Urgent Message from the Electric City Culture Council (EC3) regarding City funding for the arts: Community Investment and Project Grants Program Review Survey
As you may be aware City Staff is in the process of reviewing the Community Investment and Project Grants Program. Council has asked for a review of the program and this Survey is the first component of that review.
We strongly encourage all of you and your Board members to complete the survey. This is a critical moment to let City Hall know what changes the arts community would like to see in the program including:
- A separate and distinct program for arts organizations with a customized application form, eligibility, and assessment criteria
- A clearly defined budget for the program that provides adequate funding
- A commitment to multi-year and on-going funding for qualified organizations
- A switch to the gold standard/best practice in providing operating and programming funding for arts organizations - arm’s length program administration, peer assessment through an arts agency (EC3), and a diverse and representative jury of arts professionals.
The Community Investment and Project grants program provides critical operating and programming grants to many arts organizations in the City. We want to make you aware of questions being raised at City Hall about the Community Investment and Project Grants Program. There is a potential threat to budget levels in the Arts Component of the Program, and to the practice of providing sustained funding to qualified organizations.
This is a very serious situation given the near catastrophic results of the 2023 program, and the fact that the arts community has been asking for clear changes to the program and its administration for over a decade. It is a crucial opportunity to provide feedback and we urge you to read this letter, think carefully about our concerns and suggestions, and complete the Survey.
The arts community must respond strongly to the request for input from the City. EC3 is working with City Councillors and our colleagues in the community to establish the best practices, standards, principles, and processes used across the country in similar grant programs. This includes arm’s length program development and delivery, and using peer assessment to determine grant allocations, clear appeals processes, and checks and balances that provide measured and thoughtful decision making.
As you probably know, in the last round of granting in this program, The Theatre on King’s grant was cut, from $15,000 (the highest amount available), to $0, with no warning or explanation provided. They were directed by City staff to appeal. When appeals were made to City Council (with petitions, letters, and eloquent delegations by a number of community members), it became clear that neither the City staff in charge of arts and culture, nor the majority of City Councillors, were persuaded by anything in this appeal. The Artisans Centre, also denied funding, and like TTOK with no explanation, was also unsuccessful in this “appeal.”
At that Council meeting, a number of City Councillors expressed clearly that they questioned the long-established practice of awarding multiple annual grants, or three-year, multi-year funding to qualified, high scoring applicants in a competitive process. At the 2024 City Budget consultations at City Hall earlier this year, two Councillors indicated that arts groups need to become completely self-sufficient.
Council passed a motion asking for a review of the program. This Survey is the first step in the program review.
We are concerned that both the unprecedented results of the 2023 Community Investment and Community Project Grants Program this year, and comments by some members of City Council, are an indication that previous budget levels for the program and the commitment to sustained funding in a competitive context are in jeopardy.
Currently, grant decisions are made by a “community assessment committee,” appointed by yet another committee – one that may or may not include anybody with knowledge or expertise in the arts. This archaic process also attempts to serve six different kinds of groups (arts, social services, environment, health, sports, recreation, etc.) with one application form and assessment process. This has long been of concern to the arts community at large, to the City’s own Arts and Culture Advisory Committee (ACAC), to previous City Councils, and to EC3. Repeated requests for change, particularly in response to Covid-19 lessons learned, have been ignored.
All have advised the City multiple times to separate the arts, transfer responsibility for management and delivery of the arts program to EC3 (arm’s length), and ensure that assessment is conducted by an experienced jury of professional peers who know and understand best practice standards in different artistic disciplines, are aware of the strengths and weaknesses in the overall ecology of the local arts community, and who have outstanding analytical skills and insights into operating not-for-profit arts organizations. This is standard operating practice for assessing arts funding requests all across Canada.
In 2021, EC3 again formally called on the city to align its processes for community grants for arts organizations with those of the federal government, most provincial governments, and many municipal governments. Typically, arts councils administer most aspects of operating and programming funding for the arts, using the “competitive, peer-reviewed, arm’s length” process that has been in place for decades. It is by far the most proven, effective, and fair way to deliver public money for arts funding, diversifying decision-making and keeping it in the hands of juries who know about the arts.
While no system or arts council is perfect, it is hard to believe that retaining an assessment system using committed, but frequently uninformed citizens and politicians – who are known to the public in advance, and thus open to the appearance of influence – making all the decisions about who and what gets arts funding, is the better way.
What happened to TTOK and the Artisans Centre this year can happen to any arts organization in the current system.
We strongly urge all of you and your Board, staff, members, and participants to take the Survey and to consider the following:
You could take the opportunity to respond to Question #20: Additional Comments, or #17: Changes and Improvements to say what you think about changing this grant system, ensuring more consistent and effective support for the arts, and recommending that the City adequately fund the program and outsource the administration and jurying to EC3. This will bring Peterborough’s funding processes and procedures in line with other municipalities including Kingston, London, and Toronto.
You may also wish to address the critical value and importance of sustained and ongoing funding that enables qualified organizations to plan and develop their programs more effectively and efficiently, making them more resilient, and strengthening the collaborations and partnerships that stabilize our local arts infrastructure and leverage funding from other sources.
Following the advice of ACAC, EC3 would stabilize the process and bring it into alignment with best practice standards across the country. EC3 currently administers five grant programs, has successfully administered grants to both individuals and organizations, and our leadership includes experienced arts professionals with extensive public funding expertise. We are committed to ensuring well balanced juries, clear explanations for jury decisions, and transparent appeals processes.
It's long past time to move to the system used by most municipalities of any significant size across Canada – to competitive, peer-reviewed, arm’s length juried processes, administered by a professional arts council that meets provincial and national arts council standards.
The survey closes July 11. Please fill it out soon: Survey.
If you have any questions or require any further information, please feel free to call EC3 Executive Director Su Ditta at 705 749 9101.
Thank you for everything you do to give Peterborough such a wonderful cultural life.
Su Ditta (she/her/hers) Bill Kimball (he/him/his)
Executive Director President & Chair
Electric City Culture Council (EC3) Electric City Culture Council (EC3)
Currently living and working in Nogojiwanong, on the territory of the Michi Saagig Anishinaabeg, in the lands covered by the Williams Treaties.
705 749 9101
EC3 is a not-for-profit arts service organization supporting the development of individual artists and arts and culture organizations in Peterborough and Peterborough County. Our programs provide opportunities for artists to create, produce, and present work and for audiences to experience and appreciate the arts.
We deliver grant programs, residencies, mentorships, professional development, research, strategic leadership, advocacy, arts awareness projects and arts programming.
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