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Ontario Arts Council (OAC)
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Ontario Arts Council COVID-19 Actions

The global COVID-19 pandemic is compelling organizations like OAC to focus on the essentials of what they do and to engage those strengths to make a difference. OAC supports the diversity and vitality of the arts in every corner of the province, ensuring the value of the arts to Ontario’s cultural life. In this time of great disruption and uncertainty for the arts sector, we are: 


to the artists and arts organizations we support. We understand the pressures they are experiencing right now and we will not add to those challenges.


with as much flexibility as possible, adjusting our policies, processes and programs to help the arts sector navigate the challenges they are facing.


and advocating for artists and arts organizations through this difficult time. We’re closely monitoring the impacts of the situation and exploring additional ways to sustain the sector.

Taking Action 

OAC’s immediate actions have been to offer as much flexibility as possible to grant recipients and applicants, and to give artists and arts organization time and space to evaluate their situation and adjust to change without having to worry about their funding.

Operating Grants

In 2020, program deadlines and peer assessment of operating grants were suspended for current operating grant recipients. We released 2020-21 operating grant payments earlier than usual, understanding the need for cash flow to sustain organizations. 

We recognize the difficulty of preparing and assessing operating grant applications while the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve. For 2021, all current operating grant recipients will submit a streamlined application that will be assessed by a panel of peers.

Project Programs

All March, April and May 2020 deadlines for project programs were extended by at least two weeks to give artists and arts professionals whose lives and work are impacted by COVID-19 extra time to develop their applications. We now prompt applicants to explain what contingency measures they may be thinking about should COVID-19 impact their project plans.

OAC’s $1.6M Arts Response Initiative was an investment in the diversity and vitality of the arts across Ontario. The one-time initiative supported individual artists, ad hoc groups and collectives, and arts organizations to carry out their activities in an environment of change. For more information, go to the Arts Response Initiative web page.

In 2021, OAC will be allocating an additional $1 million in funding to individual artists across Ontario on behalf of the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. The Ministry will be announcing details for the application process for individuals in the near future.

Project Grants

OAC will be flexible with grant recipients facing unanticipated changes related to COVID-19. We want to provide them with every opportunity to realize their objectives even if plans need to change. We will not ask for repayment of grants for which related expenses have been incurred, including any reasonable expenses related to changes and cancellations outside of their control.

Travel and In-Person Gatherings

Given the ongoing evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and changing public health guidelines for travel and public gatherings, the Touring Projects, Market Development Travel Assistance, Market Development Projects and Chalmers Arts Fellowships programs have been suspended for the current year. 

In order to support continued relationship building between artists and presenters during the suspension of OAC’s 2021 Touring and Market Development program deadlines, OAC has launched a temporary program: Artist-Presenter Collaboration Projects. It supports some of the activities that were previously funded through the suspended programs. 

Additional Supports

As part of the 2020 provincial budget, the government of Ontario has provided one-time funding to OAC operating grant recipients with total annual revenues of over $1 million. This funding aims to help these organizations cover losses incurred as a result of the pandemic so that they may remain solvent and prepare for a time when they can fully re-open their facilities, resume full programming and welcome back their visitors and audiences. OAC is administering this $24 million fund on behalf of the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries.
Eligible funding recipients were notified of the amount of their payment and other details on March 9, 2021. Funding amounts were determined based on a percentage of each organization’s previous Ontario Arts Council operating grant. Recipients will be asked to report on the results of this recovery support funding.

We are also communicating with the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries to share information about impacts on the arts sector, and to ensure the continued vitality of the arts in Ontario.

Mapping COVID-19 Impacts on Ontario’s Arts Sector

OAC has completed a mini-survey of OAC-funded organizations across all sectors to get a sense of the high-level impact figures in Ontario. This complements the more detailed work being done by sector-specific Arts Service Organizations (ASOs), which OAC is also following. Click here the read the survey's findings

Staying Connected

As we connect with applicants, OAC staff are collecting stories so that we can better support the needs of the arts community in the short and longer-term. Along the way, we are hearing many accounts of hardship, and also ones that inspire. While finding bright spots in this situation is challenging, the resilience and creativity of artists has become a vital source of connection and hope for individuals and communities across Ontario practicing physical distancing and isolation.
We will continue to listen and respond to concerns as the COVID-19 situation evolves, and we will do everything we can to protect the diversity and vitality of artists and arts organizations in order to ensure that they remain at the heart of our province’s cultural life.
While OAC’s office space has been closed since March 17, 2020, OAC staff members are working from home and we continue to be available during regular business hours. We recognize how important it is that we are available to answer questions and to help applicants and grant recipients navigate changes to our policies and programs in relation to their activities.