Toronto Arts Council Year in Review 2020

 Photo of TAC Zoom Biweekly Staff Meeting Dec 9 2020. Picture by Claire Hopkinson
TAC Biweekly Staff Meeting Dec 9 2020. Picture by Claire Hopkinson

2020 began as many other years: Toronto, the artistic and cultural hub of Canada was teeming with energy – theatres brimming with audiences, live concert venues filled to capacity, and museums and galleries packed with visitors. 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.

2020: the year everything changed. 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 imaginations and talents to digital platforms and innovative street performances. They reached out to seniors in care and front-line workers and put a smile on their faces. They gave us company when we needed it most. They comforted us as anxiety overwhelmed us. 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.

More than a financial catastrophe, the entire sector has been faced with an existential threat to survival. Toronto Arts Council, recognizing that it was imperative to pivot as many in the community had, worked diligently to respond to the immediate needs of the arts community.

  • With performances cancelled, contracts were terminated and artists needed immediate financial support. Before the launch of CERB, in collaboration with Toronto Arts Foundation and City of Toronto, TAC introduced TOArtist COVID-19 Response Fund. Thanks to the generosity of donors responding to the Foundation’s fundraising campaign, and the efforts of staff who worked into the night, a total of $833,667 to 982 individuals was disbursed to applicants in record time, with the first payments to artists disbursed within 10 business days after opening the Fund in March.
  • Recognizing the monetary constraints on many organizations with fixed costs TAC accelerated grant payments to annual and multi-year funding recipients to help them avert a crisis. 
  • We maintained our funding to projects and individuals, knowing that artists would continue to explore, develop and disseminate new work in music, theatre, dance, literature, media, visual, community, and indigenous arts.
  • In doing so we hosted 68 days of adjudication and assessed 3626 applications. We recommend the largest number of grants in our history totalling $23,397,603, including TOArtist COVID-19 Response Fund.
  • We hosted numerous grant writing workshops over Zoom and Instagram, continuing to reach out to people and organizations who were new to us.
  • Understanding the critical need for timely information TAC issued regular e-bulletins and co-hosted multiple town hall style Digital Updates with Economic Development & Culture to provide updates on COVID-19 regulations and funding opportunities. A COVID-19 section currently resides on TAC’s website serving as a resource hub for TAC updates, health regulations, arts business tools, funding opportunities and art activations.

2020: Black Lives Matter. Stark examples of systemic racism and violence facing Black and Indigenous people shook us all to our core and called on us to do better. Toronto Arts Council determined to broaden and deepen its commitment to Equity and Inclusion.

  • Currently, Black artists who apply to TAC’s individual and project programs have slightly better success rates than Toronto’s demographics. It is clear, however, that new opportunities are needed to promote the potential of Black artists and arts workers.
  • A new TAC Black / African-diasporic arts grant program of at least $500,000 annually is being designed and will be launched in 2021. 
  • TAC conducted a consultation with the Black Arts communities. 162 survey respondents, plus 10 in-person consultations resulted in a report suggesting improvements to the outreach and granting process
  • A new staff position Outreach & Access Program Manager is starting in January 2021 to lead outreach efforts focused on the Black/African-diasporic arts communities and help design and implement the new grants program. 
  • To help support increased equity among all TAC’s operating clients the Equity implementation assessment score will be increased from 10% to 20% of the overall score.

Throughout this tumultuous year the support of City of Toronto staff, City Council and Mayor John Tory has been critical. I would like to sincerely thank them for all their hard work, and for their belief in the value of the arts to a healthy city. We appreciate their trust and investment in Toronto Arts Council. Our work, in support of the arts, would not be possible without it.

With all of the challenges the year has brought, it has shown that Toronto’s artists are persevering and forever creative. We are reminded of the importance of imagination, of standing together, and of building and supporting communities. We have reason to look forward to 2021, to recovery and rediscovery.

Thank you for all you do to make Toronto a safer, more equitable, more joyous and creative place to live. I hope you get to enjoy a restorative holiday break.

Warm wishes,

Claire Hopkinson, M.S.M.

Director & CEO, Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation

About Toronto Arts Council

Toronto Arts Council (TAC) is the City of Toronto’s funding body for artists and arts organizations. Since 1974, TAC has played a major role in the city’s cultural industries by supporting a very broad range of artistic activity. From the emerging artist to the most established, from celebrated institutions to arts that challenge convention, TAC is typically the first funder to offer support. Today, TAC grants lead to exhibitions, performances, readings and workshops seen annually by over 5 million people. Through its ongoing funding of over $23 million annually, TAC cultivates a rich engagement between artists and audiences. It is proud to reflect Toronto’s vibrancy through the diversity of the artists, arts communities and audiences that it serves. For more about Toronto Arts Council, visit

Contact Information

For information, please contact Susan Wright, Deputy Director:

416-392-6802 x 211 |

Toronto Arts Council’s offices will be closed from Dec 23 reopening Jan 4