Simon Brault envisions greater growth in the Northwest Territories arts sector, but he is calling on Northern artists to apply for available funding.
The director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts was in Yellowknife on Monday as part of a two-week trip across all three Northern territories.
The Canada Council for the Arts is a federal Crown Corporation dedicated to providing public funding and advocacy for Canadian art production.
Part of Brault’s tour through the North, which included a town hall at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre on Monday night, has been to meet with both artists and non-artists to see how funding over the last three years has impacted the arts scene.
He is also hoping to promote more northern artists to applying for funding.
“What I want to see is how our new investment landed and what difference does it make,” Brault told Yellowknifer.
“But more than that we want to convey to the artists — please apply to the Canada Council because very few artists or festivals or organizations are applying. It is probably because they feel it is out of reach or too selective, but I think there is room for growth.”
Brault says in the last three years, the Canada Council for the Arts has tripled its funding for artist related projects. This can range from craftsmanship, to festivals to theatre.
Annually, hands out amount to about half a million dollars every year across the North.
Brault said in the NWT, he sees a lot of potential for growth and it is important that Northern artists apply because both Yukon and Nunavut are growing in their own ways.
He noted Yellowknife and the NWT together take in about 30 artist-funded projects per year, with 20 coming from the capital city and the remainder from elsewhere in the territory.
“For us at Canada Council, we hope we can double the amount of applicants that we get (from the NWT) over the next five years,” he said.
“I think it is feasible, but there has to be support with the local authorities.”
In comparison, the Yukon, which he says has a more developed arts scene, has around 60 artists applying for money ever year.
Grants come through two streams, Indigenous and non-Indigenous and depending on the size of the project, funding can range between $1,000 to $90,000, he said.
Arts and economy
Brault said he thinks there is room for growth in terms of the arts sector contributing to the overall NWT economy.
Unlike areas like Montreal or Toronto, which he says are “over-saturated” with artists of all sorts, more direct funding from the council could lead to successes.
One of the most obvious missing elements in Yellowknife is the lack of a public art gallery, he said, which the council would strongly support.
“We wouldn’t fund the building of one, but more towards the operations, but clearly it is needed,” he said.
Having a public gallery would spurn growth in the commercial galleries that exist in Yellowknife and the NWT and will provide an impetus for the best of Northern artists to be showcased.