GNWT Boosts Arts Funding

A number of arts organizations in the territory will soon be able to tap into a newly established, and much-needed, pot of GNWT money.

The so-called Arts Organizations Operating Funding, totalling $450,000 and available for the first time this year, will be open to established arts organizations with budgets of over $30,000. The contributions (basically grants, but with more reporting requirements) should be quite significant; the minimum amount organizations can ask for is $15,000 and there’s no upper limit.  

“We don’t have a maximum amount, because then everyone just tries for the maximum,” says Eli Purchase, Arts Officer with the department of Education, Culture and Employment. “But if an organization wants to put in a large ask, they have to be able to justify it.”

The funding will be available to any arts and culture non-profit in the territory that can show at least several years of financial record keeping and a developed budget for the coming year. Unlike other NWT Arts Council grants which support individual events, projects or performers, this new money can be used for general operations, “covering rent on a buildings, salaries for a staff member, other things you wouldn’t have been able to apply for before,” says Boris Atamanenko, ECE’s Manager of Community Cultural Development.

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The announcement is good news for organizations hit by declining corporate funding over the past year or simply struggling with the financial woes that plague most arts non-profits.

“I think funding like this is pretty core to organizations, especially in the arts, and it’s certainly been a gap in the past,” says Ryan Fequet, president of Folk on the Rocks. “It’s often not the delivery of events that’s challenging, it’s the capacity; most of these organizations are volunteer-run and rely on limited staff.”  

“Certainly the staffing part is one of the biggest expenses… and having funding that supports the core operations is much needed and appreciated,” he adds.

For now, the funding will be made available on an annual basis, and organizations will have to apply each year based on their projected budget needs and performance record. That could change in the future though; as Atamanenko says, “we’re treating this as a pilot year.”

The first application deadline is March 31, and Atamanenko says at least half a dozen organizations have already expressed interest.


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