Friday, December 28, 2012

Just when you thought the economic argument for the Arts was gettng old... isn't - at least in the United States. Just when Stats Can's Performing Arts survey is on its way out due to federal government cuts, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis is working with the National Endowment for the Arts to measure the full economic impact of the Arts. It's huge step forward.

If you'd like to read the Bloomberg article, it can be found here.

I've long wished for Canadian versions of the research that is available in the US on such things as Arts participation, economic impact, the measurable impact of arts activity and participation on communities, and so on. I'm going to keep wishing the governments and foundations will start to care enough to fund these, and that Canadian researchers will have the time and funding to do it.

A New Year's Resolution, perhaps? Or a wish?

(A quick "p.s.": Life and work have kept me away from blogging for a long while, and while they still might, I'll continue to post when I see things like the above...or have something worthwhile to say.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Happy International Dance Day!

Today - April 29 - is International Dance Day. Held world wide every year on the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, a French choreographer who revolutionized ballet production during the 18th Century, this day encourages all of us to engage with dance.

This year's International Dance Day message is by Flemish Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and it's incredibly relevant to all aspects of our lives.

I also highly recommend the Canadian message, put together by the Canadian Dance Assembly and authored by Yvon Soglo, Crazy Smooth.

(The above is provided with a big nod to Victoria School of the Arts' weekly newsletter, for pointing me in this direction.)

Happy Dance Day, everyone!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Vote Arts in Alberta

There are only 9 campaigning days left in Alberta's provincial election. I encourage everyone to cast a ballot, and, when you do, I sincerely encourage you to consider each party's Arts platform when you do. To help with this, here are a few websites, in no particular order:

Alberta Liberal Party Election Platform - the Arts Policy is on pages 24 and 25 of this .pdf

Alberta Party Creative Industries Policy

Alberta New Democrats' Arts Platform

Alberta Progressive Conservatives Platform - the Arts Policy is on page 32 of this .pdf

Wildrose Alliance Policy Green Book - I was unable to find a specific Arts Policy on their website, and this document does not seem to be searchable, but that could mean I missed it. I am providing a link here and will post an update if I do find anything.

There are several other, smaller parties running candidates in the provincial election and I am not aware of all of them, however, check out the following sites for further information, which is posted as it's available:

ArtsVote Calgary

Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton (PACE)

PACE also has a facebook page and a twitter feed, so feel free to check these as well.

Again - please vote, and please consider the Arts when you do. Ask your friends and colleagues to do the same. Our society will only be richer when this happens.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Federal Budget

It's been a couple of days since the Federal budget, which has given me time for some rational thought and a chance for any knee-jerk reactions to settle into hopefully reasonable discourse. With that said, Thursday was not a stellar day for the Arts.

Yes, the Canada Council was spared any cuts. This is likely due to some hard work by Minister of Canadian Heritage James Moore. The same goes for the National museums and the National Gallery. Let us give credit where credit is due. On the other hand, cuts elsewhere will have significant impact on the Arts across the country and for years to come, and this is truly disappointing from a a government that let its Minister of Canadian Heritage (a staunch defender of the arts - again, let's give credit where credit is due) declared in January of 2011 that they would ensure stable funding to the Arts for the next 5 years.

As an example, let's look at the National Arts Centre, which received a cut in Thursday's budget. While the NAC is in Ottawa and, to be realistic, that's where it's primary audience lives, we have to remember two things: first, that Ottawa is home and host to representatives of nations from all over the world, hence the NAC has become one of the few remaining ways our government supports Canadian cultural expression on a world stage, given that the Department of Foreign Affairs no longer supports this activity; less funding for the NAC means less on their stages and less Canadian cultural presence in our nation's capital for the world to see. Second, the NAC actively presents the work of Artists from across the country, either through its regular seasons or via its annual "Scene" festivals - again, less money means possibly less of these activities and/or a drop in fees to Artists. Couple this with the fact that the Canada Council cannot fund touring to the NAC within its touring programs - because both organizations receive direct parliamentary allocations and therefore Artists cannot be seen to be "double-dipping" - and the potential ripple effect reaches across the country.

The CBC also received heavy cuts - a total of $115 million beginning in 2014. What this will mean to Canadian television production, local news programming and arts coverage, and indeed for Arts programming across the network (something done primarily by the CBC as opposed to other networks) isn't clear yet. However, it seems reasonable to expect that less money means less of the programming that generates lower advertising revenues, such as Arts programming. Again, Canadian Artists lose - on a national scale.

And then there is Canadian Heritage itself, which has received an approximately 10% cut. According to the Globe and Mail, DCH will try to do this through staff reductions instead of program cuts, but we are left wondering what less administrative ability will mean for the delivery of these programs. Will assessment times get longer? Will applications be properly read and evaluated? Will applicants have appropriate access to DCH staff to have questions answered and to seek advice so that they can submit their best application? It's also hard not to think that this kind of cut will not affect funding programs at some point. After all, even if DCH is spared future cuts, expenses will rise, inflation still occurs and overall that means less real money for programs such as the Canada Cultural Investment Fund and the Canada Arts Training Fund, to name but two.

And I haven't discussed the reductions to the National Film Board (10%), Telefilm Canada (more than 10%), and the National Archives (10%).

There will also be other impacts to the Arts from other areas of the budget. Aging Artists and Arts Administrators - along with every other Canadian under 54 - will now have to wait longer before qualifying for Old Age Security. In the case of the Arts sector, much of which has no pension (or at best a very minimal one), this means a loss of tens of thousands of dollars of much needed income at a time in their lives when they are more vulnerable.

And let's not forget new requirements for charities. In the name of  "accountability" and "transparency", charities will now have even more reporting to do with regard to their so-called political activities. Let me say again that I have absolutely no problem with being accountable for public money. But these further requirements not only take time away from charities' ability to focus on actually serving their missions, but also calls into question the government's motives in terms of allowing organizations to advocate for themselves and those they serve, be they Artists, society's most vulnerable members, or our planet itself. is this accountability or an attempt to limit dialogue when it opposes government policy?

In the face of all this, it seems easy to throw up one's hands in despair and dive into a corner, waiting for better times...or to rip off the gloves and start yelling in uncontrolled anger. However, I believe that we really need frank, open and honest dialogue with anyone and everyone: politicians, audiences, patrons, the business community - everyone. In some cases, the cuts are phased in over time or are not taking effect for a year or two. There's still time to tell your government that you feel strongly about the importance of the Arts and the value of Canadians' continued access to a broad range of these experiences. The Arts continue to be a hugely vital and intrinsic part of our society. If we really care, we must have a dialogue: early, often, and always.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

As Promised: CCA Response to Charities Review

As promised, here is the text of the Canadian Conference of the Arts' response to the new proposed guidelines for charities, signed by National Director Alain Pineau, and reviewed by charity law expert Arthur Drache.

Overall, the CCA recommends expanding or broadening lists of acceptable evidence when appealing a CRA decision on charitable status. The brief also recommends expanding the lists of artistic practices that can be considered  for charitable organizations to include new arts practices as they evolve as well as some that have been given charitable status in the past, such as craft, which do not appear on the current proposed lists. The lists, however, are not exclusive, and the changes are recommended so that the guidelines can be of better service to arts charities. The CCA further recommends that organizations not ask for further clarification that would lead to making the guidelines be more specific, in case that leads to further unnecessary scrutiny and guidelines that will be exclusive instead of inclusive.

The CCA welcomes letters of support for this brief, which can be sent to:

Neil Cochrane (, Manager Common Law Policy and Public Education Section, Charities Directorate, Canada Revenue Agency.

Here then, is the full text of the brief:

February 10, 2012

Mr. Neil Cochrane
Common Law Policy and Public Education Section
Charities Directorate
Canada Revenue Agency

Dear Mr. Cochrane,

RE : CCA Brief on CRA Proposed Guidelines on Arts organisations and charitable registration under the Income Tax Act


The Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) is pleased to submit its brief for Revenue Canada’s consultation on the proposed Guidance on arts organisations and charitable registration under the Income Tax Act. We first want to thank the CRA for its flexibility on the deadline for the consultation and for accommodating the fact that the original deadline and the lack of awareness of the process amongst the arts and heritage communities made it almost impossible for proper submissions to be presented on time.

The CCA is Canada’s oldest and most broadly based cultural umbrella organisation. The CCA is the national forum for the entire Canadian arts, culture and heritage communities, from all disciplines and regions. The CCA’s mission is to provide research, analysis and consultations on all federal public policies or regulation affecting the arts and Canadian cultural institutions and industries. One of its key roles is to support the creation of broad-based consensus on issues of common interest to the cultural sector.

According to the figures we have found, there are over six thousand six hundred arts and heritage organisations with charitable status under the terms of the Income Tax Act. While the CCA itself is recognized as a charity under the provisions pertaining to national art service organisations (NASO) and we realize that these new guidelines will not apply to our organisation directly, the proposed Guidelines will have consequences for our members, which include many charitable organisations, and for the arts and heritage sector as a whole.

General Comments

This new guidance will be very helpful for new organisations in applying for charitable status as it provides a great deal of clarification of the process and conditions for new applicants, as well as of the obligations of arts organisations already recognized as charities. Overall, the document is well written and offers a clear explanation of the complex laws and regulations involved. We also welcome the flexibility shown for the circumstances of individual organisations as stated in the guidance.

We understand that the codification into one document does not alter the law and existing regulation or change jurisprudence. We recognize that there is a long history of case law and legal precedence being followed in this document and that in order to present the information coherently, a certain amount of interpretation of those laws must be done. It is our hope that these guidelines will be continue to be applied and interpreted in a manner that reflects the evolving nature of art forms and organisations, so as to foster growth in the arts sector and emerging artistic practices and styles. We also understand that this guidance is meant to assist new organizations in applying for charitable status and not intended to target existing registered charities or strip them of their status. We expect the guidance will have a minimal impact on the latter since they have already been found to meet the legal requirements of charitable registration.

As stated in the guidelines, most arts and heritage organisations are eligible for charitable status under two of the four criteria established in the Act, namely education and public interest. While the application of the education criterion is relatively straightforward, the majority of arts organisations fall under the public interest one and as such, they face a complex set of requirements. Accordingly, there is some considerable apprehension from organisations and public funders regarding some of the language used, such as “artistic merit”.
The interpretation of the criterion of artistic merit is particularly tricky and courts have been leery of setting themselves up as judges of what artistic merit is. As art forms evolve under the impulse of new technologies, the application of this criterion may prove even more difficult. In order to facilitate the process of evaluation of the artistic merit criterion and of meeting the accepted cannon of taste requirements, the CCA would like to propose the broadening of acceptable evidence and the addition of an intermediary process for applications before having to go to the Federal Court of Appeal in the case of a rejection.

Our recommendations aim at alleviating some of the concerns of arts organisations over the artistic merit requirements and the burden of proof which may be more challenging for emerging artists and styles to meet. We submit that allowing for additional evidence to be provided establishing artistic merit would be greatly beneficial to both parties as this would save arts organisations from having to appeal a CRA decision to the Federal Court, a lengthy and costly process which few organisations can afford, let alone fledgling ones.

The CCA would be happy to work with the CRA on developing this proposed process. We submit that were you to accept our suggestion, it could allow more arts organisations to enhance arts forms and styles, strive for improvement and promote excellence in the arts.
Specific Comments

Article 50: With regards to form and style, we suggest expanding the list of examples of acceptable evidence. We recognize that the list is not exhaustive and that these are presented only as examples; however a more comprehensive list would help to provide guidance for new organisations applying for status. We recommend as possible types of evidence that could be submitted by an applicant:

  • the addition of Canadian Heritage agencies (including FACTOR/MusicAction) rather than only the department itself;
  • the addition of recognition by NASOs;
  • the addition of municipal level arts bodies in the list with provincial and federal bodies, as municipal bodies have the benefit of being closer to smaller regional communities and may recognize new emerging styles and styles that are specific to their communities.

Article 55:

In order to ensure that undue evidence not be required of organisations that are exhibiting and presenting these works, the CCA supports the request made by CAPACOA regarding clarification of how works would be “shown to meet the artistic merit criterion in their own right.”

Appendix B, Article 39:

The CCA also supports CAPACOA’s request to amend the following example by replacing “and” with “and/or”, so as to differentiate between self-presenting and presenting organisations. That section of the guidelines would then read as follows:

Examples of activities that could further the advancement of the public’s appreciation of the arts include producing and/or presenting high-quality public dance performances…”

Appendix C:

As in the case of Article 50, we recognize that this is not an exhaustive list and that organisations can still provide evidence if their form and style are not included in Appendix C. However, in order to reduce the reporting burden for organisations applying for charitable status, we would like to stress the importance of having a list that is as comprehensive as possible.

There are currently a number of forms of professional and community related activities missing from this list that are widely accepted within the Canadian arts community such as crafts, world music, digital art, performance art, and a diversity of performing arts.

We propose that the list should be amended to include these missing styles and that any styles that have been accepted for charitable status in the past should be included on the list. For example, there are numerous craft organisations that already have charitable status, such as the Craft Council of British Columbia and the Alberta Craft Council, yet crafts has not been included in the list. Including styles that have already been proven and updating the list regularly will greatly reduce the burden on new organisations that are applying for status.


We appreciate the efforts of the CRA and how beneficial specific guidelines will be for arts organisations in applying for charitable status in the future and we hope that our comments will help you in finalizing this document.

We would like to thank the CRA for considering our comments, and we are available to discuss any of these points further.

Alain Pineau
National Director

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On the Federal front - CCA, Charities Review and more...

I attended a very informative Brown Bag lunch with Canadian Conference of the Arts National Director Alain Pineau today. The CCA is in the midst of remaking itself to a) be more relevant to the Arts and to Canadians and b) adjust to the loss of the federal funding it has had for decades. Today's meeting was part of a larger cross-Canada tour, which M Pineau is blogging about here.

The long and short of it is that it is making me take a second look at the CCA. I had long thought that the organization hasn't been as effective as it used to be, but I think the new direction is worth a look. It's going to be a tough sell for organizational members, though, as their membership fees have had to increase substantially. With that said, a good portion of the CCA's relevance and clout, says M. Pineau, will have to come from individuals, and those memberships have actually come down in price. The depth and breadth of knowledge within the CCA on Federal Arts-related issues is clear, and I, for one, just might give them a second chance.

Another interesting facet of our conversation over lunch was an update on the review of Charities regulation and legislation, along with the issue of revised guidelines. After having the proposed guidelines reviewed by a lawyer with considerable expertise in this area, the advice is not to panic. There are no changes to current regulation or legislation. M. Pineau stated that their advice to Arts folk is that we simply need to exercise due diligence and ensure that we are up to date and aware of our obligations if we hold charitable licenses. He also advises those considering applying for such a designation to consider carefully whether it will be worth it for their organizations. He has offered to share the CCA's submission to the government on this matter and I hope to have his permission to share it here as well.

The next Federal issue on the horizon will be the budget, due in the coming weeks. I, for one, will be watching carefully as to whether and how much any cuts will be and how they will affect the Arts. I remember too well Minister Moore's announcement around this time last year at Edmonton`s Winspear Centre, when he indicated that the Conservative government strongly supported the Arts and pledged stable funding for the next 5 years. I also remember his colleague Minister Rona Ambrose's support for that commitment, both at that press conference and at a subsequent conference late last summer. To make sure I remembered, I blogged about both of these events here and here.

For me, the proof is always in the pudding. For the CCA, I'm cautiously optimistic that this organization is on the right path to make a difference once again. For the Federal government, and in particular the upcoming budget, while I'm sure they'll make a difference, I'm not sure it will be a good one.

Quick other notes: for anyone interested in some more research on Audience Engagement/Community Relevance/Entanglement (that last is a new term I heard last week), check out the Wallace Foundation's latest work here. I also haven't had a chance to check out ArtsJournal yet, but it sounds really interesting and I can't wait to do that. Of course, all of this makes me wish we had more Canadian sources similar to these about Canadian Arts. Maybe someday...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Some Thoughts in a New Year

Simplicity. Honesty. Clarity. Calm. These four words were a kind of "mantra" I composed for myself several years ago, and along with taking deep breaths every day, trying to relax and allow for more creativity in my thoughts and actions, and to attempting to let things happen "at their own right speed" (to paraphrase Carl Honore, of whom I am a big fan), form the intentions I set for myself for 2012. I hope - as I always do - that these somewhat lofty ideals will allow me to be a bit less of a stressball and a more thoughtful person. But enough of that...

One interesting thing I discovered in conversations just before the holidays, was that it seems that some people still think that part of appreciating the Arts means that you have to like all of the Arts all of the time. When two self-professed "un-artsy" people asked me recently what I thought of a much-discussed piece of public art, I said that it was a great piece, and one of the wonderful things about it was that it was stimulating discussions both about it and about the Arts in general. I went on to say that the real value of Art doesn't come from people universally liking everything that's produced, but rather that the value comes from the discussions a given artwork stimulates. In other words, you don't have to like it to call it Art, or to think it has a value to the community. The mere fact that people are discussing not only Art, but also what that piece of Art might mean, and that this may lead to broader discussions about our Society, is thrilling to me, and exactly what the Arts are for. In both conversations, the people I said this to remarked that they had never thought about Art this way before and that this might change the way they thought about the Arts in general. Even if it doesn't, I was very excited to have had that moment with them, and grateful for their being open to hearing my answer to their original question. Perhaps this is part of the transformative experience of Art.

I've also been reading several other interesting things around the web, including some very good work by Wolf Brown on audience engagement and sustainability. The pre-Christmas pandemonium meant that I didn't have time to read these thoroughly, but I'll be giving both studies a thorough going over as soon as I'm able. The last two issues of On Our Minds also have some very good stuff in them, especially Marc Goldring's thoughts on "The Creative Economy", and his reference to some on-line discussions around this (which I agree with - I revel in the fact people are questioning Richard Florida) in the December 2 issue. I also loved Dennie Palmer Wolf's Christmas wish for a long-term study on the impact of Arts engagement over a lifetime, and Jennifer Novak-Leonard's interesting thoughts on taking a closer look at those who engage in dance only through recordings and broadcast (e.g. those who watch So You Think You Can Dance).

Gig Magazine is always interesting for international news, even though I often read them several weeks or months out of date. I highly recommend both the magazine and the website.

In the "items to watch" category for 2012, it appears that changes to the regulations and/or legislation around charities is on the horizon for the federal government. I wrote about this in an earlier entry here. I think this is something we all need to be quite concerned about. As with Bill C-470 (which I wrote about here), there are likely a myriad of unintended consequences that will result from some of the proposed changes. The deadline for feedback has been extended from mid-January to mid-March, and I encourage everyone to get as much information as they can and send their feedback if at all possible. I'll be using this space to update information and point out links as soon as I have time to educate myself. My main concern is that the Conservative government's misguided attitude that somehow charities are not accountable or viable will provide them an excuse to reduce government funding to the Arts and other sectors in the non-profit world.

Even though this last was not the cheeriest of notes to end an entry on, I still do have hope for 2012. Both the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement have given me hope that there is less apathy in the world than I had previously assumed, and this encourages me - and many others, I'm sure - to keep going.

Simplicity. Honesty. Clarity. Calm.

..and Hope.