An Open Letter Regarding OAC Policies and the Impact on Media Arts Organizations

Billyann Bal­ay
Direc­tor of Grant­ing Programs
Ontario Arts Council
151 Bloor St., W., 5th Floor
Toron­to, M5S 1T6
Feb­ru­ary 6, 2012

RE: An Open Let­ter Regard­ing OAC Poli­cies and the Impact on Media Arts

Dear Billyann,

I am writ­ing on behalf of the Media Arts Net­work of Ontario/Réseau des arts médiathiques de l’Ontario (MANO/RAMO), rep­re­sent­ing a diverse mem­ber­ship of media arts orga­ni­za­tions across the province.

This let­ter is to fol­low up on a num­ber of points that were made dur­ing a pro­duc­tive meet­ing MANO/RAMO Board and staff rep­re­sen­ta­tives had with OAC grant­ing offi­cers Mark Haslam (Media Arts) and Aen­gus Finnan (Tour­ing) on Feb­ru­ary 2, 2012. Dur­ing that meet­ing, MANO/RAMO brought atten­tion to key points of con­cern that were raised by our mem­ber­ship at our Novem­ber Annu­al Gen­eral Meet­ing. The key issues dis­cussed, and that we would like to bring to your atten­tion, include:

1) New pol­icy regard­ing Finan­cial Engag­ment for grants over $10,000:

The imple­men­ta­tion of this pol­icy is a great con­cern to a num­ber of our mem­bers who are receiv­ing oper­at­ing fund­ing of $20,000 or less. The cost of a finan­cial engage­ment com­prises more than 10% of their OAC grant amount and pos­es an unan­tic­i­pated finan­cial and admin­is­tra­tive bur­den for orga­ni­za­tions already
oper­at­ing at max­i­mum capac­ity with a staff com­po­nent of one or two indi­vid­u­als. The noti­fi­ca­tion and imple­men­ta­tion peri­od of this pol­icy change meant that these orga­ni­za­tions did not have the oppor­tu­nity to bud­get for the addi­tional cost incurred dur­ing their cur­rent fis­cal year. We request that the OAC con­sider revis­it­ing this pol­icy and its long‐term impli­ca­tions for orga­ni­za­tions. With the thresh­old set at $10,000, orga­ni­za­tions may find them­selves spend­ing more than 20% of their grant amount on account­ing. At the very least, we request that the OAC con­sider a one-year imple­men­ta­tion peri­od for this pol­icy, pro­vid­ing ade­quate oppor­tu­nity for orga­ni­za­tions to bud­get for the addi­tional cost.

2) Tour­ing Pro­gram Require­ments Lead to Reduced Appli­ca­tions from Media Arts

It has come to our atten­tion that a num­ber of our mem­ber orga­ni­za­tions are not apply­ing for tour­ing grants due to the pro­gram require­ments, which are not com­pat­i­ble with the chal­lenges of tak­ing media arts pro­gram­ming on tour. Hav­ing under­taken a media arts tour itself, the OAC has knowl­edge of the spe­cific audi­ence build­ing, edu­ca­tion and out­reach still required to cre­ate media arts aware­ness in all regions of the province, par­tic­u­larly those out­side urban cen­tres. The tour­ing require­ment for host/community orga­ni­za­tions to pay all artist fees, and the focus on box office sales, are par­tic­u­lar obsta­cles for orga­ni­za­tions work­ing with com­mu­ni­ties to pro­vide access to media arts pro­gram­ming. The dis­ci­plines includ­ed under the tour­ing umbrel­la are diverse and we sug­gest that one set of guide­lines may not meet the spe­cific needs of all orga­ni­za­tions. We request that the OAC revis­it this pol­icy and its impact on media arts orga­ni­za­tions and the tour­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties avail­able to them.

We would like to take this oppor­tu­nity to thank the OAC for its work in sup­port­ing the arts in Ontario and MANO/RAMO’s man­date to fos­ter a strength­ened media arts sec­tor in the province. We offer these rec­om­men­da­tions in the spir­it of col­lab­o­ra­tion and out of respect for our shared goals in fos­ter­ing a vibrant and respon­sive arts com­mu­nity in Ontario.


Ker­ry Swanson
Man­ag­ing Direc­tor, MANO/RAMO