Should More Cape Bretoners Apply for Arts Grants?

Last fall, I was talking to South Bar resident and sometime Spectator contributor Rod Gale about the preponderance of provincial arts grants given to artists in Halifax.

Rod Gale

Rod Gale

Gale has long taken an interest in the local arts scene — he’s the founder of Gobblefest, an alternative music festival held on the Thanksgiving weekend in Sydney. (He may give me grief about that description, I’m questioning the use of the word “alternative” myself, but I’m not a music writer, so it will have to do).

Back in October, Gale shared with me a letter he’d written to Nova Scotian MLAs, that included the following paragraphs:

The other day I was listening to a story by Tom Ayers on CBC about a group of artists who had secured $50,000.00 in funding from the #CBRM. A fantastic positive story but in that story there was one line that bothered me that out of 60 grants awarded by Arts Nova Scotia only one was awarded to an artist from CBRM and the rest of the grants were awarded to artists from primarily the Halifax region.

I thought to myself; that can’t be right so I checked with Tom Ayers and he confirmed the fact and he directed me to the Arts Nova Scotia website and sure enough only one artist from the CBRM was awarded a grant from Arts Nova Scotia in 2019- 2020. I was shocked and intrigued; I thought to myself if this inequality in funding exists between artists in the CBRM and Halifax then it naturally must affect artists from the rest of the province besides artists in the HRM ( Halifax Regional Municipality ) proper.

Upon further investigation of past recipients of Arts Nova Scotia awards from 2016 to 2020 it became vividly apparent that the majority of Arts Nova Scotia funding is being invested in Halifax and not dispersed throughout the rest of the province. Seeing that the Arts are a major reason that tourists visit not only Cape Breton; but the Valley, Lunenburg or Yarmouth or for that matter any community in our beautiful Province shouldn’t arts funding be evenly shared all over Nova Scotia.

I also visited the Arts Nova Scotia website and searched for Cape Breton County recipients of grants to individuals from 2015 to 2021 and here are the results the database returned:

 

Arts NS Grants to Individuals 2015-2021

(The full list of individual grant recipients for the entire province runs to 27 pages, 21 of which list grants given in Halifax.)

 

Apply here

My immediate question was: how many applications did Arts Nova Scotia get from Cape Breton County during this period? So I FOIPOPed that information and last week, I received my answer. (Thank you, Arts Nova Scotia for the prompt and unexpectedly detailed response.)

I have to say, it surprised me: between 2016 and 2021, Arts Nova Scotia received just 77 grant applications from Cape Breton County residents — it received almost as many — 63 — from Inverness, plus 4 from Richmond and 9 from Victoria.

That’s a total of 153 applications for the entire Island — 15 successful in Cape Breton, 18 in Inverness, one in Victoria and none, apparently, in Richmond for a total of 34 grants received. (I should note that some artists received multiple grants.)

We not only, as an Island, submitted fewer applications than Halifax, which recorded 1,633 (433 of which were successful by my count), we submitted fewer than Lunenberg, whose residents submitted 171 applications, 28 of which were successful.

2021-02109-CCTH_Severed

 

I shared my findings with Gale and asked him what he made of them and he told me he felt there was a real lack of “outreach,” “effort” and “vision” on the part of Arts Nova Scotia:

Arts Nova Scotia for all intents and purposes is Arts Halifax. I think there should be some sort of fairness in funding. It can’t all go to Halifax…Arts Nova Scotia should help to foster the arts throughout Nova Scotia.

Gale also shared with me an email he’d received from Arts Nova Scotia director Briony Carros, who told him:

The board recognizes the need to address equity issues in our funding programs and has employed several  strategies. For example, they have identified strategic funds focused on first time funded applications and projects that take place outside of metropolitan Halifax. While artistic excellence remains at the core of peer assessed evaluation, this internal fund has be used to augment success rates in regions or within identified communities.

Arts Nova Scotia encourages applications from all professional artists and arts organizations across the province. We advise all new applicants to contact a program officer in advance of a deadline to understand eligibility and assessment criteria. With COVID-19 restrictions lifting, we are planning to get back out into community to conduct in-person information sessions and will pay particular attention to areas outside of Halifax. For more information on a specific program, please visit http://arts.ns.ca .

I think the message is: Cape Breton artists — start your applications!