If you walk by the many condo towers near the Scotiabank Arena, you might just miss the small sign right outside the base of the Infinity 1 building on Grand Trunk Crescent with the logo of the Toronto Arts Council. As it happens, the Council has its office on the second floor of a space adjacent to the condo – it’s the sun-dappled and plant-filled home to 25 staffers who work for the Council (and a few from its affiliate, Toronto Arts Foundation).
TAC is an arms-length agency of the City of Toronto helping the city’s artists realize their creative potential by funding their work, projects, and organizations through grants. Since 1974, TAC has played a major role in the city’s cultural life by supporting artists and arts groups. Today, TAC grants lead to exhibits, performances, readings and workshops seen each year by nearly 10 million people!
We asked TAC’s Director and CEO, Claire Hopkinson, to tell us more about her work assisting artists across the city – including right here in the Toronto Entertainment District, home to so many of Toronto’s cultural landmarks and groundbreaking creatives.
In which ways can artists gain support from the Toronto Arts Council?
Toronto Arts Council is the City of Toronto’s funding body for artists and arts organizations and we support a broad range of artistic activity – from emerging artists to the most established. We do this through grants programs that include discipline-based programs (ranging from dance, literary, music, theatre, visual and media arts, community arts, and Indigenous arts) and strategic funding programs (partnership-based grants which afford access to the arts across the entire city).
TAC is committed to reflecting Toronto’s vibrancy through the diversity of artists, arts communities, and audiences we serve – our responsive granting program reflects the city, embraces technology and builds on success.
Artists and arts organizations interested in learning more about and applying for TAC grants can find out all about the various grant programs here. TAC also encourages applicants to get in touch with our amazing team of grant managers, who are available to answer any questions about program requirements or the application process, and often host information sessions and grant-writing workshops throughout the year.
We also collaborate with our affiliate, Toronto Arts Foundation, a charitable organization that supports our vision, Creative City: Block by Block, through private-sector investment and increase resources and opportunities for artists. The Foundation develops and operates a number of key initiatives directly involving and benefitting artists, including Arts in the Parks (bringing free arts events to over 50 parks across the city) and the Neighbourhood Arts Network (a free city-wide network of over 1,900 members which fosters excellence in community-engaged artmaking).
How does the Toronto Arts Council prioritize support for the various industries?
TAC supports individual artists and arts organizations of every size and discipline. Our staff, board, and peer assessment panels are made up of artists, arts workers, arts supporters and civic leaders who are representative of Toronto’s diverse cultural community and artistic practices, which helps us to understand the issues and needs facing the entire spectrum of Toronto’s arts sector.
We invest in artistic talent and organizational capacity to increase the city’s vitality and engage Toronto audiences, and also do research on the impact of the arts on Toronto.
Why is it so important to invest and support the arts, specifically in the Toronto Entertainment District?
Our vision of a Creative City: Block by Block, aims to connect every Toronto neighbourhood with the transformative social and economic benefits of the arts, but certainly the Toronto Entertainment District boasts a number of the city’s exciting arts venues, including TIFF Lightbox, Roy Thomson Hall (home to Toronto Symphony Orchestra), 401 Richmond (a vital local arts and culture hub featuring artist studios and galleries), and many more.
TAC and our granting programs contribute to the growth of our creative city. Here’s a snapshot of that impact on the local arts sector:
- Over 5,000 new works of art are created and presented annually with support from TAC
- More than 18,000 artists are paid each year by TAC-funded organizations
- $60 million is generated annually in ticket sales by TAC-funded arts organizations
- 21,000 performances, exhibits, and events are supported annually by TAC
- 11 million people attend TAC-supported events each year
- TAC-funded organizations support or maintain over 400 spaces in Toronto, including theatres, concert halls and galleries, and also presentations in parks, churches, libraries, community centres and other non-traditional venues
It’s undeniable that artists and arts organizations make a tremendous contribution to the economic vitality and livability of our community. Our investment in the arts helps increase employment, encourage tourism, and ensure greater accessibility to arts programming in all Toronto neighbourhoods. Beyond that, the arts also make our city an incredible place to live – they inspire, challenge, excite, spark conversations, bridge differences, and so much more!
Did you know the majority of Torontonians feel the arts bring benefits to their community? Toronto Arts Foundation’s annual Arts Stats reports ask residents why the arts matter – learn more about their findings here.
Is operating in the Toronto Entertainment District helpful to your work?
Having our office located in such a vibrant downtown community that includes not only some of the city’s major arts venues, but also its main sports arenas and tourist attractions means we’re constantly connected to the pulse of what’s happening in Toronto – whether that’s being right in the middle of Jurassic Park during the Raptors’ thrilling championship win to our proximity to a transit hub like Union Station, which allows us to easily host workshops for artists and arts groups from all over the city.
What are your favourite spots to eat in the district?
This is such a hard question! Many great dining memories include the delicious food at the Mayor’s Evening for the Arts at the Fairmont Royal York, Luma at TIFF Lightbox, Byblos before a show nearby, and Aria for important lunch meetings.
In our diverse city, how are you making sure all artists have equal opportunities to the support they need?
TAC is committed to ensuring our services remain equitable and accessible. Over the years, we’ve played an active role in promoting equity and inclusion in the arts – in 2017, we formalized our position and updated our practices through the Toronto Arts Council Equity Framework, a living document that will be regularly updated.
We have implemented an Equity Priority Policy to ensure that artists that self-identify as belonging to one of TAC’s equity priority groups have access to TAC funds.
TAC’s grants programs respond to all of the City’s priorities, in particular promoting arts activity outside the downtown core; increasing opportunities for young and emerging artists; and developing a greater range of partnerships, including new programs introduced to target Indigenous, newcomer and refugee artists and partnerships with key local organizations and City departments such as the Toronto Public Library, Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation, and Museum and Heritage Services.
TAC is also dedicated to accessibility, offering accessibility grants and support for projects involving Deaf artists and artists with disabilities, and additional services such as ASL translation during meetings and workshops. Our office is also wheelchair accessible.
Are there any current projects you’re working on that you’d like to spotlight?
As summer comes to a close, so does another successful season of Arts in the Parks, which saw hundreds of free events (everything from dance to concerts to film screenings to outdoor theatre) in more than 50 parks right across the city.
TAC is excited to welcome Dr. Geoffrey Crossick, professor of Humanities at the School of Advanced Study at the University of London, and one of the world’s leading researchers on the value of arts and culture, to Toronto in September for an event hosted by TAC, OCAD University, Metcalf Foundation, and Ontario Trillium Foundation.
Neighbourhood Arts Network has just announced the first round of recipients of the RBC Arts Access Award, nine extraordinary newcomer artists who will receive micro-grants to support costs associated with arts projects and professional development. Round 2 opens on September 3 and the award is open to newcomer professional artists based in Toronto who are a member of Neighbourhood Arts Network (tip: membership is free!).
And we’re gearing up for one of the highlights of the year, Toronto Arts Foundation’s annual Mayor’s Evening for the Arts, which supports the Arts in the Parks program. The 2019 goal is to raise $1.3 million for AITP and other Foundation programs championed by Mayor John Tory at this year’s event, attended each year by celebrities, philanthropists, corporate executives and civic leaders. Since AITP began in 2016, the Foundation has raised over $4 million thanks to the generosity of sponsors, donors and auction and ticket buyers. We’re looking forward to another dazzling event on November 18 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre – right in the heart of the Entertainment District!
How can Torontonians help support the cause and our homegrown talent?
Be sure to get out to the many shows, concerts, exhibits, performances and more right across the city all year round – one of the best things about a big city like Toronto with a large arts scene is that many such events are often free or low-cost and also family-friendly.
Beyond supporting the arts by buying a ticket or attending events, make sure your voice is heard – let your political representatives know you support the arts and arts funding! Visit our Advocacy page to learn more about how you or your organization can help demonstrate the value of public investment in arts and culture.
Interested in learning more about what goes on behind closed doors in the #TorontoED? Keep up with all of the Toronto Entertainment District BIA’s community stories and follow us on Facebook, Instagram (@entertainmentdistrictto) and Twitter (@Toronto_ED).
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