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GNWT revamps arts funding system

Six inch canvases by anonymous artists hang on the wall at the Down to Earth Gallery in November 2022. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Six-inch canvases by anonymous artists hang on the wall at the Down to Earth Gallery in November 2022. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

The NWT government has done away with some arts funding streams and launched new ones to replace them.

The previous system of NWT Arts Council grants has been scrapped, the territory said in a Tuesday news release, and with it an October deadline for applications has also been wiped out.

The larger Arts Organizations Operating Funding and Support for Northern Performers streams have also been cancelled.

Instead, a new series of Arts Project grants and a larger Arts Operating Fund are being introduced.

Individuals can apply twice a year, with February and August deadlines, for small or medium grants worth up to $5,000 or $10,000 respectively.



Organizations can apply for one of three streams: the medium $10,000 arts project grant, a bigger grant of up to $100,000 with application deadlines in January and July, or the Arts Operating Fund with a January deadline and grants of up to $200,000.

The GNWT described some of the new grants as a “restructuring” of the old NWT Arts Council grants, but said individuals could now access up to $20,000 per year by applying in both the February and August intakes – which the territory said was a $5,000 increase on a sum of $15,000 previously available annually.

The NWT Arts Council will still decide who receives grants.

More: GNWT guide to which program fits you best



“To help distribute funding equitably across the territory, there will be new funding quotas for the six regions (North Slave, South Slave, Dehcho, Beaufort Delta, Sahtu, and Tłı̨chǫ) based on population,” the territorial government stated.

After this article was first published, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment provided the regional breakdown for the small and medium grants, the only two that have regional quotas.

Funding for those is assigned as follows:

  • Beaufort Delta: $75,000
  • Dehcho: $40,000
  • Sahtu: $29,000
  • South Slave: $82,000
  • Tłı̨chǫ: $32,000
  • North Slave: $242,000

“The funding quotas for each of these grants are flexible. For example, if artists from one region do not apply for the full amount of funding, it could be awarded to artists in another region,” a spokesperson said by email.

“Both grants will have an updated and streamlined application processes,” Tuesday’s news release also promised.

The Large Arts Project stream (up to $100,000) and Arts Operating Fund (up to $200,000) are the result of merging the Arts Organizations and Support for Northern Performers programs.

“Previously, arts organizations and non-arts organizations with a mandate to support the arts were competing for the same pool of arts project funding as artists and craftspeople. This funding is designed to direct organizations to a dedicated fund to better suit their needs,” the GNWT stated.

Non-arts organizations do still appear to be directed to the same fund as individuals – those organizations are now told to apply for the Medium Arts Project grant, worth up to $10,000, which is also available to arts groups and to individual artists.



Feedback: Are you an artist? Tell us what you think of the changes

But non-arts organizations are not eligible for the $5,000 grants, nor for the larger funding sources of up to $100,000 or $200,000.

Overall, the four funding streams have a collective budget of just under $1.3 million per year.

Changes follow review

Tuesday’s changes are based on feedback received during the creation of the NWT Arts Strategy and through a review of the territory’s arts programs, the GNWT stated.

The NWT Arts Strategy was released in 2021 and spans 10 years.

Critics of the strategy said it lacked meaningful actions, real money to back it up, and clarity between the two territorial departments – culture body ECE and industry-focused ITI – who share responsibility for the arts.

Tuesday’s announcement made clear that no ITI programs will change.

A review of arts programming published earlier this year concluded in part that a “lack of communication and promotion of ECE funds regionally has resulted in concentration of funding allocation in Yellowknife.”



That review also found that a third of people surveyed did not clearly understand which departments to approach for funding, and said artists often found application processes too complex.

“We are committed to making meaningful changes to arts programs and funding to help establish a strong and valued arts sector,” culture minister RJ Simpson was quoted as saying this week.

“These funding changes aim to provide financial and developmental support to artists, craftspeople, and arts organizations and foster the growth of the arts sector across the territory.”