A Call for Action!

October 24, 2016 by Judith Marcuse and members of the Community-Engaged Arts Advocacy Working Group Uncategorized /

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Please take a moment to look at the document below; it has information and describes serious concerns about a new policy proposed by the Canada Council for the Arts with respect to funding processes for community-engaged/art for social change work.

This is an urgent request for support. We ask you to send emails to advocate for the re-establishment of our unique forms of artmaking as a designated “field of practice” in the context of the Council’s funding policies. Below, we’ve provided some text and contact information that might be useful.    

Thanks for taking the time to read this call to action, led by a team of concerned artists from across the country.

PS: Below, we have added just some of the letters already sent to share their thoughts and opinions with you.



Judith Marcuse

Letter to the Board of Directors of the Canada Council for the Arts from Judith Marcuse
Artistic Producer, Judith Marcuse Projects
Founder/Co-Director, International Centre of Art for Social Change (ICASC)
Adjunct Professor/Artist in Residence, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC
Senior Fellow, Ashoka International

Letter to Simon Brault from Arlene Goldbard
Chief Policy Wonk of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture

Letter to Simon Brault from Annalee Yassi
Professor, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia

Letter to Jacques Vezina from Eugene van Erven
Professor of Media, Performance and the City
Head of Department, Media and Culture Studies, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Letter to Simon Brault from Eric Booth
Author, Actor, Teaching Artist and Publisher


A Call for Action!!!

October 27, 2016

Across Canada, community-engaged/art for social change (ASC) artists and organizations are very concerned about new policies presently proposed by the Canada Council for the Arts vis-à-vis funding for our community of practice. We call on you to join us in a campaign to re-establish its presence as a unique and legitimate form of creative work.

There are significant distinctions between the practices of professional artists who present their work to the public and those who collaborate with community members as creative partners. The Council’s previous Artists and Communities Collaborative Program (ACCP), however imperfect and underfunded, provided a home at the Canada Council for the latter form of artmaking. Those of us who anticipated seeing our work more fully reflected and embraced in the Canada Council’s New Funding Model are now disappointed and dismayed to see no explicit acknowledgement, category or pathway for putting forward our proposals. The new web portal describes community only as potential audience members, and “community engagement” is repeatedly defined on the site as generating public enthusiasm for artists’ work. Community-engaged art practice is nowhere to be seen.

There are many layers and levels to the New Funding Model, and it is challenging for all of us to navigate. We have been told that community-engaged arts practices are supposed to permeate all categories and that there will be a special briefing paper on artist-community collaboration to inform juries. However, the new model provides a funding application process that first asks individual artists and organizations to self-identify with “fields of practice” (e.g.  Deaf and Disability Arts, Circus Arts, Aboriginal Arts, Dance, Theatre, Visual Arts, etc.) but not in community-engaged arts. In recent correspondence with the Council, we were informed that “Community-engaged arts are considered as an established cross-cutting artistic practice that permeates all ‘fields of practices’. But this work will be subsumed in other arts categories and not accorded legitimacy/respect as a practice of its own. Whatever the reason for this decision, this feels like a step backwards and raises serious concerns that community-engaged artists (especially those newer to the funding world) will not know how or where to position themselves, and that the underlying values and protocols of our work will not be understood or appropriately assessed.

In Canada, there are over 200 organizations, as well as many more independent artists, actively engaged in community-arts practice, and offering training programs for a new generation of community-based artist/practitioners. The new funding model offers no explicit support for their work.

We are, therefore, inviting and urging our friends and colleagues to send letters expressing concerns and thoughts on these issues to the names provided below (including Canada Council senior directors, relevant politicians etc.). We feel this will be most effective and achievable if we all write in our own words and from our own perspectives. The letters can be more short or lengthy as you wish. Below are some points to consider, adapt and include:

  • If relevant, something about your own contributions and connection to the field, to Canada Council funding, local, national and international practices, cross-cultural collaborations etc.
  • In the new funding model, there is no heading or category whatsoever, for community-engaged arts/artist-community collaborations, let alone mention of the principles, objectives, criteria, and ethical considerations that guide the practice of community-engaged arts, and no indication that this work will be supported.  
  • “Community-engaged Arts” should be included in the list of “Artistic Fields of Practice” in The Canada Council’s New Funding Model, and the web portal should clearly name the practice, and articulate its guiding principles, objectives, criteria, and ethical considerations.
  • Peer assessment committees and juries that are including community-engaged arts proposals should include at least one full-time community-engaged arts practitioner or expert in community-engaged artistic practice.
  • Community engagement, as presently defined by the Council, is concerned about support for the work of artists; impact is measured in terms of “audience” and there is no mention of process-based work, an essential component of our field.
  • The work of community-engaged artists is recognized as an increasingly robust and important practice in Canada and around the world. Canada has the potential to be a global leader in modeling this work. Deleting it from the articulated spectrum of our national arts practice will put us decades behind other countries.



It’s important to send your emails promptly so that they can have an impact before the New Funding Model portal is launched in December. Please let us know if you receive any responses.


Some Suggested Contacts

Canada Council for the Arts

Simon Brault, Director and CEO, director@canadacouncil.ca

Jacques Vezina, Director General, jacques.vezina@canadacouncil.ca 

Caroline Lussier, Director, Dance Section, caroline.lussier@canadacouncil.ca

Pierre Lasonde, Chair, Canada Council Board of Directors, info@canadacouncil.ca  

Gerri Trimble, Program Officer, Music Section, Gerri.Trimble@canadacouncil.ca

Claude Schryer, Coordinator, Inter-Arts Office, claude.schryer@canadacouncil.ca

Lys Stevens, Program Officer, Inter-Arts Office lys.stevens@canadacouncil.ca    

Sébastien Goupil, Secretary General UNESCO Canada, sebastien.goupil@unesco.ca


Department of Canadian Heritage

The Honourable Melanie Joly, Minister, Department of Canadian Heritage, Hon.Melanie.Joly@canada.ca

Graham Flack, Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage, Graham.Flack@canada.ca

Hedy Fry, MP Chair, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, fry.h@parl.gc.ca

Your Regional Director of Canadian Heritage See full listing of Regional Office contacts here

Email your local MP — Find your MP using a postal code — Or phone your local MP, even if you only speak to an assistant, make sure they log the call and your concerns on the issue.

Your municipal and provincial arts funders

Andrea Dicks, VP Community Foundations of Canada adicks@communityfoundations.ca

Lynn Ross, General Manager, Creative City Network manager@creativecity.ca  

Amplify this call to action through your own support and communication networks.



Community-Engaged Arts Advocacy Working Group





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