There is a vibrant and thriving Aboriginal arts community in Canada. We have some magnificent writers, musicians, dancers, storytellers and visual artists. Many of these artists are familiar with the Canada Council, which is a federal government body that provides support to Canadian artists. In Ontario we also have the Ontario Arts Council.
Although many of the mainstream artists who live in urban areas have a good knowledge of these support systems, many of our artists in remote communities don’t realize there is assistance available.
One of the secrets to becoming recognized in your artistic field is to be consistent. In other words, no matter what kind of art you do, it is necessary to try to do it seriously on a daily basis and to improve your craft or skills through education, mentorship, training and routine hard work. Once you have survived for a while and become good at what you do, you must also try to promote yourself so your art or skill are recognized.
When it comes to looking for support, you must a fit the criteria to receive support from the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council. Much of this has to do with how well you are received in the arts community and how much of a contribution your particular project will make.
The Canada Council features the Aboriginal Arts Programs, which are headed by Viviane Gray, Aboriginal Arts Coordinator. She is located in Ottawa. There are actually seven Aboriginal Arts programs, which include: Dance, Music, Theatre, Writing and Publishing, Visual Arts,
Media Arts and Interdisciplinary Arts. To apply for support in dance or music you can contact Gerri Trimble; for theatre and writing and publishing you can contact Paul Seesequasis; for the visual arts and media arts you can contact Ian Reid; and for interdisciplinary arts you can contact Claude Schryer.
You can apply for these programs if you are a Canadian citizen and an Aboriginal status, non-status. Metis or Inuit person. In addition, if you are thinking of applying for any kind of grant you should also be recognized professionally as an Aboriginal artist either through formal training in an educational institute, experience by self-teaching or by traditional training by an Elder or traditional person, and you should have some standing within your peer community. You also have to be willing to make an effort to follow through with an application process that requires some thought and time. Generally your application will be considered on its artistic worth, your ability to produce and the benefits your particular project will provide to the community.
If you have never applied for a grant before, don’t be surprised if you are turned down. There are many individuals applying for support and not everyone can be accommodated. Those who do receive support are selected through a jury system that includes Aboriginal artists, Elders and traditional people..
Over at the Ontario Arts Council the main contact is Denise Bolduc, Aboriginal Arts Program Officer. She administers two programs: Aboriginal Arts Projects and Aboriginal Artists in Education. To apply you have to be an Ontario resident, a Canadian citizen and an Aboriginal person. The application process works much the same as the Canada Council and the selection process for applicants is similar. The Aboriginal Artists in Education program is designed to support professional Aboriginal artists from all artistic expressions to provide creative experiences for learners, primarily with projects that have to do with the education system. The Aboriginal Arts Program develops opportunities for Aboriginal artists to engage with Aboriginal communities and strengthen the relationship of Aboriginal organizations and communities with the arts and Aboriginal artists.
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting both Viviane Gray and Denise Bolduc while they were promoting their programs in Timmins, Ontario. It was great to see local artists having the opportunity to talk first-hand with Viviane and Denise. Both of these women are very capable and have a lot of experience in the Aboriginal arts scene. For more information you can contact the Canada Council’s Aboriginal Arts Coordinator at 1-800-263-5588 ext. 5212 or via their website at www.canadacouncil.ca. You can contact the Ontario Arts Council’s Aboriginal Arts Program Officer at 1-800-387-0058 ext. 7454 or via their website at www.arts.on.ca.