After four years of intense research, consultation and advocacy by many artists and organizations, Councillors unanimously approved a new City Enrichment Fund at the September 17 meeting of the General Issues Committee. This represents a long-awaited overhaul of grants programs for many stagnant community and cultural programs and the introduction of a new arts funding framework that promises a more streamlined and transparent means of funding artistic activity in this city.
The Arts Program Guidelines approved at GIC preserve the eight new funding categories recommended by the Arts Funding Task Force as a result of their research and consultations since 2010. While funding is not yet secured to deliver grants for individual artists or the other new programs for capacity building and equipment purchases, the approval of the framework clears a significant hurdle towards delivering future support to both artists and organizations.
In the short term, existing arts funding redirected from Boards & Agencies and the now defunct Community Partnership Program’s Culture stream will be applied to the delivery of two priority granting categories: Operating Grants for Arts Organizations, and Arts Festivals. With this first year’s intake being treated as a transitional year for the new grant process, the City has expressed its commitment to maintain all funding levels for current B&A and CPP recipients unless an organization reports significant changes in its operations.
What Current Grant Recipients Need to Know
City staff are anticipating a deadline of Monday December 1 for 2015 applications to the new program. As with previous CPP applications, these applications are expected to have a 4:30pm deadline to be received at City Hall so arts organizations should plan accordingly to mail or hand-deliver their applications by that time.
Arts organizations and festivals currently receiving municipal funding will be allocated to one of six potential application forms depending on the nature of their operations. By the program’s definitions, an organization is emerging in its first five years of operation, and “semi-professional” organizations are defined by the inclusion of participants who are not generally paid for their artistic work, whereas “professional” organizations are required to pay the artists involved in their activities.
Each of the above categories will link to you a DRAFT version of that program’s application form as presented to GIC this week. The fact that these are DRAFT application forms cannot be understated, as these are still being revised and edited by the City’s Arts, Events and Grants staff; in the meantime, they offer a useful overview of the new process and requirements. All the grant writers out there will no doubt find it useful to review the new questions posed in the various sections in anticipation of responding to these themes in their upcoming applications.
Next Step: Securing Additional Funding
While additional funding for these new arts grants was not up for debate at this week’s meeting, the approved framework includes the go-ahead for City staff to request increased arts funding over the next three years, starting with an increase of $500,000 in the 2015 budget. Additional requests of $300,000 in 2016 and $200,000 in 2017, if approved, would increase overall arts funding by the key $1 million proposed by the Arts Funding Task Force as the minimum amount needed to bring Hamilton’s arts investment up to par after over a decade of stagnation.
The decision to increase arts funding in Hamilton by that crucial first step won’t be deliberated until the 2015 budget process is underway in January and February – notably, after the municipal election with a new Council that will include at least four new faces. While this arts community and its allies will need to throw its collective support behind this request when the time comes, we all have the ability to make our voices heard much sooner through the votes we cast on October 27. Deciding who will make that decision on Hamilton's behalf is the next, most immediate step we can take to secure stronger investment in this city's arts and cultural sector.