Updated: Feb 21
At the conclusion of every calendar year, I look back on all the completed projects and initiatives arts organizations took on with the support of the Rozsa Foundation’s Granting Program.
I read and re-read the final reports we receive and marvel at what arts organizations in Calgary and elsewhere in Alberta have accomplished, and how they all contribute to a stronger arts sector and a stronger province.
While we support a wide array of activity through our five granting streams, we are always seeking initiatives that align with our vision, mission and values, and as we state on our website, we often give preference to proposals that can leverage additional funding or other resources, promote inter-organizational collaboration as well as those that are geared toward equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives. It’s the last of these funding priorities I’d like to reflect upon here.
It’s an important priority and focus for us to explicitly state. A great deal of arts funding in Canada has historically leaned upon a problematic narrative of being awarded based upon the highly subjective criteria of ‘artistic excellence’. Aside from the inherent issues of that excellence being determined by what have been historically non-diverse juries, the notion also fails to recognize the systemic barriers that create an inequitable playing field, and the results have, therefore, lacked the range of diversity present within Canada’s artistic community.
There has been a deliberate effort among many arts funders in Canada to take this context into account to address some of this historical inequity. And while grants at the Rozsa Foundation are, by virtue of the types of initiatives we support, not relying on an interpretation of artistic excellence to assess grant applications, that doesn’t mean that we are immune to similar tunnel vision, and so a stated priority to EDI initiatives is an important step toward our own progress and learning.
Part of our learning journey comes directly from the arts organizations we do support, and their own successes, challenges and learnings. This past year, a number of Rozsa Foundation grantees have done significant and notable work to advance equity, diversity and inclusion in the arts.
Inside Out Theatre wrapped up two Rozsa Foundation grants this past year, one to work with members of Kanai Nation to seek practices to develop more considered approaches to developing working agreements for their artists, and another to add a Deaf Arts Artistic Associate to their team, building capacity to ensure their work can be more inclusive and addressing barriers to access.
Arts Commons produced the Amplify Series, which saw free events throughout the year curated by historically underrepresented communities, which invited and welcomed many new artists and audiences into the building who had not had a prior relationship to Arts Commons.
ArtsPlace in Canmore continued their Indigenous Connections Program, which further strengthened their relationship to local Indigenous artists by making space for them within their galleries and programs, while providing opportunities for Canmore residents foster deeper understanding and appreciation for those artists and their work.
And the Leighton Arts Centre and Indefinite Arts teamed up to offer a landscape painting program for the artists of Indefinite Arts, while also providing them an opportunity to showcase their work at the Leighton Centre.
These are just a few of the incredible projects the Rozsa Foundation was able to support in 2019 that worked to advance the artistic voices of people in marginalized communities. We applaud the work of these organizations, along with the many other incredible projects we were fortunate to support.
Looking forward, we recognize that we still have work to do in order to address equity, diversity and inclusion in our granting practices. A big focus in the year ahead is to look at the application process itself, which has historically marginalized underrepresented organizations due to barriers in language, process and accessibility. We’re in the early stages of addressing some of those barriers and will be introducing initial measures to be more equitable and inclusive in this area in 2020.
We’re listening to community feedback and learning from other organizations doing great work in this area. It is an ongoing process, but one we are committed to as a central part of our efforts to strengthen the diverse range of arts organizations that call Alberta home.