Overlap and confusion are arts funding obstacles, report finds

A YK ARCC show in 2018. Photo: Submitted

A review of NWT government arts programming states some artists struggle to know where to go for support because departments’ mandates aren’t clear.

Vancouver research group Qatalyst worked with artists across the NWT to identify the challenges they face. Qatalyst’s 78-page report also finds the complexity of some application processes can suck up time for artists and administrators.

The report, commissioned by the GNWT as part of its arts strategy, urges two departments – Education, Culture and Employment and Industry, Tourism and Investment – to develop “more of a collective approach to implementation” of their separate programs.

Other recommendations include a reporting system to better track outcomes and the hiring of more support staff.



Qatalyst says it worked with 200 artists and 49 arts organization representatives to complete the report – the majority based in the North Slave, though the firm said all regions were included.

“There is significant perceived overlap, and resulting confusion, in terms of who and what is funded by different programs,” the report states.

Recognizing that ECE and ITI provide funding for different purposes, the report states artists perceive a lack of clarity regarding which departments are responsible in different situations when trying to access funding.

A table created by Qatalyst outlines the funding roles of ECE and ITI.

Many artists identified the various application processes as complex. Some want more transparency about decision-making.



“The lack of communication and promotion of ECE funds regionally has resulted in concentration of funding allocation in Yellowknife,” the report states. In 2020-21, 81 percent of ECE funding was allocated to the North Slave region.

Barriers such as language and literacy were identified as contributors to this, alongside a perception that artists in Yellowknife are better-versed in how to apply for funding.

According to the report, ECE has one staff member whose role involves assessing applications while ITI has two. Most of their time is spent reviewing completed applications and communicating with applicants regarding any missing information, making it difficult to connect with artists looking for help beginning their applications for specific resources.

A third of people surveyed reported they did not clearly understand which departments to apply to or who to approach for funding. The report adds that “there is currently no onboarding manual to properly train GNWT staff about the criteria of other art programs.”

What recommendations were made?

The report states that clarity around where to apply for different types of funding will allow for more transparency in the application process.

A navigation map – essentially a visual aid that helps artists understand how the funding system works – is suggested. According to the report, a more user-friendly application system would help applicants feel less intimated by the process

The report encourages the hiring of full-time employees dedicated to the Arts Council, the filling of a vacant community liaison coordinator position on the ECE team, and the creation of a new liaison position between teams.

Qatalyst said more outreach should be focused on artists in more isolated areas who may not have access to computers or are unaware of funding opportunities offered.



Lastly, the report suggests an internal arts programming working group at the GNWT and more effort to coordinate messaging between departments.

RJ Simpson and Caroline Wawzonek, the ministers responsible for ECE and ITI respectively, said they welcomed the recommendations without making specific commitments.

In a statement, Wawzonek said the report would help to “strengthen the programs and services that support NWT artists in their professional endeavours, and ultimately strengthen and grow a stronger creative economy for our territory.”