Sustaining Collectives and Emerging Organizations in the Arts
As part of an ongoing series of discussions responding to the needs of arts groups in the COVID-19 crisis the Media Arts Network of Ontario partnered with Critical Distance Centre for Curators to host conversations with emerging arts organizations and collectives. This open letter proposes a program to address one of the core issues identified in the meetings, support for the labour of cultural workers in these groups. Show your support by signing here and by sending your own letter to the recipients identified.

This letter and signatories will be published online and forwarded to the addressees.

Open Letter - Sustaining Collectives and Emerging Organizations in the Arts

Simon Brault
Director and Chief Executive Officer
Canada Council for the Arts
150 Elgin St
P.O. Box 1047
Ottawa, ON Canada
K1P 5V8

Carolyn Vesely
Chief Executive Officer
Ontario Arts Council
121 Bloor Street East, 7th Floor
Toronto, ON M4W 3M5

May 19, 2020

Dear Simon Brault and Carolyn Vesely,

In the wake of pandemic shutdowns, long-standing social inequities have become more visible than ever, including those in the arts sector. While emergency measures rolled out to date have helped to stabilize some arts and culture institutions, high barriers to eligibility for emerging and unincorporated arts organizations have resulted in many groups being left behind.

Emerging organizations often speak to needs unmet by existing institutions, playing a vital role in advancing struggles for equity, representation, and accessibility in the arts. These organizations represent the future of the arts sector, and as identified strategic priorities of public sector art funders, must not only survive but be supported to thrive beyond this and other crises.

The expectation of significant unpaid and underpaid labour from arts workers is built into the current project-based funding model for emerging and unincorporated arts organizations. Relying on project grants, they receive support to compensate artists for their labour at industry standard rates, but are not supported to adequately compensate their own staff, whose skills comprise the essential labour of care necessary for the success of any program.

As arts funding agencies continue to develop responsive strategies to support our sector, we request the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council to recognize the necessity and value of small and emerging groups and to tailor support for their operations in the following ways:

- Provide support for a minimum of one part-time position, providing a fair wage and realistic scope of work (grant amounts of $15,000 - $40,000/year)
- Provide support for a minimum of 12 months per application, with options for multi year support
- Emphasize groups led-by and serving equity-seeking groups as identified by funders
- Not support artistic programming for the public, audience and market development, or other activities supported through existing programs
- Not support consultant fees
- Be peer adjudicated with scoring matrices made available publicly
- Be open to applicants who have received one or more project grants from their agency
- Not count against application limits for project grants

Time is of the essence, and so we further recommend that:

- Federal and provincial arts funders convene no later than June 30, 2020 to begin developing shared standards for fair wages for cultural workers and to coordinate program launches
- Representative groups impacted by this discussion be invited to attend as observers
- Application deadlines be made available by Fall 2020 followed by a full roll-out in 2021 with a minimum of two deadlines
- Annual opportunities for community feedback be provided after first round of applications

It is our belief that such a sustaining program is the missing piece in the current funding landscape for emerging and unincorporated arts organizations. Funders can do much more to learn about how these groups engage and impact their respective communities, and to provide the concrete support needed to continue their work at levels that reflect the true cost and value of the labour that facilitates deeper connections between artists, organizations, and audiences. A vibrant and resilient arts sector is one that supports its organizations and workers at all levels of their development, not just those who are already established.


Ben Donoghue
Media Arts Network of Ontario

Carolyn Warren, Director General, Arts Granting Programs Canada Council for the Arts
Kelly Langgard, Director of Granting Ontario Arts Council

Shani K Parsons, Director, Critical Distance Centre for Curators
Abedar Kamgari, Programming Director, Hamilton Artists Inc.
Adam Sturgeon, Artist/Community Worker, REZONANCE
Adi Berardini, Editor, Femme Art Review
Adriana Rosselli Londoño, General Manager, Guelph Dance
Adrienne Crossman, Board Co-Chair, Hamilton Artists Inc.
Aimée Mitchell, the8fest
Aislinn Thomas, Artist
Alana Traficante, Executive Director, Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography
Alejandro Tamayo, Board Member, Treasurer, Hamilton Artists Inc.
Alexander Rondeau, Independent Curator // Artist, Minor Hockey Curatorial
Alexia Bréard-Anderson, Director, Xpace Cultural Centre
Allie Harvey, Program Manager, ArtReach
Ananya Ohri, Arts worker .
Andrew James Paterson, independent media artist
Anyse Ducharme, Artistic Programmer, SAW Video Media Art Center
April Beatson, Photographer, 401 Richmond
Barbara Gilbert, Directrice artistique et générale, Le Labo
Becca Berri, Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Cold Strawberries Collective (CSC)
Brian Meehan, Executive Director, Museum London
charles c. smith, Executive Director, Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO)
Charlotte Zhang
Christine Negus, Programmer, London Ontario Media Arts Association
Claire M. Tallarico, Founder, Co Facilitator, Alchemy Artists Residency
Clive Robertson, Media artist and publisher, W.O.R.K.S., Voicespondence, FUSE
Crystal Mowry
Danica Evering, Programming Committee Chair Board of Directors, Hamilton Artists' Inc.
Darren Rigo, Head of Membership, Gallery 44
David Marskell, CEO, The Museum
Deanna Wong, Executive Director, Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival
Denise Ryner, Director/Curator, Or Gallery
Derek Jenkins, MFA Student, Ryerson University
Emily Cook, Director, Paperhouse Studio
Emily McKibbon, Associate Director/Senior Curator, MacLaren Art Centre
Estée Klar, The A Collective
Flora Shum, Director, Paperhouse Studio and Paperhouse Outreach Collective
Francisco-Fernando Granados, Artist/collective member/Assistant Professor, 7a*11d/OCAD U
Golboo Amani, Collective member, Toronto performance art collective
Greg Woodbury, Operations Manager, Charles Street Video
Ingrid Jones, Creative Director, Seednine
Isabella Stefanescu, Artistic Director, Inter Arts Matrix
Jaclyn Quaresma, ED + Curator, Durham Art Gallery
Jacquelyn Hébert, Community and Program Manager, (CCIMAD-CCDIAM)
Jan Swinburne
Jasmine Mander, Communications and Outreach Coordinator, Hamilton Artists Inc.
Jason Samilski, Managing Director, CARFAC Ontario
Jaymie Lathem, Executive Director, Creative Industries North Bay Inc.
Jennie Robinson Faber, Executive Director, Dames Making Games
Joey Dean, Toadstool Illustrates
Jonathan Bunce, Artistic Director, Wavelength Music Arts Projects
Julie Dring, Executive Director, Hamilton Artists Inc.
Julie Tucker, Director, Arts Council Windsor &Region
Justin Waddell, Associate Professor, School of Visual Art, Alberta University of the Arts (AUArts)
Kais Padamshi, OCAD Student Union
Karin Fish, Artist
Katie Doyle
Katie Wilhelm, Director, Steve Tracy Gallery
Kim Kitchen Artist, Member
Laura St Amant, Visual Artist, NDN Bowling League
Laura Taler, Artist
Leila Fatemi, Curator of Education & Community Outreach, Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography
Leila Timmins, Curator and Manager, Exhibitions and Collections, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
Lilia Leon
Lora Northway, Definitely Superior Art Gallery
Luke Maddaford, LEFT Contemporary
Madi Piller, PIX FILM Collective
Maegen Black, Director, Canadian Crafts Federation
Malini Guha, Carleton University
Marina Fathalla, Artist, MICE Magazine (Moving, Image, Culture, Etc)
Marsya Maharani, Gendai Gallery
Matthew Kyba, Curator, Visual Arts Centre of Clarington
Maureen Da Silva, Studio Manager and Artist, The inPrint Collective
Michael Maranda
Minnar Xie, Artery
Mirae Lee, Project 40 Collective
Mitchell Ellam, Executive Director, White Water Gallery
Monica Joy Peeff, Artist, Good Sport Collective & Gallery
Noor Alé, Assistant Curator, MacLaren Art Centre
Nuzhat Abbas, founder-publisher, t r a c e press
Oliver Pauk, Founder, Co-Director, Akin
Olivia Snyder, Artist
Paulette Phillips, artists & educator
Petrina Ng, Co-Founder, Durable Good
Phyllis Novak, Artistic Director, SKETCH Working Arts
Piper Hayes, Piper & Carson
Rachel Weldon, Director, Debaser
Rita Camacho, Artist
Robert Vanderheyden, Citizen of Hamilton
Roberta Buiani, Artistic Director, ArtSci Salon
Ruth Skinner, Edna Press
Sally McKay
Sameer Farooq, Artist
Samuel La France, Executive Director, Images Festival
Scott Miller Berry, co-coordinator, re:assemblage collective
Sedina Fiati, Independent Performer, Creator & Producer for Stage & Screen, Switch Collective
Shannon Linde, Curator, Aisle 4
Shannon Taylor-Jones, Director, Resident Artist, Good Sport
Sharon Goldhawk, Co-Founder & Coordinator, One World Arts/ One World Film Festival
Sharona Plakidas, Artist, Sharona Plakidas Organics
Sheila McMath, Artistic Associate, Inter Arts Matrix
Shirley Debassige, Executive/Artistic Director, Weengushk Film Institute
Simon M. Benedict, Freelance Artist & Translator
Sinara Rozo, Director, aluCine Latin Film+Media Arts Festival
Skyler Duggan, Marketing & Promotion Vox Popular, LIP Productions
Steacy Easton, Artist/Writer
Stephanie Vegh
Su-Ying Lee, Independent curator
Tanya Read
Theresa Slater, Operations and Development Manager, Pleasure Dome
Ting Xu, Critical Distance Center for Curators
Vanessa Crosbie Ramsay, Media Artist & Arts-Educator, HAVN member, co-founder of the DAV(e) Collective
Whitney Brennan, Co-director, Arts Assembly
Zoë Heyn-Jones, Co-founder, F4A (Film for Artists) collective
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