My dear friend and colleague Renna Reddie suggested I rant on the endless work that is grant writing because she came up with this rhyme. I can’t think of a better reason to talk about something once you’ve got a catchy rhyme to go along with it. Can I get a holla!?

Yup it’s that time of year, of the many times in the year in which another deadline is fast approaching for those infamous government grants. We’re working on some grants here in SummerWorks land and well, it’s an uphill climb, but a good one to break a sweat on.

“I told you already, we’re great! Now give us the money… No? Okay fine here’s 3,000 words on why we’re great. Now give us the money…”

I’m conflicted about this system at large. Speaking in generalities, granting bodies, such as the TAC, are allotted varying amounts of funding from one fiscal year to the next generated out of our government’s ever shifting budget. This money is distributed to arts projects through a peer evaluation process that adheres to specific criteria. Thousands of organizations apply and only a few come out with enough funding to produce their projects or their festivals to the completeness of their visions. Are we inhibiting the vastness of new theatre projects that could be seeing the light of day or are we ensuring that only the highest calibre productions hit our stages; a bit of both or neither? It sucks to see so many projects shelved for another day, but maybe this keeps the flood gates of shit-a-wank-theatre (yea I said it) from inundating our shores. Alternatively, we are gunning down the doves carrying messages of great theatre with our pathetic funding levels and pedantic deliberations.

I believe in the challenge presented by funding bodies. It’s got to be hard to do this work otherwise we wouldn’t feel so passionate about it. Yes I’d love to see art being created up and down our streets, but this doesn’t constitute a good thing. Really as it is we should be launching art up and down our streets without any money. Why aren’t we? Are we afraid to be gorilla about it? There’s so much we can do on little to no money and certainly many are living out their careers in this fashion. What could really help is becoming smarter about development. Private donorship is tough to attain outside of our immediate circles. I think we need to start weighing our efforts in this direction. Aren’t we trying to foster an arts community, aren’t we trying to engage new audience members? What better way then to seek out individual giving. Of course you’re thinking, yea well everyone has their hand out, what makes my hand sexier? Moisturizer… no it’s using that hand to shake a lot of other hands (H1N1 can suck it). I’m talking about building relationships over time, particularly with people outside the arts sphere. Hey it worked for Soulpepper, their funding has nearly 50% weighted in individual giving and sponsorship.

What I find really frustrating is the lack of arts awareness in Toronto. I’m encouraging relationships with people outside the sphere of theatre, but what’s going to make them give a damn? That might be our biggest obstacle. We’re living in a culture dominated by Olympic sports and the athletic gods of legacies mediated by the media. Just turn on Vancouver right now and it’s being broadcast at full velocity, the historical moments of a great nation… oh… oh… ohhhh Canada come to bed won’t you?

Enough of that.

I do want to say that much credit should to go to people like Margo of the TAC and Pat at the OAC. They’re working for artists to get the money to those who put in the work. We’re lucky to have them and despite the paper work… it’s a competition I’m proud to race in… thank you, thank you, no more questions please!


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