As a visual artist, I have had the good fortune to exhibit and create extensive work internationally, with a particular focus in Japan and the US. During my travels, I have often been reminded how fortunate artists in Canada are when you consider municipal, provincial and federal arts funding.
This is not to say that these funding agencies are perfect, or that ongoing work advocating for additional support does not need to happen (we fall behind in government spending compared to several European countries). But in general, artists in Canada should be extremely grateful for agencies such as the Edmonton Arts Council, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the Canada Council, particularly when one considers that many other countries do not have equivalent organizations and therefore have very little or no funding for the arts.
Many other countries do not have equivalent organizations and therefore have very little or no funding for the arts.
To my mind, one of the most important aspects of the Canadian, peer-reviewed, arts funding system is that it works to provide support to a broad, diverse population — and regardless of an individual’s socioeconomic standing, access to arts funding is (for the most part) possible. Again, this is not to say the system is perfect, and that issues related to access are not present, but at least there is an effort to work towards equality.
This stands in contrast to countries like Japan and the US (among the wealthiest in the world), which do have some government arts funding programs, but which rely much more heavily on corporate funding models for the arts – a system that arguably has its benefits, but which tends to be much more hierarchical, limiting access to large segments of the population.
Over the last 10 to 15 years, artists working in the academic realm in Canada have also seen an expansion in funding through the Tri-Council (CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC) agencies with research-creation or arts-based research funding streams that provide support for highly innovative, creative and interdisciplinary work in the arts. Here at UAlberta, we are even more fortunate to have internal funding from the President’s Grants for the Creative and Performing Arts.
In contrast with many other governments around the world that are moving in the opposite direction, Canadian artists and academics have much to be thankful for.
Once again, this is not to say these programs are perfect, and ongoing debate continues around what and who these programs should support; however, in contrast with many other governments around the world that are moving in the opposite direction, Canadian artists and academics have much to be thankful for.
I am especially sensitive to this in light of the fact that my colleagues south of the border are facing such drastic cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts (which has already experienced years of cutbacks), as well as other arts and humanities programs. With this in mind, it is important to remember the support artists receive in Canada, and to continue to advocate for arts and humanities funding in this country, which plays such a vital role in helping to shape an economically diverse, creative and innovative society.
Banner image: The Flood by Sean Caulfield
The views and opinions expressed within WOA guest posts are solely those of the authors.
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