from his generous leadership and financial support, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, CIHR, MaRs, the Toronto Hospital, and the University of Toronto.
I present Mr. Rotman.
JOSEPH L. ROTMAN (Chair, Canada Council for the Arts): Now moving on to Council’s planning, reporting and operations, to real interesting stuff, the primary document determining all of the council’s planning, reporting and operations is its strategic plan. You might think of the plan as a roadmap to guidance in implementing our mandate.
Strengthening connections is the title of which the Council’s strategic plan for 2011-2016 and it was released last October. The operational application of the strategic plan is developed through the planning process. The summary of that corporate plan was posed on our website a few weeks ago and I once again would urge you to read that.
These documents balance a concern for stability in the arts community with an ongoing commitment to relevance and renewal. We’ve responded to emerging conditions and trends while remaining closely informed by our ongoing legislative mandate.
Our Vice-Chair, Simon Brault, will speak in a moment about some of the key themes that we have identified for close attention over the next five years. First though, may I highlight two of our key premises in addressing our mandate.
One is that individuals and communities in Canada and people around the world benefit directly and indirectly from Canada’s investment in the art. Arts experiences enrich the education of our children. They promote the understanding of the array of cultures and regions within our borders and they create an environment for more effective diplomacy abroad.
The arts build bridges of opportunity. They’re an instrument of public engagement. The nation-wide success of the Culture Days initiative is a wonderful example of this connection.
The other premise is that the creative energy of arts professionals drives the arts sector as it enriches our quality of life. If this energy were to fly Canadians would miss an important element of a rich and creative society. The stimulation and the encouragement of that creative energy therefore must remain at the heart of Canada Council operations.
Terms of operations. I want to underline the high quality of the Council’s performance as seen by a businessman where I have spent most of my life, as Tammy indicated. And let me assure you that by business standards, the Council is well managed and that it ranks highly in its efficiency and effectiveness as seen through the lens of a business person.
The Auditor General in fact of Canada has confirmed that in her view, she has observed best practices and accountability, transparency and reporting. I consider it a true privilege to chair an organization that has played such a definitive and effective role in the development of the arts in Canada. I look forward to what we can achieve in the years ahead.
I would like Simon to speak about the vision, the Council and for providing timely and effective support to the arts. Simon Brault
TAMMY SCOTT: First, I will introduce Simon Brault. Standing or seated.
He has been a passionate advocate for cultural communities for a long time and describes himself as a cultural development activist.
Originally from Montreal, Mr. Brault has been Director General of the National Theatre School of Canada since 1997. Prior to this, he was the school's Administrative Director from 1992 to 1997, during which time he coordinated the major restoration and revitalization project of the Monument national.
Founding member of Culture Montréal, M. Brault became the organization’s first elected president in 2002 and M. Brault is an officer of the Order of Canada. Over to you.
SIMON BRAULT (Vice-Chair): I missed my cue because I was talking with our chair when we were rehearsing. So sorry for that.
Ladies and Gentlemen: It is truly a great pleasure to be here again today. I have had the chance to come to Alberta often in the past few years for the National Theatre School to talk about books and to meet people. And this time is no exception. We’ve had some pretty amazing encounters since our arrival. Yesterday, we were in Edmonton. And here, as in many other areas of Canada and many places around the world, we get a real sense of the energy that drives fine arts, cultural industries and heritage to define and redefine or reshape the environments in which people live, the communities to which we belong and our destinies as human beings.
Culture bridges the gap between the local and the international community, between the specific and the universal. It promotes discussion and sharing by inviting dialogue that transcends languages, that transcends differences.
And in this day and age, where culture in the 21st century is expected to play an increasingly important role in defining the values that make civilization possible, the role of an organization such as the Canada Council for the Arts appears even more strategic and vital, as its sole purpose is to protect, support, assess, promote and enhance artistic creation and the organizations that support it.
The role of the Canada Council for the Arts, with its partners, including Calgary Arts Development, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the Calgary Arts Council, is to ensure that Canada’s artists remain firmly grounded at the heart of the cultural life. This is a key priority at a time when the arts are laying claim to a more and more prominent place in the economic, public and political arenas.
And planning for the future and specifically for the five years planning period that began this year, we determined that the Council should remain on course with the strategic directions that have guided the development of its programs over the past several years. At the same time, and this is really important, we identified three themes that will permeate and inform our ongoing implementation of these five strategic directions.
These three themes are synergy, technology and public engagement.
Let me say a few words about each of them. Synergy has to do with strengthening the ecosystem of the arts community. The arts sector, like any other sector, has felt the impact of the global economic downturn in virtually all our sources of revenue and the Council is experiencing greater constraints in its capacity to keep up with demand.
To address this situation, the Council plans to facilitate greater synergy within the existing arts infrastructure to enhance sustainability and adaptability. We propose to play a more active role using our national mandate and our extensive network not to impose anything from the top to the bottom but to make sure that we will bring people and work with people in the arts community to share experiences, ideas and optimize the use of the existing resources.
It’s a question of really reinventing approaches that will work for the future.
Also the transition to a digital society continues to have an immense impact on the arts. Every part of the system within which the arts operate is being radically questioned and transformed. As technologies change, so too does the role of the artists in adapting and advancing these technologies.
The Council will enhance its role in ensuring that the arts sector is not left behind in the digital age, on the contrary. We will also upgrade our own use of technology in an effort to increase productivity and better serve our mandate.
The team of public engagement in the arts and culture is increasingly on the political agendas of governments worldwide and at different levels of governments including concerns for cultural rights, arts education, expressive life, citizen participation, social cohesion and cultural diversity. The Council has had a long and deep commitment to connecting Canadians to the arts in a wide variety of ways and we will continue to respond to the growing priority of public engagement in very concrete ways.
We will take a more active role in advancing a public conversation on the expressive needs and aspirations of the citizenry at large and we will make clear how the Council’s work in the professional arts benefits all Canadians.
While staying true to our ongoing focus on professional arts practice, we will highlight the contribution that art and artists make to every-day life and we’ll find direct and indirect ways to help artists and all arts organizations deepen and extend their engagement with audiences.
Art and culture pave the way for individual empowerment, for the development of our identities and, more broadly, civilization itself. Of course it cannot resolve all issues or all challenges but their very presence is necessary to give people the means to express to others what it is they feel and dream.
Access to the arts and culture for everyone is therefore a societal project. It should be claimed by those citizens who are entitled to it, as well as the leaders and organizations of civil society that are at the forefront of local development, for instance, in our cities.
But, of course, governments and arts councils, such as the Canada Council for the Arts, are at the helm of the necessary democratization of the arts.
The Canada Council for the Arts has made a commitment. It will be there for professional artists and arts organizations and it will be there for the people of Canada this year and in decades to come.
I want now to turn over to our director and CEO, Bob Sirman. Thank you.
TAMMY SCOTT (Facilitator and Director, Communications and Arts Promotion): No, I'm going to introduce Bob Sirman.
Thank you, Mr. Brault. The Council’s Director and CEO, Bob Sirman, was appointed in June of 2006 and reappointed in 2010 for a second term. After graduating from the University of Toronto with an M.A. in Sociology, Mr. Sirman worked for over a decade in the Ontario government including five years in the province’s first Ministry of Culture. He then joined the Ontario Arts Council in 1980, where he served for ten years as Director of Operations and Director of Research and Policy Planning.
In 1991, Mr. Sirman was appointed Administrative Director of Canada’s National Ballet School. I now present Mr. Sirman.
ROBERT SIRMAN (Director and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Council for the Arts): Thanks, Tammy, and good afternoon, everyone. It’s terrific to be here in Calgary, terrific to be here in Alberta. But I apologize in advance that I have a lot of information that I share as part of these annual public meetings. It’s part of the accountability mandate of the Canada Council and I hope you just suffer with us as we try to share as much as possible about where we are at the moment and what’s been going on in the past year.
As Simon has noted, the Council is strongly committed to supporting the work of professional artists and arts organizations and to highlight their contribution to the lives of Canadians.
The value and impact of our investment reach far beyond the work that we fund and the Council is well placed to measure its success by more than the volume of its activity. It has a long commitment to empowering artists to move the arts forward in a distinctive and unique manner. It has a clear sense of accountability to Canadians and a strong record of promoting equity and diversity.
It has a peer assessment process that draws on the talent and vision of virtually hundreds of arts practitioners every year in making its funding decisions. It has a range of programs and a commitment to artistic merit. It benefits from relationships with other arts funders at all levels which enable the Council to leverage additional impact and resources.
Given our interest in measuring the value of the Council’s work, I’d like to briefly speak to you about the impact of its funding. As Mr. Rotman said earlier, last year, Council funding helped more than 2,000 communities throughout Canada.
Its support went directly to over 21,000 artists and arts organizations through grants, prizes, awards and payments. Over 21,000. Artists and arts organizations submitted over 15,000 applications, a slightly lower number than the previous year. The Council awarded 6,100 grants to artists and arts organizations which is roughly the same number as the previous year. And of these, let me just point out that 277 grants valued at 9.5 million went to artists and arts organizations in Alberta.
Roughly 17,000 authors received payments from the Public Lending Right Program for the loan of their works in public libraries. And of these, 892 authors received payments in Alberta. Most importantly the Council’s impact goes beyond grants and payments and prizes. The work it funds inspires Canadians from all walks of life and several of them are featured in the Council’s Annual Report, it’s just been pointed out earlier, is now available on the Council’s website.
It is no secret that the Council is currently in a period of constrained resources. Our parliamentary appropriation has remained essentially the same since 2007, about 182 million annually. This amounts to $5.31 for every man, woman and child living in Canada. Just over $5 per capita.
And while we are deeply grateful for this support, in constant dollars, it is actually lower than the per-capita appropriation 20 years ago.
Last year the Council set a budget of 193 million dollars which includes the parliamentary appropriation, income from our endowment funds, and other revenues such as rental of works from the art bank.
As with many other organizations and endowments, the Council’s investments have been impacted by market volatility during the global economic downturn. And last year’s financial statements reflect a significant loss on Council’s investment portfolio.
If one removes the impact of reporting unrealized losses on our investments however, the Council experienced an operating surplus of 1.8 million dollars due to prudent management of administrative costs.
Last year was the final year of a three-year planning cycle 2008-2011 and we are able to report real progress on the five directions that drove our work plan. And let me just cite the five directions:
Reinforcing our commitment to individual artists, working alone or in collaboration with others as the core of artistic practice in Canada; broadening the Council’s commitment to arts organizations to strengthen their capacity to underpin artistic practices in all parts of the country; enhancing the Council’s leadership role in promoting equity as a critical priority in fulfilling Canada’s artistic aspirations; making partnerships with other organizations a key element in advancing our mandate; and enhancing our internal capacity to support the arts.
But while progress has been made there is still much that needs to be done and that’s why, as pointed out by our Vice-Chair, the Council will continue to work on these priorities over the next five-year cycle. That is to say we are staying true to our five primary directions for the next five-year cycle as well.
The Council offers a unique national expertise and a transparent process in investing its resources in creation, promotion and dissemination. Each year on average, over 700 arts practitioners from all regions assess applications on behalf of the Council and make recommendations on grants.
This includes close to 300 first time assessors. That is to say of the assessors that we use, the peer assessors that we use every year, approximately 40 per cent have never served as peer assessors before. Their experience represents a unique collective value and their rotation ensures a fair and open decision-making process for the Council. It also provides the Council with invaluable insight into the arts community and feedback on our programs and services. This input was crucial to the Council in developing both its current and its previous strategic plans.
I’d now like to call on Anne Valois, who’s the Director of Arts Disciplines at the Canada Council, to speak briefly about how the Council is working to ensure continued effectiveness in the design and delivery of programs.
Anne, if you’d just come up for a while.
ANNE VALOIS (Director of Arts Disciplines, Canada Council for the Arts): Thanks, Bob.
So as Bob mentioned, peer assessors provide an exceptional feedback that contributes to the ongoing review of program effectiveness. Peer assessors let us know through formal and informal exchange how they experience the process, the deliberations and the outcomes and this invaluable feedback supports the review program.
But community engagement in program review doesn’t stop there. There are multiple sources and opportunities for community input. With over 15,000 grant applications every year and many more artists who don’t apply, there’s a lot of interaction between the Council and the community. That’s many hours of conversation between artists, arts organizations and staff at all levels of the organization. Conversations that further inform the clarity, transparency and relevance of programs.
Your questions constantly challenge us to look at whether program objectives, eligibility and assessment criteria are clear. We’ve also introduced a more formal program evaluation function at Council to better gauge the impact of programs over time and conditions in the field do evolve, so there needs to be a way for us to understand that in ways that we can’t through just meetings with the community.
So disciplinary heads of section and officers draw from all of these sources of feedback to propose modifications to existing programs. They might also suggest consolidating programs as those of you from the many arts community would know from changes that happened last year. They might also table new targeted and strategic program initiatives.
Proposed changes are tested with the arts community in a number of ways. Through targeted focus groups with those directly impacted by suggested changes, through the disciplinary advisory committees and art service organizations, both national and regional.
There are also discussions with federal, provincial and municipal funders and other stakeholders. Our goals in reviewing programs regularly are to enhance the clarity of program interventions, ensure programs are relevant, and that the application process becomes increasingly efficient.
Some of you may have attended a work session with the theatre section last week here in Calgary where they tabled proposed modifications to their operating program. And one of the suggested changes to the program is the introduction of a mechanism to funding within the program in a context where the budget likely won’t see an increase.
This is in response to community concern that with a climate of uncertainty we still need to act.
Finally, greater efficiencies in the application process, the lower our costs, allowing us to reinvest in grant programs. An example of that is this year we’ve piloted the use of iPads in the jury process to replace the printing of jury books. For those of you who have participated in juries, that’s a lot of change from carrying all those books to Ottawa.
This is just a snapshot of how we solicit input to support continuous improvement to ensure programs are effective. Back to you, Bob.
ROBERT SIRMAN: Thank you, Anne. I’d now like to call on Michelle Chawla, who’s the Director of Strategic Initiatives and the Corporate Secretary of the Canada Council to give us an overview on some of the equity initiatives at the Canada Council.
MICHELLE CHAWLA (Director of Strategic Initiatives, Corporate Secretary, Canada Council): Thank you, Bob.
So the Council is committed to promoting equity, to fulfil Canada’s artistic aspirations. We are an increasingly diverse country and Canadian artists enrich our daily lives through their varied and vibrant artistic expressions.
The Canada Council strives to respond to and support a wide range of professional artists and arts organizations. We do this by making our programs more accessible, increasing our knowledge and recognition of diverse artistic practices and ensuring fair processes in every aspect of our work.
In 2008, the Council set a number of priorities related to equity and I’m happy to report that significant progress was made and to present a few highlights. In 2009, the Council hired a disability arts officer to lead the development of a strategy to better respond to the deaf and disability arts communities. The strategy document, entitled “Expanding the Arts, Disability and Deaf Arts, Access and Equality” recognizes the rich and dynamic artistic practices from these sectors as well as the barriers that are often encountered when engaging in and creating and producing art.
The strategy involved broad consultation with deaf and disability arts communities and provides definitions, background and context and an executive summary is available on our website.
As well, we invested in a research paper entitled “Focus on Disability and Deaf Arts in Canada” which is also available on our website. It provides an overview of the current state of deaf and disability arts in Canada, including existing and emerging trends, challenges and opportunities. And we encourage you to check out these papers to learn more about that work.
The Council also expanded its capacity-building initiative program which provides support to increase administrative capacity through organizational development to be responsive to deaf and disability arts organizations. And to encourage applications the Council also recently launched its first sign language audio and caption videos to explain these programs.
Another important initiative is the development of a Nunavut Arts Strategy. In recognition of the sizeable population of artists in the north, their internationally recognized artistic contributions, as well as their particular challenges, we began looking at ways to improve access for artists living in remote and northern communities. The process began with consultations with other funders and artists in Nunavut to find ways to encourage more applications from this region. As a result, the Council and the Nunavut government created a term position for an Inuktitut speaking arts liaison officer to help Inuit artists and arts organizations with the application process as well as to gather and share insights and knowledge about the community with the funders.
In keeping with the Council’s focus on using new technology, we also launched two mobile apps designed to increase our reach and ensure our program information is broadly accessible to applicants wherever they reside and in the format of their choice. The apps are available in English and French and for the first time ever, an app is available in Inuktitut to improve access for northern artists as the majority of artists in Nunavut are Inuktitut speaking.
So building on a long-term commitment to achieving equity, the Council continues to consult with and provide targeted support to aboriginal, culturally diverse and official language minority arts communities. Our various forms of interventions across all programs and services are designed to support and respond to the richness of diversity of practices and to ensure that artists from diverse demographic groups have increased opportunities for their artistic activities, including professional development, creation, production and dissemination.
So this is a very quick update on Council’s progress to date on equity priorities, and I will now turn it back to Bob. Thank you.
ROBERT SIRMAN: Thank you, Michelle, very much.
One of the five priorities for the Council is working with other funders and organizations to leverage additional resources and maximize impact of initiatives. We have been able to identify a number of partnerships as a member of a national network of federal, provincial and territorial arts funders called the Canadian Public Arts Funders, or CPAF. Undoubtedly we have a crazy name for things.
The Council houses the network secretariat and is in regular communication with other funders at all three levels of government. A key initiative that has come through this network is CADAC, Canadian Arts Data/Données sur les arts au Canada. This initiative established to streamline the application process for arts organizations and to enable funders to better report results, has grown to include 1,700 arts organizations since it was launched two years ago.
Thanks to this database, we now know that every dollar that Council invested in an Alberta arts organization last year leveraged an additional 14 dollars in revenue. We also have a partnership initiative that is unique to Alberta: the Alberta Creative Development Initiative, or ACDI. Initially established as a partnership between the Council, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Edmonton Arts Council and the Calgary Development Authority for three years, it has been extended twice and is currently in its fifth and final year.
A total of seven million dollars was spent in the first four years with an additional one million budgeted for this year. The partnership has resulted in increasing the number of applications from Alberta and increasing the level of funding to individual artists in Alberta.
We also work in partnership with Canadian Heritage and other federal agencies, particularly in the area of public engagement. As we saw earlier, the Council’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Governor General’s literary awards is being done in partnership with CBC/Radio-Canada and Chapters Indigo. They are enabling us to engage with a larger public and getting Canadians to think about and discuss the impact of Canadian literature and that impact on their lives and on Canadian identity.
Another public engagement project came to the 25th anniversary celebration of the Public Lending Right Program. The program staff joined with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and the Canadian Children’s… sorry, the Canadian Teachers Federation in a pilot project combining literature and media arts to promote literacy, Canadian literature and social action in the schools.
In the Annual Report you’ll find a couple of stories about the impact of Council’s work. I encourage you to take the time to learn more about the exciting projects that have been rolled out across Canada. Looking to the future, the Strategic Plan and Corporate Plan for 2011-16 provide very clear details on our priorities. Both plans are available online.
As I mentioned at the outset, the Council is well positioned to focus on objectives that are based on the value and impact of our investment: our commitment to empowering artists, our sense of accountability to Canadians, our range of programs and a strong peer assessment process, our commitment to artist merit, artistic merit and to promoting equity and diversity. Together, these strengths help to propel the Council forward in its larger mission to enrich the lives of Canadians through dynamic arts practice, including both the making and experiencing of art in all its forms.
You’ve been very patient. Thanks very much.
TAMMY SCOTT: Thank you, Bob. So we’re now going to move to the question-and-answer portion of the meeting. If anyone has a question, we ask that you raise your hand. We have staff with hand-held mics. They will come to you. We just need to ensure, as we said earlier, that you ask your question into the microphone so everyone can hear you, including those people who may come to our website and watch the annual public meeting as it’s broadcast there.
If anyone has any questions about their specific situation, so for example, if you’ve submitted a grant application and you have questions about your specific application, we ask that you ask those questions to our staff one on one following the meeting. We’ll be happy to answer those questions one on one, and that way we can protect the confidentiality of your file.
I also want to remind any Francophone members in our audience today to feel free to ask your questions in English or in French.
And as you’re asking the questions, you can ask a generic question or you can ask a question of one of us up here, or a specific member of our team. And if you don’t get a chance to ask your question in the meeting or if you’re a little bit shy about speaking into the microphone, rest assured, you’ll be able to ask us in the reception following today’s meeting.
So I’m going to kick it off with a question that came in today on our website. This is your cue to start thinking about what questions you might have. The question that came in was there’s a perception in the community that the same artists get the funding year after year and that an artist has to belong to an exclusive club in order to get funding. What is the Canada Council doing to make funding more accessible for a wider range of artists?
I’m going to turn it over to Bob to answer that question.
ROBERT SIRMAN: Is this working?
TAMMY SCOTT: Yes, it is.
ROBERT SIRMAN: That’s great. I’ll stand up and maybe the blood will work. So the question is that there’s a perception that there’s a kind of clique of artists and the same artists get funded over and over and over.
I guess I would answer this in a similar way that I talked earlier about the peer assessors. In any particular year we use, you know, over 700 artists as peer assessors at the Canada Council. That is the people who are actually assessing applications and the people who recommend the decisions for the Canada Council. And of those peer assessors, approximately 40 per cent every year are new. That is they have never served as a peer assessor for the organization before.
And the others, those who have served as a peer assessor, I should point out that once you serve as a peer assessor on a jury, you are not able to serve again for another 24-month period. So it is not true that there is a clique of artists who are the peers or the assessors or the adjudicators.
The same thing is true for the recipients of grants from the Canada Council. So I believe last year, we had 2,300, approximately 2,300 individual artists who received grants from the Canada Council, and I know for a fact that of that 2,300, 1,100 had never received funding from the Council before. And that’s about the same proportion, about 40 per cent, somewhere between 40 and 50 per cent of individual artists who had never received a grant before.
There’s also a perception that people only receive funding if they pursue a kind of traditional arts practice. And I need to point out that consistent with the presentation that Michelle Chawla made about expanding the reach of the Council’s programs, we fund an enormous range of artistic activity in each of the disciplines. So for example, in music we have completely abandoned the notion of genre-specific funding, that is that you can only get funding for classical music, or there are certain forms of musical practice that are ineligible.
That’s no longer true at the Canada Council. We will fund hip-hop or jazz or rock music in the same way that we would fund classical or contemporary, other contemporary music forms.
The premise though is that there has to be some artistic merit, artistic control. The artists have to be actually in control of the production of their own work and making significant artistic statements within their particular genre. I’ve talked about music but the same is also true in the other disciplines.
And so I would I guess throw the question back to the person who sent it in, through the web.
TAMMY SCOTT: He’s not in the room.
ROBERT SIRMAN: Oh, he’s not in the room, but I hope that if they watch this, they will get a little bit more confidence that the work of the Council and the outcomes of the Council’s decisions are not as predictable as the question would suggest.
TAMMY SCOTT: Thank you, Bob. And now, I'm going to ask you… Oh, there’s the first question here.
QUESTION: Hi, there. Some other organizations that provide funding through grants and endowments have an appeals process so that under very specific laid-out circumstances, should an organization be denied funding, they can perhaps make an appeal. And that increases the communication and transparency between that organization and the granting body. And it can also prevent, I think, the waste of some funds that perhaps were given to said organization by a number of peer juries over a number of years and then to be denied by the one-peer jury to kind of throw off the support that had been received previously and the investment that the organization’s made.
And so I just wonder, considering the possible benefits of an appeal program, if the Canada Council has considered that and would consider that under certain circumstances, an appeal process might be good for both Canada Council and the organizations.
TAMMY SCOTT: Over to you, Bob.
ROBERT SIRMAN: It’s an excellent question. I have to take the question in different sections, if I may, because you’ve raised several different threads. The recommendations or decisions of juries are essentially not appealable because of the nature of a jury process, that is there are 100 applications. The jury only has enough funding or the Council only has enough funding for let’s say 20 of those. The jury does its best to decide which of the 100 applications are ranked highest and the funding goes in that particular way.
This is usually tied to project funding or individual artists and the Council essentially says that there is not an appeal to that particular decision-making process, that an applicant can apply again for another project at a subsequent time. But to appeal the jury process would mean to bring the jury back and to do the entire process again.
Unless, and the exception is, unless there is something or some evidence that there’s something wrong with the process itself, that is to say that the material was lost, that some significant information had not been presented to contribute to the outcome. And then that becomes a process-based appeal as opposed to an outcome-based appeal. The organization is able to say we wish to be reconsidered because we believe there has been some breakdown in the way that the system is working.
The instance that you gave though of an organization that had been receiving funding for many years and then went to a jury and didn’t receive funding again, the funding for many years sounds like it’s actually operating funding and it is not true that a jury just goes to an operating program and decides oh, well, we’ve been funding this organization for eight years or 10 years and we’re not going to fund them again with absolutely no notice, no communication with the organization, no consultation whatsoever in advance.
That’s not how the system works. If an organization is On operating status there is actually an ongoing relationship with the particular discipline office at the Canada Council and there would be some sense in advance that the organization was in jeopardy, I’ll put it that, if there’s such a thing as concerned status at the Canada Council where the discipline officers are able to communicate: We have issues with what’s going on. And, we actually have what’s called a fair notice policy if the Council feels that it is no longer able to sustain an operating relationship.
And you, is there anything more that you… That’s pretty much? I hope this helps you. So this nature of appeal, as it stands at the Canada Council, is essentially tied to process and not outcome.
TAMMY SCOTT: Great question, thank you. I think there’s a question.
QUESTION: Well, thank you very much for coming to Alberta and Calgary. We appreciate it. And my question really is more of a statistical nature, but do you just do grants on merit or do you try to spread them around the country a little bit where you’re trading off a bit of merit for area?
And where do you get most of your… is there a… where do you get most of your applications from? Are there some provinces or areas that do better than others?
ROBERT SIRMAN: These are excellent questions. The decision-making at the Canada Council, because it is absolutely based on a process that uses peer assessment, is very contextualized to the circumstances in which the applicant, whether it be an individual or an organization, is located and working.
So it is not true that we allocate money on a regional basis. We don’t say, um, this is how much goes to British Columbia. This is how much goes to Alberta. This is how much goes to Saskatchewan. But it is true that the juries, that the assessors take into account the fact that this application is coming from a particular region or a particular, well, a particular place, a particular place. What are the circumstances in which art is being practiced in this particular place and how would we assess the quality of this particular application within that context?
Now it’s also true that the juries get to see what’s going on within the arts practice across the country, etc., etc., etc. But just to begin, the starting point is not to allocate the funding regionally. We do nevertheless track very closely where the decisions, where the money goes and this tracking and the outcome of this research is probably available through our website. You can actually get information about how funding is distributed on a whole series of criteria including region. And that is part of the annual reporting process of the Canada Council.
And I would really encourage you to take a look at that if you want to get further insight.
Strangely enough, the success rates regionally tend to be surprisingly consistent. They’re not entirely consistent. It’s not exactly the same in every location, but surprisingly consistent because of this contextualization, because it happens that people aren’t necessarily competing right across the country, it may not be a head to head competition. It may be within this particular jurisdiction what appears to be the best work and how can we encourage that or what seems to be a really good track record for an individual or an organization or an interesting idea or a (inaudible) relationship with the community.
In terms of application rates, there is definitely a difference in different parts of the country and it’s just a matter of record where applications, the application rate is strongest. And it may not come as a surprise to you that the application rate is strongest in Quebec, for example, in terms of the number of artists and the number of applications that we receive. It has a stronger application history, and I assume that this is at all levels of government, because as you know, the province of Quebec is also a major player in encouraging artists through granting programs.
And so the artists have what I think of as more experience of success and they have a more normalized environment in which making an application and knowing the kinds of things that the granting body is looking for, there’s a kind of normalization of that process. And the level of applications seems to be higher. I would say compared to some parts of the country, significantly higher.
TAMMY SCOTT: The next question will be the gentleman in the fifth row, if we can ask you to maybe pass the microphone down that way.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks very much. I was interested to hear that you were going sort of non-genre specific in music and I know that in a lot of the performing arts, it’s very broadly based. And I’m wondering if there’s any movement afoot in the visual arts to broaden the scope of support beyond contemporary art into historical works and things of that nature.
TAMMY SCOTT: I'm going to turn this question over to Anne.
ANNE VALOIS: I would be a little uncomfortable speaking definitively for the visual arts section, but I would strongly suggest that right now the focus is very much on contemporary work and I don’t see that changing soon. If you do want to discuss that in greater detail though, I would encourage you to speak with the Section Head, Doug Sigurdson.
TAMMY SCOTT: Next question. Now I can’t see.
QUESTION: Bob, can you speak about ACDI and remind us why it was started. If it’s coming to an end, why is it coming to an end? How it is done?
ROBERT SIRMAN: Okay. ACDI, the Alberta Creative Development Initiative, to be honest, we perceived that Albertan artists were not applying as frequently as we believed they should relative to the number of artists that live and work in Alberta. We felt that we had a lower application rate than in other parts of the country. And we felt that even though the success rates were not lower than elsewhere in the country, because the application rates were lower, the actual funding rates ended up being lower, not the rate of success, it’s the same, but the amount of money that at the end was actually going to the Alberta arts community. So we thought, hum, what are we going to do about this?
And I know for several years the Canada Council thought well, we should mark in our programs better. So there were lots of visits to the communities and efforts to try and encourage artists to better understand the programs that were available, how to apply for grants, etc., etc. But over a couple of years period of time, this was not making a significant difference.
So the Canada Council approached the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and said, listen, we think we have a structural problem here. We think there’s something, you know, deeper than just do artists know the Canada Council exists? Do Alberta artists know that the Canada Council exists? And we approached them and said if we put $1 million a year on the table, would you be prepared to put $1 million a year on the table to create a special initiative that would try to increase the experience of success for Alberta artists to try and give them more encouragement that there was funding available to try and get them into a relationship with the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, but also the Canada Council for the Arts in order to have a relationship that could remind them of what program deadlines were coming up, what new programs were available, to basically beat the bushes, in a sense.
And the Alberta Foundation for the Arts was very, very receptive and said yes, we will, we will find new money, additional money to match you if that’s what you want and that’s what you need. And we said that’s what we want and that’s what we need. We want new money.
So indeed, we announced a three-year program in which we each put in $1 million a year so that meant $2 million a year and as I mentioned, we have continued for two subsequent years at half that amount, half a million each per year.
We believe that it has been successful. We believe this has been really working well. Why do we know this? Because all kinds of artists and arts organizations did apply under the ACDI banner, who had not been in application relationship with either the Alberta Foundation for the Arts nor with the Canada Council.
So obviously new people were reached, they did make applications and they were successful in getting funding. So we know that money went out and we know that this allowed those artists to become part of the mailing lists and part of the relationship base for both organizations.
We had lunch yesterday with the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and it was interesting to hear them talk about their sense of success with this particular program. Why is it coming to an end? It’s coming to an end because like lots of programs that are intended to be special initiatives, this special initiative is winding down and what we are trying to do is to move those relationships from a special program to the core programs of both the AFA and the Canada Council. We want to bring those artists and those organizations on board for the regular funded programs of both funding bodies because that’s what the goal of this exercise was I the first place to increase the capacity of both parties, both of the community and the funder to normalize in a sense the funding relationship in Alberta to be more consistent to what it’s like elsewhere in the country.
TAMMY SCOTT: Thank you. I see Tara going to the next person. I wish this were a flat seating area, we’d get much faster to get the mics to you.
QUESTION: Okay, I have one more question but it’s not as long as the last one. On a peer assessment jury, how many are there and how many of those people have to be from the practicing discipline of the applicant or the applying organization?
ROBERT SIRMAN: Anne, you should probably try…
ANNE VALOIS: It depends very much on the discipline and the genres that are being looked at. It can be anywhere from three to five and as you’ve probably read in the description of all our programs we’re dealing with genre but we’re also trying to deal with region. We’re trying to deal with generation, we’re trying to deal with a lot of different variables with very few individuals.
So you will also find if there’s enough critical mass in a program like in music where you’ll have a number of genres applying, they’ll work with pods and so they’ll have groups of three assessors for each of the set of applications. In sections where there may be less applications for great diversity, you’ll do the best you can with the makeup of that jury and sometimes bring in additional specialists either to do some form of written assessment or sometimes to participate by Skype or something of that nature.
So we do our best to have as much representation as possible. In some sections, we will also put questions out to the potential assessor to find out just what their knowledge is of different forms. They may be strong in one practice, but as individuals they may have had some development in other areas and have been exposed to a number of different genres as well. So that helps us round out as much as possible the knowledge on the table.
TAMMY SCOTT: Thank you. Oui
QUESTION: A couple of questions. One is what do you wish you had the funding to be able to do?
ROBERT SIRMAN: I would be misleading you if I didn’t tell you that we would like to do a lot more on the three priorities, especially two of those three priorities that we have identified for the next strategic planning cycle. And those are public engagement and new technologies. We think that they are both huge topics for, oh, I'm trying to avoid the word “growth”, but for further development and in an environment in which there is not a lot of financial growth, we think there’s a lot of activity growth and innovative growth or innovative progress that are possible on both of them. And we would dearly love to be able to do something far more aggressively on both of them.
On public engagement, for example, you can imagine it doesn’t just mean helping organizations and practitioners expand their audience. It also means helping citizens have a better understanding and greater access to whatever offer’s available, whatever’s on offer. And there are many strategies that jurisdictions are flirting with to move in the latter field that the Canada Council feels that it does not have the resources to enter without in some way jeopardizing the stability of the funding relationships that it already has for the work that it’s undertaking for the last five decades.
And you can imagine the technologies, the digitization, the digital age is so exciting and there are so many initiatives that could just suck up whatever resources we could bring to the table. We would love to move both of those.
The question about board...
JOSEPH L. ROTMAN: In two words, oversight and planning. Let me give you examples. Oversight to ensure that the operations and the activities of the organization are carried out with proper ethical standards, with the values of the terms of reference on which we’ve been established, and so we have committees like governance to make sure that the proper structures are in place. We have an audit committee to ensure that the financial statements properly reflect the actual occurrence of what has happened with the money.
We approve the various grants. So oversight is a key responsibility as a check and balance with management to make sure that there is consistency with what has been agreed upon in the roles set out by the government, and then consistent with the strategic plan under which the Council is operating through management in a particular period of time.
Planning: The other key issue and which I think is more important and which we’ve gone through twice now in a very short period of time and I think brought the board the best out of the Board was developing focus of strategies and then translating those into specifics. And Bob outlined in the prior plan where we have the five themes, and then we, this year we’ve got the three themes of cross-cutting of technology, because of all of the things that Bob has just said, public outreach, which was something that the Board was very anxious to ensure that the Council addressed in a much more proactive way than it had been doing in the past.
ROBERT SIRMAN: Synergy.
JOSEPH L. ROTMAN: Synergy, and Bob talked about that, to make sure that efficiency and effectiveness is making use of the dollars we’ve got in a way that we don’t waste any of it, that we try to make the best use of it.
Does that answer your question?
QUESTION: So there’s no role in bringing forward...the Board doesn’t have that role related to bringing in resources?
JOSEPH L. ROTMAN: It’s not a formal responsibility of the board. It is potentially improper to lobby organizations which have been appointed to ask people for money for those organizations. And so it’s a very delicate balance, and so the word advocacy is rarely used, and what is the word we have been using, Bob, recently?
ROBERT SIRMAN: Arts promotion.
JOSEPH L. ROTMAN: Promotion. But we don’t have the obligation to work outside in the community to raise money for our foundation, for example, okay? That the endowment is run by an investment committee but was funded by specific government money and then we do it on behalf of others, so we don’t have like many arts organizations fundraising development groups.
However, it is incumbent upon the Chair and the Vice-Chair and the board members to ensure that the members of Parliament or those people who have an influence on how much money is given to the arts are made aware of the values and contributions that Canada Council makes and to put forth the arguments that ensure that proper recognition is given. And that is one of the areas where Simon Brault and his wife, Louise, doing a lot of work on, which is the democratization of the arts beyond what it has been as academia was, elitism, and just by the nature of what the arts encompasses. And it’s important that the members of Parliament, the members of Cabinet, our particular minister, his civil servants, his deputies and assistant deputies are made aware, and we on the Board ensure that we do that in a proper way that demonstrates value for money and the benefits that come with the outcomes that occur because of those expenditures.
TAMMY SCOTT: Now I have two mics. Let’s see what I can do with two mics. Sir?
QUESTION: Bob, we missed the specialized grants for sound recordings programs. There are many, many great, great recordings out there that have your logo on them. Not anymore. And this needs to be addressed.
ROBERT SIRMAN: Just to clarify, for people who don’t know what this reference is, the Canada Council used to partner with the Department of Canadian Heritage on a special program for sound recording in which the Department put aside a certain amount of funding, transferred it to the Canada Council and the Canada Council delivered it as part of the Department’s commitment to the recording industry, and the Department made a decision that it would no longer use the Canada Council as its delivery arm for that particular funding.
It took the funding back and pooled it with some other funding and delivered a more enriched program through factor and others and the Canada Council has made some changes to the criteria of its music programs to allow artists to source funding for the Canada Council to make recordings but it no longer has a specialized recording program, and I appreciate very much the point you’re making, that the community misses this program and that it really was fulfilling a niche that isn’t otherwise being met.
But as you know, this is not the cancellation of the program by the Canada Council. This is the end of a partnership in which the partner decided to dance with someone else.
TAMMY SCOTT: We might have time for one last quick question, if there is one. Any final questions? Then I guess… Oh, there is one up there, yes.
QUESTION: Thank you. My question is now, with kind of pertaining back to sound recording, now major record labels in Canada, whether it’s distributors from Universal Music or Fontana North, and even new record labels now are giving artists less and less advances and money to work on their recordings, whether it be for soundtrack, single digital EPs or even music videos. My question is for the Arts Council just because an artist, whether you’re a producer, a writer, a vocalist or musician, do you find that many artists that have major recording deals or distribution deals are kind of omitted out of the selection process just because they are backed by such a large corporation?
TAMMY SCOTT: I will turn this one over to Anne.
ANNE VALOIS: I want to answer that in just two seconds because I want to complete the previous comment from Bob with regards to sound recordings. True, we don’t have a standalone program, but we have worked to modify our programs so that sound recording is eligible. And so you’ll see that program announced pretty soon. And it is trying to also address how independent production is occurring, so that there are some interesting modifications to ways of working that were not possible when it was a collaboration with PCH. So I’m thinking you’re going to find it more interesting.
And as a segue to you, one of the things is that we will continue to be committed to the indy voice, so the independence of the voice is the key part. So if you’re coming in as part of a record deal, it’s more difficult and unless you could show us that you have control over the work you’re producing.
And that’s not unlike the relationships that exist within the Media Arts Sections while film-making because there is another source. We’re trying to be a complement.
TAMMY SCOTT: These have been excellent questions. This concludes the meeting today. As we mentioned earlier, there will be a reception. We’re taking a short break before then, but we really hope that you can stay.
What I’m going to ask right now is that all Canada Council Board members, as well as the staff who are present, please stand up. Yes, Robin, you too. And you can see everyone has their name tags on. So these are the people that you can continue asking questions. There’s been a lot of great questions, but you may have more.
So we really encourage you to engage in discussion with everyone that you see before you today. So thank you for standing. You may be seated now. I just want to conclude by saying Mr. Ponting, our Calgary-based Board member said at the beginning of the meeting that we are doing a tour over several days, and I just want to say it’s been a huge privilege to meet with artists and arts organizations so far in Edmonton and Calgary and I'm really looking forward to the next couple of days to continue those meetings and engage in conversations about how we can continue our support to this area. It’s certainly a very vibrant arts scene here.
So thanks to all of you for being very patient with us during this long meeting, and we hope that you can join us at the reception.
ROBERT SIRMAN: The best questions ever.
TAMMY SCOTT: And the best questions.