Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Creative City Boosters: a chat with our Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council Foundation

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Creative City Boosters: a chat with our Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council Foundation

At the hub of so much of this city's artistic and creative energy lies our Toronto Arts Council (TAC) and Toronto Arts Council Foundation. With a 35th anniversary for the TAC happening this year and with the Foundation presenting the results of its inspired Get Lit! competition with an amazing exhibition this Doors Open Weekend, we thought it a great time to touch base.

OBT:

2009 marks the 35th anniversary of the Toronto Arts Council – congratulations! We understand that a lot of your anniversary programs are being presented in partnership with the Toronto Arts Council Foundation. Could you start by telling us about the background of both organizations, and their roles in the arts community?

TAC/F:

In 1973, Mayor David Crombie convened a working group of four artists and five arts entrepreneurs to advise on the role the city should play with respect to its artists. This task force recommended the creation of a Toronto arts granting agency, soon to be called Toronto Arts Council in 1974. TAC’s first budget of $315,000 was divided between 14 arts organizations. Currently, with a budget of nearly $11 million, TAC annually invests in over 650 of the city's arts organizations and professional artists. For many organizations which are now recognized nationally and internationally, a TAC grant was their first demonstration of support.

In order to increase resources for artists, Toronto Arts Council Foundation was launched in 1995 as a non-profit charitable organization. Although separate entities, Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council Foundation benefit by being run as sister organizations, ensuring close contact with the arts sector in Toronto and the continuous awareness of needs across the community.

In 2009, TAC is marking its 35th anniversary by celebrating how essential the arts are to Toronto, and the vital role of local investment in arts community. With this focus in mind, the Foundation is taking a lead role in TAC’s anniversary initiatives.

OBT:

What were some of the early projects and initiatives of both Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council Foundation (together, for this article, TAC/F)?

TAC/F:

In addition to directly supporting artists and arts organizations, TAC is responsible for founding Toronto Artscape which provides affordable workspaces for artists. Fresh Arts Program was another important program which helped to created youth employment opportunities. Some of the key ideas that have built our organization include the implementation of a cultural-equity policy and Toronto Arts Council's two key operating principles -- arm's length funding and peer review – which are applied to ensure the City of Toronto vigorously pursues artistic excellence and innovation, and steadfastly protects freedom of expression.

Toronto Arts Council Foundation Awards program, established in 1995, is designed to highlight the significant contributions made by our city’s cultural leadership.

OBT:

Our news item about your Get Lit! Competition this spring has been one of our most popular articles in recent weeks; it is getting a lot of attention. How did this fantastic idea come together and any updates for us?

TAC/F:

As with all of our anniversary projects we wanted to use the opportunity to generate public awareness and participation. These opportunities will allow us to deepen our role in city life and encourage the public to think about the kind of impact the arts have in Toronto, and their own participation in creative pursuits.

After discussions with the folks at Lit City and Doors Open, we decided that a public art competition inspired by life in Toronto would be a great way for both TAC and the Foundation to take part in Doors Open weekend. Creativity inspires us to think about our city and its artists in new and different ways and the Get Lit! competition is all about inspiring inventive new ways of telling these city stories.

Get Lit! was also a way to encourage Torontonians of all ages to get creative and submit a work that will be featured in a public exhibition, allowing us to open our doors and share some of our stories with the public who come and visit us during Doors Open weekend.

Mayor David Miller will be announcing the winners of Get Lit! at the Doors Open public kick-off event on May 22nd at the ROM. We have received over 50 entries and are excited to share the multiple perspectives with everyone on May 23rd and 24th.

OBT:

What else is TAC/F focused on this year?

TAC/F:

We are always working towards increasing our grants budgets so Toronto artists can be funded better and in greater numbers. As with our preceding 34 years, most of our work this year will focus on distributing grants to artists through peer-review process.

In addition, we are having a make-over: our new and improved website will be launched in June, with more engaging content and simpler navigation for grant applicants, clients, general public and the media.

A new advocacy committee has been formed this year, and will be closely monitoring developments that are likely to affect artists and art supporters in Toronto and beyond.

Toronto Arts Council Foundation will continue its work on Creative City: Block by Block. This important initiative seeks to connect every Toronto neighbourhood with the transformational value of artistic activity.

Finally, the Toronto Arts Council Foundation Awards will be announced, in a very celebratory fashion, at the Mayor’s Arts Awards Lunch on October 15th.

OBT:

You’re working on so much! Could you highlight some of the people and partners that help make everything happen at TAC/F?

TAC/F:

None of the work we do would be possible without dedicated volunteers, donors, interns, board and committee members. They all give generously of their time and talent. Among our partners this year, in addition to the City of Toronto, are: Luminato, Nuit Blanche, RBC, Heritage Toronto, Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Toronto Public Library and Toronto Artscape.

OBT:

To us, Toronto’s “creative scene” is unbelievable right now: there is so much happening and building, we feel this is a huge time for arts and culture in the city. TAC/F is one of the key hubs of all this inspiring activity: please tell us about your overall view of the city’s creativity these days.

TAC/F:

It's an exciting time to be a citizen of Toronto. We are proud to live in a city where arts and culture are understood as a key pillar of prosperity of all its citizens. Not only is creativity, in Mayor David Miller's words, "at the heart of Toronto's economic development strategy", it's "artists [who] can tell us what it means to be Torontonian in 21st century" (Mayor Miller at a public talk Cities of Tomorrow: Is Progressive Politics Alive?).

We can go even further and work towards making Toronto a global leader in arts and culture -- we can support and develop arts and artists at globally competitive levels.

OBT:

On a closing note, how can Torontonians connect and be involved with TAC/F?

TAC/F:

Go to our website, torontoartscouncil.org, where you can explore volunteering options for Toronto arts organizations, check out what's on this week, or get an update on how you can advocate on behalf of artists in your city. We are looking forward to your input.

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