National Arts Service Organizations (NASO) meeting report.

National Arts Service Organizations (NASO) meeting report.

SC-CC Vice President Jennifer Ferris attended the October 24, 2011 meeting in Ottawa of NASO with the Canada Council to learn about the current arts funding context and related issues and concerns. This is her report.

The group was addressed by Robert Sirman, Director and CEO of CCA who presented a broad range of topics, including the Council’s current perspective  on funding, priorities and challenges, its Corporate Plan and how it is approaching the government’s 5% and 10% budget reduction scenario exercise initially called the Strategic and Operating Review (SOR) and now entitled the Deficit Reduction Action Plan (DRAP).

The funding stayed the same for the period 2007 to 2011 but now CCA has been asked by the government to submit 2 proposals for fiscal restraint, one which uses a 5% reduction in costs and one that uses a 10% reduction in costs.  CCA will hear which one the government choses during the Spring Budget of 2012.

CCA acknowledged that when it looks at grant applications it is cognizant that an event that has a huge impact on a small population is as important as an event that may have a small impact on a large population.

CCA is suffering 3 pressures:

  1. A reduction of investment income
  2. Fiscal restraint (federal) which means that the operating budget cannot increase over last year’s actual costs for the next 2 years,
  3. DRAP requires a total expenditure cut of 5% ($9 000 000) or 10% ($18 000 000) to Canadian Heritage.  (CCA is bundled with all arts organizations)

He pointed out that there is no evidence that CCA is on a ‘hit list’ but that there is every indication that all federal funding agencies will be cut and that we will have to contribute to DRAP. He also said that it is not useful to say that artists are special and CCA must be helped because we have lost funding from other agencies.

The new theme for the next 5 years will be MANAGING WITHOUT GROWTH and CCA’s plan will be:

  • Strengthening connections through cross themes
  • Synergy to release new energy.
  • Reinforcement of new technologies
  • Public engagement. People care about the link between arts practice and peoples’ lives which includes outreach, and access and opportunity for engagement in the cultural life of Canada.

**Funding decisions will be tied to this language and priorities.

When applying for grants, arts groups should consider the following:

  • CCA is trying to move forward using the language that highlights intensity not growth.
  • Growth does not fit the current economic conditions and any language that is growth based is fraught with danger.
  • Language should focus on equity in work and in society.

Hot language that will appeal to the federal government:

  • Job creation (not only for artists)
  • Stabilization of the economy (deficit reduction)
  • Casting and contextualizing themes so that they can work in a bigger area

Not Hot language:

  • Themes that benefit special interest groups e.g. only meaningful to fishermen, farmers etc.

The old formula of ranking groups/artists from top to bottom and then taking out the bottom 5% cannot be used.  When this model was used in the past Canada lost groups like Promark and effectively removed itself from Cultural Diplomacy.  CCA programs must meets the needs of all Canadians and the Canadian government is not interested in pulling out of certain programs but wants to reduce expenditure and spend less money.  The concepts of resilience will be employed – who is the most resilient?

To cut its own costs, CCA will be moving to cheaper offices at 150 Elgin Street.  The new office is the same square footage but there is a saving in cost per sq. foot.  The office will have direct street access thus improving public image and branding.

On the world stage Canada’s arts funding strategies are envied by other countries.  These include a philanthropic funding model and ties to UNESCO which stresses cultural and human rights.

In answer to questions from the floor, Mr Sirman said:

  • Work needs to be done to open funding to new practitioners as well as established artist. The mandate needs to be broadened with the use of new technology and public engagement.
  • Arts education, career needs of artists must expand beyond the traditional while acknowledging that there are unmet needs of traditional artists.
  • Targeted programs will not be phased out i.e. inclusivity, affirmative action process, and equity priority.
  • CCA will welcome self-corrective feedback to move ahead.
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