Crowded into the badly lit corner of the Ortona Building last Thursday evening, a gaggle of Edmonton’s arts community filled the room for a question and answer period over yet another new arts grant.
A joint initiative by Canada Council for the Arts and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Alberta Creative Development Initiative was announced earlier this year as a total of $6 million to be doled out over the next three years. With new money pooled from endowment funds, and with a poor track record of Alberta-based applications to the Canada Council, the ACDI seems to be the small boost our arts-funding-depraved province needs.
A bonus for the little guys, only small to midsize organizations with less than $2 million in operating capacity are qualified—meaning the bigwigs such as as Alberta Ballet or The Fringe are ineligible for these funds. Individuals recognized as professional artists can apply to up to $20 000, and registered non-profit organizations can receive up to $30 000. Even the peer assessment committee will be mostly Alberta-based with limited national and international presence to overcome any regional mistranslations. And first-time Canada Council or AFA grant applicants and the often miscategorized field of interartistic disciplines will be given priority.
Along with this year’s Cultural Capital grants that are still being administered, professional artists with project ideas are (theoretically) living off the fat of the land—for the moment. The ACDI is new, but is just another line of project grants restricted to the production of Albertan projects. The funds are not permitted for building operational capacities or to build up administration. Basically, the fat of the land is for now and will be used now—and not for creating the infrastructure that artists so desperately need to sustain their practice.
Without infrastructure, artistic fruits of labour remain limited to one-off notches on curriculum vitaes. Imagine creating a city without first building the roads. There would be no foundation from which ongoing activities can sustain their existence with any regularity or network of support.
With the ACDI’s deadline looming on the first business day after Dec 1, professional artists and administrators across the disciplines are outlining their project proposals and crunching their budgets. The feet-shuffling turnout of Thursday evening dragged on with the usual repetitious and self-answerable questions, but the general direction of inquries looked towards projects that benefited the individual more than the community.
One of the perks of creating in the new west is that we can still forge our own form of structure and community. The legacy is being created and the rules still being written. Grants appear aplenty right now, but without individuals and organizations willing to create projects that reach out to their broader community, there will be no one benefiting from this money in a few years.