ACWR: ADVOCACY
ACWR in partnership with the Alliance of Arts Councils of Ontario submitted the following statements on behalf of...

ACWR in partnership with the Alliance of Arts Councils of Ontario submitted the following statements on behalf of the communities we serve.

Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs

RE: Study of the recommendations relating to the Economic and

Fiscal Update Act, 2020 and the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on 

Culture and Heritage sectors of the economy.

July 6, 2020

Submitted by Alliance of Arts Councils of Ontario

Arts Council of Algoma

Arts Etobicoke

Arts Council Windsor & Region

Arts Network Ottawa

East End Arts

Electric City Culture Council

Guelph Arts Council

Kingston Arts Council

Mississauga Arts Council

North York Arts

Ottawa Arts Council

Prescott-Russell Arts Council

Prince Edward County Arts Council

Quinte Arts Council

Scarborough Arts

South Simcoe Arts Council

Toronto Arts Council

York Region Arts Council

  

We write to you as the newly formed Alliance of Arts Councils of Ontario. We are 24 municipal and regional arts councils from across Ontario who collectively represent tens of thousands of artists, cultural workers and arts groups in every discipline, and large and small businesses invested in partnering with the arts sector to rebuild our arts communities, our regions and our province.

We applaud the initiatives taken by the Provincial Government in its response to the COVID-19 crisis, and thank Minister Lisa MacLeod who tirelessly champions the value of the arts in Ontario during these challenging times.

We are grateful for the opportunity to share our recommendations that will directly impact the role the arts can play in the province’s economic and social recovery. Arts and culture in Ontario directly contribute $25.0 billion annually to the provincial economy, representing 3.3% of Ontario’s GDP1. Provincial arts recovery support now will also help our cities of all sizes, rural areas and surrounding regions. According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, “arts, culture and heritage improve the ability of municipal governments to influence local economic development by attracting and retaining a skilled and talented workforce.”

COVID-19 has devastated arts communities across Ontario. Like our colleagues in the Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture here in Ontario and across the world, we have been the hardest hit, with few options for short term recovery, and we are projected to be the last to be able to fully open and recover.

The arts sector is incredibly vulnerable to disruption. The risks and impact are equally devastating to large cultural Industries as it is to small local galleries, theatres, concert halls and individual artists. Recovery for the arts, at all levels and in all parts of the province, is crucial to stabilizing and growing the cultural, and by extension provincial, ecosystem.

Minister MacLeod has challenged us all to imagine what Ontario could look like in 18 months. As we make plans for recovery, we can take this time to build a new future for Ontario’s arts.

This is an opportunity for the arts sector to work together with local and provincial governments to reshape the sector, its infrastructure, and supports, so it can thrive and contribute even more to the social, mental and economic health of our province.

Recommendations 

The Alliance of Arts Councils of Ontario are proposing the five following recommendations:

 

  1. Develop safety and health protocols so the sector can safely reopen.
    We ask for partnerships between provincial and municipal public health authorities and arts organizations to provide support in implementing these protocols for arts organizations of all sizes.
  2. Establish a provincial stabilization fund, administered and disseminated by the Ontario Arts Council, to keep artists and arts organizations working and to maintain activities during these uncertain times and recover from closures imposed by physical distancing.

We recommend this fund:

  • be disseminated with an equity lens, giving consideration to marginalized artists and their organizations to benefit the recovery and sustainability of artists and groups in their communities;
  • be open to members of the Ontario arts community who may not be current funding recipients of the Ontario Arts Council;
  • be distributed across the province; and
  • that eligibility not be contingent on financial hardship criteria.

This provincial stabilization fund will benefit the recovery and sustainability of artists and groups in their communities and can provide needed recovery support and fill gaps left by the current programs.

3. Additional $5 million to the Ontario Arts Council.

These new funds will support the development and implementation of new models for a stronger sector led by Ontario’s artists and arts organizations. These funds will support the rebuilding, renovating and reimaging of the sector.  It will activate and spearhead opportunities for creative solutions to creating, producing and presenting art in a post-pandemic Ontario.

4. Provincial task force to identify solutions to the reopening and rebuilding of arts, culture, heritage and sports sectors. 

Connect, at both provincial and regional levels, cultural representatives from all members of our broad sector. This is a unique opportunity for us to come together to develop and implement creative solutions to reimagine the culture, heritage and sports sectors.

5. Marketing campaigns, incentives and support from local MPP’s that encourage Ontarians to engage and connect with the arts in their community.
Just as local businesses need the support from local residents, and tourism needs the confidence and attendance of people beyond our borders, our local artists and arts organizations need their audiences, participants and communities to engage with artists, buy tickets, purchase art, take a class and make donations.

The ‘new-normal’ for local arts

Minister MacLeod, our colleagues who have recently presented to this committee, and many others have rightly cited poll results that indicate the great jeopardy the arts sector is in.

We echo the statements that have been made by our colleagues in asking for supports for the arts to go online. There are many benefits to a greater online presence and new digital strategies, but it is not without its limitations. It is an exciting new avenue to showcase Ontario’s arts, but brings in little revenue or income to the creators. Any new initiatives for digital engagement must include clear revenues for arts and income for artists. These are incredible opportunities that the arts are taking advantage of to create and showcase Ontario’s artists. However, they are not sustainable replacements for what was lost.

Not every Ontarian can access the arts online. Given that artists already navigate on a limited annual income, there is an inequity with respect to artists having the tools and resources to engage online, and not every resident in Ontario has access to high speed internet. There must be resources put towards connecting Ontarians with the arts in their communities. Partnerships with public health, cross-sector solutions, and putting funding directly in the hands of local arts will achieve this.

The people of Ontario care and value arts in their communities. In 2017 a comprehensive Ipsos Reid poll revealed over 90% of Ontario residents strongly favoured Provincial support for the arts and saw them as crucial to their quality of life. Further, 88% of Ontarians agree that arts and cultural activities are important to a community’s economic well-being2.

Ontarians want arts where they live:

  • 93% of Ontarians believe that arts activities help enrich the quality of our lives3.
  • 90% of Ontarians agree that an active local arts scene helps make a community a better place to live3.
  • 88% of Ontarians believe that if their community lost its arts activities, people living there would lose something of value3.
  • 92% of Ontarians agree that exposure to arts and culture is important to individual well-being4.

We cannot stress enough the current precarity of the sector. The entire arts ecosystem needs support at this time: industries, tourism, and individual artists, nonprofit organizations and arts groups.

As a result of the global health crisis, Ontario Arts & Culture workers confirmed that close to 10,000 gigs were lost or at risk as of May 2020. This represents a potential revenue loss of $9M in income, and an individual average of 24 gigs lost per artist. Further, the average financial loss per artist is $22,4005. More than 440 Ontario arts organizations surveyed by the Ontario Arts Council in April estimated that they’d lose as much as $128 million due to COVID-19—an average of 16% of their total annual revenue. Over 70% said they’d be laying-off employees. Without support from the provincial government, we can only assume that follow up surveys over the summer will only reveal more losses in jobs, income and soon in organizations and venues shuttering.

It is the very nature of the arts, as a stimulating means of coming together, that puts us at such risk now. We thank the provincial government for this opportunity to be heard. We stand ready to support the recovery and rebuilding of our sector.

We are very concerned for the well-being of our arts community. Ontario artists have left an indelible mark on the cultural fabric of our province, making it a vibrant place for its residents to live and an attractive place for tourists to visit. And they’ve done this despite ongoing financial struggles common in the creative sector. The Alliance of Arts Councils of Ontario is committed to working with the province and Ministry on the steps toward recovery, and strongly believe these recommendations will have a positive and progressive impact on our arts communities. We urge the Standing Committee to share this view.

Signatories

Alliance of Arts Councils of Ontario:

Arts Council of Algoma

Arts Etobicoke

Arts Council Windsor & Region

Arts Network Ottawa

East End Arts

Electric City Culture Council

Guelph Arts Council

Kingston Arts Council

Mississauga Arts Council

North York Arts

Ottawa Arts Council

Prescott-Russell Arts Council

Prince Edward County Arts Council

Quinte Arts Council

Scarborough Arts

South Simcoe Arts Council

Toronto Arts Council

York Region Arts Council

Statement Submitted by ACWR:

Effects of COVID-19 on the Culture and Heritage sector in Windsor- Essex

In February, Windsor-Essex held an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, the highest in the country, that number has now climbed to nearly 20 percent. The Region has always suffered greatly during every economic downturn and due to COVID-19, unemployment will be catastrophically high. The hardest hit will be the Culture & Heritage sector. Only part of our region opened to Stage 2 on June 24th. The fear is that many organizations will not be able to open to Stage 3 before the predicted second wave. There is a lot of fear and anxiety on the profound impact on our local cultural sector and the economic well-being of our region. 

My question to the Ontario Legislative Assembly Finance Committee is,  Can you imagine a community without charities and non-profit organizations?

 Windsor-Essex’s Arts, Culture, Heritage and Sport and many other organizations rely on gaming funding as core operating funding. This revenue stream has not been replaced. In addition, self-generated revenue and fundraising activities are at a standstill. Government assistance for those organizations who have eligibility will help in the short term. However, the stability for organizations beyond the next 3-6 months is not assured. 

Operating costs continue to rise with inflation, however, funding for this sector has not matched inflation and we were already doing amazing work with less. Are we willing to sacrifice organizations, institutional memory and cultural assets? At risk are venues that are shared cultural spaces by a myriad of organizations, collectives and groups. In addition, Artists and collectives have lost their work spaces. How can we host the next edition of Windsor International Film Festival or Media City Film Festival without venues, hotels and restaurants? How will we be ready for tourism? How can we leverage that we live next to a million+ dollar tourist market only 10 minutes away from our downtown core? 

COVID-19 has revealed systematic racism in our community. Windsor is the oldest continually inhabited settlement in Ontario, it is and has been a meeting place of nations for thousands of years. The region and its diversity continues to increase, and this growth is an undeniable part of our identity.  COVID-19 has challenged us all to have difficult conversations with our family and community and to make real change going beyond statements. 

We believe there needs to be funding for: emerging grassroots initiatives, for artists, for collectives, cultural workers and projects funds for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour in the time of COVID-19. Emerging collectives and organizations not yet eligible for OAC funding are not being assisted under current funding frameworks. 

The United Nation adopted 2022-2032 as the Decade of Indigenous Languages. Our region is home to several critically endangered dialects of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and the Lunaapeewi (Leni-Lenape). The Indigenous Culture Fund is essential to supporting the work of language revitalization and needs to be reinstated in solidarity.


Further, we support the 5 recommendations from the Alliance of Arts Councils of Ontario (see above)

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Julie Tucker

Director of Public Programs & Advocacy | Arts Council Windsor & Region