Arts & Culture

Community Foundation of Ottawa Offers Independent Look at Arts Funding

Almost $100 million: Not exactly chump change, it’s how much the Community Foundation of Ottawa has provided in grants to the community since the non-profit organization’s inception in 1987.

So who benefits from CFO grants, which now average $8 to $11 million annually?

Among others, seniors who love of live theatre. Thanks in part to CFO’s support of the GCTC’s new Especially for Seniors program, which offers transportation to and from home, a catered meal, and admission to a play with a post-show Q&A or talkback for the princely sum of $20.

Councillor Jeff Leiper and GCTC artistic director address seniors who came to see The Last Wife as part of Especially for Seniors, a special program that offers a Thyme & Again meal,  transportation to and from the Hintonburg theatre, and a ticket to the show for $20. The program is made possible, in part, by the Ottawa Community Foundation.
Councillor Jeff Leiper and GCTC artistic director address seniors who came to see The Last Wife as part of Especially for Seniors, a special program that offers a Thyme & Again meal, transportation to and from the Hintonburg theatre, and a ticket to the show for $20. The program is made possible, in part, by the Ottawa Community Foundation.

Also youngsters who attended programs like Keeping It Cool, an anger management initiative at the Carlington Community Health Centre that is supported by CFO grants.

Such grants, along with those to education, environmental, and other registered charities, come from investments earned on the foundation’s assets of almost $120 million. Those assets come from endowments by individual donors with a keen sense of philanthropy and, like the CFO itself, a commitment to building a better Ottawa.

Ottawa Insights takes CFO’s community building in a fresh direction. Launched this year, OI is an online “community knowledge centre,” which brings together information about issues and trends in eight key “theme” areas affecting quality of life in Ottawa – everything from the economy and employment to health and wellness. It draws on multiple sources, including the municipal government, to provide data that support evidence-based decision-making by the CFO itself, donors, service organizations, and others.

This week, OI released findings on the seventh of its eight themes: Arts & Culture (the last, Community & Belonging, is slated for early 2017).

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Among its findings: the City of Ottawa’s grants to arts and culture grew from 2012 to 2015 but at an overall rate of only 6.9 per cent. At the same time, in 2015 Ottawa’s grants for arts, heritage and festivals were, at $9.70, the second highest per capita among the country’s four biggest municipalities.

And while funding to Ottawa organizations and artists from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Canadian Department of Heritage lags far behind that given to Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto, artists in Ottawa-Gatineau were at the top of the income pile among Canada’s six largest cities in 2011 with a median after-tax income of almost $25,000 (however, median after-tax income in all of Ottawa-Gatineau was $41,000).

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The see-saw trend continues through much of the Arts & Culture indicators, with public libraries, for example, showing continued heavy use — but participation in (and the number of ) City of Ottawa arts programs have declined in recent years.

An important aspect of the data is that “It comes from a third party, so we’re not just counting on the city to be the generator of research,” says Victoria Steele, executive director of the AOE (Arts Ottawa East) Arts Council and Chair of the Ottawa Cultural Alliance. “If we look at someone trying to make a case for funding or to tell their story better, there can be useful data in there.”

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From 2011 to 2015, the CFO provided a total of $2,515,183 in grants to arts and culture. It’s welcome funding, but the sector still hungers for more money and attention from the broader community.

“Arts and culture are an important part of a vibrant city,” says CFO Director of Community Engagement Rebecca Aird. “(They) bring beauty and joy and are a way of exploring challenging issues.”