Support for Grassroots Arts Initiatives

Letter sent April 23, 2020


The Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Canadian Heritage
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
K1A 0A6

The Honorable Lisa MacLeod
Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries
438 University Avenue
6th Floor
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M5G 2K8


We, the undersigned, represent a diverse spectrum of small, grassroots, and community-based arts initiatives, and we are writing to draw your attention to the vital role of our work, especially at this time, as many of us are focused specifically on working with marginalized communities, and with some of our most vulnerable citizens. We are community organizers on the front lines, and often the most accessible point of personal support for artists and communities, and we fill an important gap by engaging groups that have been historically excluded within conventional cultural institutions. For example, research from Canadian Art (2015) found that only 11% of solo exhibitions at major Canadian public art galleries centered on non-white artists. They also found that gallery management in Canada is disproportionately dominated by white arts professionals. Meanwhile, our initiatives are often led-by, and specifically geared to engaging non-white artists, and, in addition, many of us focus on engaging those identifying as LGBTQ, disabled, and those experiencing systemic barriers to participating in the arts.

We fully support all responsive funding programs intended to stabilize the arts and cultural sector, as well as charities and nonprofit organizations, and of course we support all programs providing emergency relief to individuals facing sudden income losses. However, as unincorporated, or smaller arts initiatives often working with small project grants, fuelled by small donations, and volunteer hours, yet playing a vital role in the arts ecosystem often without any sustainable funding, we encourage policy-makers and public funding agencies to ensure that our work is not overlooked in the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we come together as a sector to weather the storm, we fear that, without immediate and accessible support during, and after this COVID-19 pandemic, many of our groups will be all but wiped out, which would result in major gaps in the cultural ecosystem, leave many communities in disarray, and ultimately push many vulnerable citizens further into isolation.

We are creative, resilient, and we have proven track records creating big impacts with small investment. So we ask you, at this pivotal time, to acknowledge our work, and–in addition to the support for established arts organizations, cultural institutions, nonprofits and charities, as well as all the help going to businesses–make sure that we, too, are able to access the basic resources to continue operating in our unique and intimate roles in communities, and for the artists who need us now more than ever.

Thank you,

CARFAC Ontario

Tracking Losses

CARFAC Ontario strongly advises that all artists track their losses since March 1st 2020. You may find it useful to use the Loss of Revenue document which is a tool primarily developed by the Craft Alliance Atlantic Association

We also encourage you to participate in a COVID-19 Impact Survey for Arts, Culture, and Tourism workers, from ArtsPond + I lost My Gig Canada. CARFAC regional branches across the country have agreed to direct members to this survey, and the data produced will allow us to advocate on your behalf. 

Recommended Practices for Paying Artists During the COVID-19 Crisis

Force Majeure – it’s a standard clause we often see in contracts, which aims to provide clarity for anticipating the unforeseen. Fortunately, we rarely need to give this much thought. But what happens when a pandemic or natural disaster forces institutions to close on a national, or even global scale, as is the case with the COVID-19 crisis?

Many artists are at different stages of negotiation in their agreements with presenters. Some have signed contracts while others have verbal or more informal agreements in place. In either circumstance, presenters should honour their agreements with artists. We encourage presenters to support artists to the best of their abilities, and to consider the financial pressures many self-employed artists are currently facing as much as possible during this time. We urge presenters to consider compensating artists for additional labour that may be involved if they are asked to change the format of their exhibition, screening, presentation, etc. We also recommend that presenters keep their websites and social media channels up-to-date with information about their programming, as circumstances change and evolve.

We are living in extraordinarily challenging times, and we are all in this together. Museums, galleries, artist-run centres, and festivals are also facing unprecedented challenges, not knowing when they may reopen their doors. We know most presenters are committed to the principle of fairness in their relationships with freelance artists, designers, curators, and others. Some of them have developed their own internal practices regarding payment for cancelled or delayed contracts, in light of recent events, but they are not always consistent with other institutions. 

With this in mind, the following guidelines are designed to help the visual and media arts community establish procedures for paying artists when exhibitions, screenings, and other opportunities are disrupted due to cancellations or postponements.

CARFACRAAV, and Copyright Visual Arts are available to answer questions to the best of our abilities from artists and presenters, as we all contend with unexpected situations related to COVID-19. Please stay connected for updates, as these guidelines continue to evolve.

If an artist was scheduled to give an artist talk, give a workshop, participate on a panel, write text to accompany their work, etc:

If an artist has been asked to provide professional services which have been interrupted by venue closures, every effort should be made to offer an online version of their presentation, workshop or written text. They should be paid at a rate agreed to in their contract, such as those found under Artist Professional Services Fees in the CARFAC-RAAV Minimum Recommended Fee Schedule. If the artist requires assistance because of the change in format (ie: software or equipment purchases), the host venue should cover those costs, as well as providing additional payment if more time is required to adapt a workshop or lecture for online presentation. Technical support may also need to be provided. 

If a presenting institution is closed with artwork installed:

We encourage presenters to pay in accordance with an existing contract as planned. Artists should be paid without delay for exhibitions that have already opened or were about to open. If the presenter is facing challenges to pay immediately, they should develop a payment timeline in accordance with the terms of the contract, or in conversation with the artist.

We also encourage presenters to consider the creation of an online version of a temporary exhibition, in full or in part, in consultation with the artist(s) or rightsholder. If the rightsholder is a member of a copyright collective, such as Copyright Visual Arts, please contact them to re-issue a license to include online exhibition.

If there is no additional work to be done by the artist to put the exhibit online, additional royalties may not be payable to the artist in this circumstance. However, if the presenter requires the artist to provide preparation work for the online exhibition, artists should be compensated additionally for that work, in consultation with the artist or their copyright collective. 

If a presenting institution wishes to extend the dates of an installed exhibition that was forced to close early: 

Presenters may ask artists to extend their exhibition beyond the contracted dates. This must be done in consultation with the exhibiting artist(s) to ensure that they agree, and that their artwork is available for the new dates. Due to the unique circumstances of this global pandemic, exhibition licenses that have been paid may be extended at no additional charge, if agreed to by the artist.  

If an artist has a contract or agreement for a future exhibition, screening, or festival, but production is not complete or has not yet begun: 

We encourage artists and presenters to discuss and plan for alternative programming, including online formats, in accordance with the CARFAC-RAAV Minimum Recommended Fee Schedule, or in consultation with CARFAC, RAAV, or Copyright Visual Arts.

We also recommend that institutions postpone rather than cancel engagements. While circumstances are uncertain and schedules will change, we encourage presenters to fulfill future commitments to artists, especially if the program was planned for the short-term (ie: within the year). If the artist has incurred expenses related to the production of the project, they should be compensated, in consultation with the artist.

Digital reproductions of artworks: 

The CARFAC-RAAV Minimum Recommended Fee Schedule provides guidelines for the reproduction of works online. This currently includes rates for moving images and fixed images (including websites, social media, and mobile apps) on the internet; digital publications such as e-Catalogues, e-magazines, and e-books; and digital media for public and private use. These rates apply to reproductions related to temporary exhibitions, screenings, or festivals, as well as works from museum permanent collections and other archival materials. Discounted rates are offered for non-profit organizations, non-commercial uses, and/or for reproductions associated with exhibitions or screenings where royalties are paid. 

After the crisis: developing new guidelines:

We do not know when our doors will open again, and people may be wary of public gatherings for some time. We encourage presenters who have the resources to consider planning the addition of online content, including exhibitions, screenings, and presentations as a contingency plan, or to supplement their growing digital strategy plan for public engagement.

The CARFAC-RAAV Minimum Recommended Fee Schedule does not include guidelines for every project that an artist or presenter may possibly imagine. As a result of the present crisis, the creation of payment guidelines for online exhibitions, screenings, residencies, commissioned work, and more has become a priority, and we will do so in consultation with the visual arts community.  To help us do that, please get in touch to discuss what you are currently doing, or considering, for future programming. 

For further information, please contact:

April Britski, National Executive Director, CARFAC

Bernard Guérin, Director General, RAAV

Erin Gurski, Coordinator, Copyright Visual Arts