New art-funding structure is still short on cash

By Glyn Goffin

The new arts funding structure for the amalgamated City of Ottawa is taking part of the old funding system and mixing it with the new one, but it’s doing it with the same money.

Last spring, Ottawa city council gave a boost to the arts by adding $500,000 to the funding structure. That raised the total grant to individual artists and groups to $3.1-million.

This year, city council has once again approved the $500,000 addition, and has made it a permanent increase.

However, Laura Cyr, from the office of cultural affairs at the City of Ottawa says this is still not enough money.

“We only meet about 50 per cent of all funding requests,” says Cyr, adding that the money now has to stretch across the whole municipality.

“It’s very, very positive that they put the $500,000 in for another year,” adds Cyr. “At the former City of Ottawa and regional level the funding had been frozen for the past five years.”

Funding applications are due in March, and this will be the first time all grants will be administered through the new city.

The new process is a comprehensive funding program built from the old regional method which gave funding to individual artists, and the old city system which gave funding to groups.

This past fall the city held public consultations with the artists and groups and Cyr says the city was able to identify where the gaps in funding were.

One gap has been filled by the creation of a separate category for arts schools looking for funding, but according to Charles McFarland, the managing director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC), the problem is still a lack of money.

“When we look at other major cities the main theatre receives funding with a great deal of local support,” says McFarland. “We would like to see Ottawa raise to the level of Toronto, Vancouver or Winnipeg so we can flourish as a theatre.”

The GCTC was previously funded by the city and the region. McFarland would like to see this year’s grant equal that amount.

The funding they receive, says McFarland, allows the GCTC to focus on developing new talent by producing local plays.

For Centretown’s Gallery 101 there is a feeling of optimism that funding will remain the same as past years, says Jen Budney, the gallery’s artistic director.

“We’re actually quite satisfied with our level of funding. However, the funding for the arts is not good.

“We need a culture that supports the arts. There’s a lot of potential here, but artists leave for bigger cities.”