An intense week at the Magnetic North Festival in Ottawa has meant this is actually the first typing time I've had. More on the festival soon.
Canada Council released some more information on the new funding structures they are designing for launch in 2016 (FAQ). Vicki Stroich and I talked about the changes on The Urgy Podcast and this is part 2 of a multipart effort to respond in a bit more detail.
145 programs to 6
Right now we are living under a funding system designed for a very different set of values, economic conditions, and political agendas than we face now. We are no longer in the privileged, white, Canadian soft-nationalism of the Massey Commission (1957) to Repatriation (1982) era. Or at least we should be resisting when we find ourselves there. A lot has changed since then.
Change is the thing that is constant. Every time an art practice changes, it is deeply un-useful to make a new program. This is the worst of "fighting the last war" and making policy based on rare and/or changing events. Arts councils are big organisms and change can take a while. By the time a new program has been created, it might be too little too late, or there are more pressing social and artistic changes that need responding to.
As I said in the first post, bigger buckets mean that change can happen in a more dynamic way.
Breaking down the 1st of 3
Again, I have no inside information. I've attended one info session at the PACT conference that pre-dated the most recent announcement.
Explore and Create
This program is intended for artists, collectives and organizations focused on research, development, exploration and innovation in the creation of new work advancing their art forms.
Artists who work project to project and who are serving their own practices and the field they work in.
Its objectives are to support the research, creation, production and presentation of new works intended to be shared with a public;
Project funding with some public showing.
What does "new works" mean.
Good questions. Despite the perception that it means a new play written by a Canadian author, I've repeatedly heard CCA staff say there's no reason a production of an old play text can't be understood as "new work."
If this isn't visible in the result than maybe it's our lack of imagination as applicants and jurors that needs to be examined.
"Intended to be shared with a public"
There's a couple things in that clause. Probably I'm projecting too far, but I could like to see a way that artists could decide to not present to the public because the work, for artistic reasons, did not live up to their standards. Currently, productions are like snowballs running down hill, whether that's a good idea or not. It would be good to know that sometimes I could stop a snowball if it was out of control.
Obviously, if a group kept bailing on projects, that should effect future applications, but rather than needing to market, sell and perform a lesser work, it might be beneficial to be able to pull the plug early.
Also, "the public" needn't mean "all the people in the country" nor mean a three week run in a historic theatre. If it does, that's on the juries.
to support artists in their professional and artistic development; and to stimulate the emergence and development of new artistic voices.
Professional development and a focus on emerging and excluded artists. Good.
I hope, as part of stimulating the development, people and orgs can apply to host subsidized workshops so that say, all the individual artists might not need to apply for professional development grants to attend the same event, since this causes a great deal more paperwork for artists and councils and creates a barrier to entry for folks who don't think the funding system is for them.
Through this program, Canadian artists, organizations and collectives will access resources and opportunities that promote experimentation, exploration and artistic risk-taking.
I suspect most Small Wooden Shoe projects will start in this bucket. As interested as I am in "a populism I can stand behind", this interest is largely experimental and iterative. I am looking to discover a practice, community and public that may not exist yet and sometimes that doesn't work. I want to be judged on the rigour and delight of the questions and approaches, not on predictable audience results.
A wish: That individuals could apply for production scale grants. The current protocols mean that to put on a show I need to pick a name and open a bank account. Often these names are terrible (I was young) and there is not yet a real inquiry, need or basis of unity for the company to exists.
To avoid this, there needs to be a way that when I'm an emerging artist and no established company will answer my emails, I can apply to self produce new show. If I could pay collaborators and performance space under my own name, I could avoid starting a company I might then feel an obligation to continue. This is true in the Dance Section and means there are less dance companies than theatre companies.
To be clear - in response to the "don't start a theatre company" meme, we might need a balancing "please close your theatre company" meme. Then there might be room for some of those new ones.
Next time, engaging and sustaining.