Letter sent April 23, 2020
The Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Canadian Heritage
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
The Honorable Lisa MacLeod
Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries
438 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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.