Deputation - Claire Hopkinson, Director & CEO, Toronto Arts Council

Deputation before Toronto Budget Committee, January 25, 2021

Mayor Tory, Budget Chief Gary Crawford and Councillors:

Thank you for taking the time to hear from me and from so many Torontonians today.

Thank you for your vision and support that has led to this recommended budget maintaining 2020 funding levels for Toronto Arts Council.

These are extraordinary times. Many sectors are suffering. While it may have been tempting for the City to address some of its massive budget pressures with reductions to arts funding – it is a sign of your leadership and vision for Toronto - that critical funding for the sector hit the hardest, is being maintained. Thank you.

Toronto has weathered huge hardships over the past year and we continue to face hard times for months to come.

When COVID-19 struck, life came to a screeching halt. The city’s creative sector shut down overnight, social connections were ruptured, and we felt the fear as lives were lost across the globe.

It is in these darkest of times that humanity can exhibit its best, and so it was with our artists. They learned new technologies and harnessed their talents to digital platforms and innovative street performances. They reached out to seniors in care and front-line workers. They gave us company when we needed it most. Their art reminded us that better times will come again, and that joy can come in unexpected places. I know that I am personally grateful for the unprecedented efforts from this remarkable community.

At this time, we all owe our artists a thank you and our continued commitment of support.

But it is not just artists who have stepped up in these times.

Private citizens – I want to recognize the tremendous contribution made by so many individual Torontonians who have collectively contributed over $1 million in support of Toronto’s arts community. Whether it was the response to our first call for support for the TAC Artist COVID-19 Response Fund, which allowed us to send vital emergency relieve to 982 artists last April, or the $1 million contribution from the Hal Jackman Foundation to support mid-size arts organizations, or the hundreds of individual and corporate donors who attended our online Mayor’s Evening for the Arts – Torontonians have understood the unique plight of the artist in these times.

Board members and volunteers – the behind the scenes leadership that is vital to the health of our arts sector became even more critical this year as our organizations faced existential crises. I want to especially acknowledge the work of Toronto Arts Council’s own board of directors – including you Budget Chief Crawford, who rose to the occasion many times this past year – helping us pivot, approving

program changes and assisting in communicating solutions to our artists. Of particular note is our Board’s speedy response to added measures regarding Equity and the support for dedicated programs, consultations and outreach to the Black arts community..

I very much want to recognize the role played by City staff – our colleagues who have supported us in pushing ahead with essential work – whether it was the leadership in Ec Dev who met with us frequently, who co-hosted so many digital town halls with us, our colleagues and program partners in Parks, Libraries and Community services, and City staff who put in extra hours helping us process the unprecedented number of requests to the COVID response fund – it was all incredibly important.

Finally, a most sincere thank you to City Councillors and the Mayor’s Office, all of you who have helped steer this city through the pandemic. The entire city should be immensely grateful for your tireless efforts.

As we move into 2021 and the essential work of recovery and reopening, we look to the role that will be played by the city’s artists and arts organizations as vital to Toronto’s resurgence. Who better to engage our public, to encourage exploration, to invite participation than our artists?

I believe Celia Smith, TAC Board member and Luminato CEO, who is speaking next will talk a bit more about what is to come.

Thank you again.