Kelly Langgard, Director & CEO, Toronto Arts Council and Celia Smith, TAC Board Chair
Budget chief and City Councillors:
Thank you very much for allowing us the opportunity to speak with you today.
January 17, 2023
Budget Chief and City Councillors:
Thank you very much for allowing us the opportunity to speak with you today. With your indulgence, Kelly Langgard, the next speaker on your list, is also here and we would like to combine our times if that is possible.
My name is Celia Smith and I am Chair of TAC’s Board of Directors, as well as, in my day job, CEO of Luminato.
First of all – I want to express our deep appreciation for all that the Mayor, Budget Committee and City Council are doing to assist our arts sector and our city as we revitalize following the pandemic. We know these are difficult times and we appreciate your support.
I am very proud to be Chair of TAC – an organization which has acted quickly and effectively throughout the pandemic and continues to offer support and solutions to our artists and arts organizations so they can continue to create impact across our city.
And, one of the great highlights of my role as Chair so far, has been to lead the search and selection of TAC’s new Director & CEO. Kelly Langgard, who is here with me today, is on her second week in the job. Kelly comes to us with more than 25 years of experience in public policy, cultural strategy, arts funding, and partnership development. She has held leadership positions at the Canada Council for the Arts and Ontario Arts Council as well as senior advisory roles with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and Global Affairs Canada. We are delighted she has joined us.
It is however, a challenging time for any incoming director. I want to draw your attention to 3 significant concerns:
We know from Stats Canada that the arts sector was among the very hardest hit by the pandemic. Still today, where other sectors have recovered, returning to pre-pandemic levels of prosperity, Toronto’s live performing arts continue to struggle. In 2022 the direct economic impact of Toronto’s performing arts was still 9% lower than it was in 2019. This of course has a cascading effect on Toronto’s economy, liveability and well-being and it is incumbent on all of us to reverse the decline and see our live arts scene thrive once again.
Our second challenge is to individual artists. Long before the pandemic we began raising the alarm that artists are barely able to afford to live and work in Toronto. What was a dire situation then has become catastrophic now. The digital economy has left many artists, musicians in particular, with few viable opportunities to earn a living. The pandemic has created extreme volatility in arts employment and, of course, the high cost of housing and transit affects artists as it does all low income Torontonians.
And, you won’t be surprised to hear that our sector’s third great challenge is affordable arts space in which to create, rehearse, perform and exhibit. Covid closures have exacerbated this long standing problem, and are leading to an exodus of artists because they have no place to develop their work and share it with the public.
Where does this leave us – and you, our civic leaders, as we finalize the City’s 2023 budget.
I am going to turn to Kelly.
Thank you Celia and thank you, Mayor Tory, Budget Chief and Councillors.
It is an enormous pleasure for me to be here before you today, speaking on behalf of Toronto’s artists and arts organizations.
Being new to my role, I’d like to share what drew me to TAC, why your arts council is so admired, and why it is deserving of the city’s ongoing and increased support.
I’ll also show a few slides that illustrate the amazing work that TAC supports and the impact we’ve been able to generate.
The largest number of artists in this country live and work in Toronto, which is also home to some of the most respected arts organizations in the world. As Toronto’s primary arts granting organization, TAC receives $25 million in public funding, of which over 92% is invested directly in artists and arts organizations. We do this efficiently, equitably, transparently, and with an expansive and inclusive vision to make the arts accessible to everyone in Toronto no matter where they live or what they do.
In 2021, our grants supported 397 individual artists and 534 arts organizations, and 330 of these grants went to artists and projects that were funded for the first time. Grants were awarded in every ward of the city.
Toronto Arts Council has been recognized in North America as a leader in equity and inclusion initiatives. Our equity framework was one of the first to meaningfully mandate equitable practices in grants assessment, governance and staffing.
As you can see from these next two slides – the results have been impressive. More than half of TAC project applications come from TAC equity priority groups and these applicants, who often face barriers to access, have also had a higher rate of success in accessing funds.
We are the only arts council in Canada to have a dedicated Black arts funding program. This program launched in 2021 and expanded our portfolio of targeted funds which also includes a newcomer & refugee program and an Indigenous artists program.
TAC has worked very hard to make sure every neighbourhood of the city benefits from our funding – block by block. In areas where there are fewer arts facilities, TAC has initiated partnerships with libraries, parks, historic sites, settlement agencies, health facilities and schools to create that access. This map, on our website, is updated in real time and shows TAC funded activities across the city.
TAC is also very well-loved by Toronto’s entire arts community, and this really speaks to the quality of TAC’s staff and volunteers – to their deep engagement and the love that they have for the arts in this city.
Given all this, it’s clear that TAC is well positioned to work with our City partners to address the challenges outlined so that we can ensure a vibrant future for the arts in Toronto.
Our Board, staff, volunteers and community partners are ready to work with you on an ambitious Culture Plan that can guide us through the next decade. This new plan must reflect an ambitious vision for the arts that includes specific and attainable targets, timelines, resources, and measures.
I’m pleased that much of my experience at both the Canada Council for the Arts and Ontario Arts Council has been around the development of plans, strategies, and frameworks. I’ve been delighted also to have built strong relationships with city colleagues at economic development and culture, and I look forward to deepening those relationships through this work.
For 2023, while there may not be funds available to increase TAC’s allocation, it is important that the development of the Culture Plan proceeds because our city depends on our artists and arts organizations. The arts have power – to inspire, to engage, and to attract investments in Toronto’s future. I am personally so inspired by Toronto’s arts scene, one of the best in the world, and it’s why I am so excited to take up this role and partner with the City at time of many challenges, but also tremendous opportunity.
I’d like to finish today with just one example demonstrating the value of arts funding in Toronto. Twenty years ago a young playwright from Rexdale, Trey Anthony, wrote “da Kink in my Hair”, a musical about a hair salon in the heart of Toronto’s Caribbean community. With sold out performances at the TAC-funded Fringe Festival and Theatre Passe Muraille, and then Mirvish Theatre, it was developed into Canada’s first television series created, written & produced by a Black Canadian artist. “da Kink in my Hair” has been presented on stages throughout North America and the UK, and has just had a triumphant remount at the St. Lawrence Centre, directed again by Weyni Mengesha, Artistic Director of Soulpepper Theatre and another internationally recognized leader in Toronto’s theatre scene.
The return on investment of something like this is incalculable – in financial terms, of course; but also in the hopes that have been inspired in young Black artists who have seen their stories told, the validation it gives to a neighbourhood and a community, and the attention it has brought to Toronto as a place with vibrant, diverse and welcoming communities.
A new, ambitious Culture Plan will bring many more stories like this one to life. Our artists have always been key to ensuring Toronto is an exciting global centre and in a post-pandemic world, they will be more important than ever.