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Ontario Arts Council (OAC)
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Shoshana Wasser

Associate Director of Public Affairs and Communications
Toll-free in Ontario: 1-800-387-0058

Ontario Arts Council Backgrounder

For more than 60 years, the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) has provided vital support to the professional arts community in Ontario. Since 1963, OAC’s mandate has been to foster the creation and production of art for the benefit of all Ontarians.

The OAC is financed through an annual grant from the Ontario government’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. In 2022-23, OAC invested $55.9 million in 220 communities across Ontario through 2,269 grants to individual artists and 1,023 grants to organizations.

The OAC has a 12-member government-appointed board of directors that is responsible for oversight in OAC’s granting process, including policies and decision-making.

What types of programs does OAC offer?

  • Ontario’s professional writers, visual artists, musicians, composers, filmmakers, media artists, craftspeople, actors, dancers, and choreographers can apply for OAC project support.
  • Many of the province’s theatres, orchestras, dance troupes, public art galleries, artist-run visual and media arts centres, arts service organizations, opera companies and festivals look to OAC programs for either project or operating (ongoing) support.
  • The OAC also has programs for specific sectors and for particular arts activity – Indigenous Arts, Francophone Arts and Arts in Communities and Schools.
  • The OAC’s Touring and Circulation Projects program is designed to help bring the work of professional Ontario artists to communities throughout the province as well as to audiences across Canada and beyond.
  • Some programs have very specific goals. These include Skills and Career Development: Indigenous Arts Professionals and Arts Professionals of Colour; Northern Arts, which is solely for artists and arts groups in northern Ontario; and Deaf and Disability Arts Projects, a program to support Deaf artists, artists with disabilities and Deaf and disability arts organizations.
  • Prospective applicants can learn the basics of applying for an OAC grant on the “New to OAC?” web page.

Funding for Arts Organizations

  • Organizations applying for grants must:
    • be incorporated in Ontario or federally;
    • have a head office in Ontario;
    • be governed by a volunteer board of directors or an advisory board;
    • have a designated staff member responsible for the applicant’s arts programming; and
    • present/produce/publish professional Ontario artists, arts professionals and/or arts groups/ collectives and/or arts organizations.
  • Organizations may apply for a project grant for a specific one-time artistic activity.
  • Established organizations may apply for operating grants, which provide ongoing support towards operating expenses. Operating grant applications are assessed on four criteria: artistic and/or service quality (25%), contribution to artistic field and role within community (30%), contribution to OAC priority groups (25%) and administrative and financial viability (20%).

Funding for Individual Artists

  • Individuals applying for grants must:
    • be a professional artist or arts professional (definitions of these terms);
    • be a Canadian citizen or a Permanent Resident of Canada, or have an application pending for Permanent Resident status;
    • be a resident of Ontario who has lived in Ontario for a minimum of one year prior to making a grant application; and
    • live in Ontario no less than eight months a year.

How does OAC allocate grants?

Peer assessment is a fundamental principle for OAC, and the preferred method of assessment in agencies that support the arts, sciences and humanities around the world. Peer assessment ensures that applications are evaluated by artists and arts professionals with knowledge of and experience in the artistic practice being assessed. It also ensures that the decision-making process is transparent, accountable and at arm’s-length from government. Overall, OAC’s research shows that the number of successful grant applicants is proportionate to the number of applications from the various regions of the province and overall reflects the artist population.

Assessors are chosen from a large, diverse pool of individuals from arts communities all across Ontario. They are carefully screened and must comply with OAC’s conflict of interest policy, ensuring no decision is made where a direct conflict may exist. From year to year, assessment panels are composed of new assessors, although there may be one carry-over member for operating grants. The membership of an assessment panel reflects the diversity of the applicants applying for grants, as well as OAC’s priority groups.

There are three methods used to evaluate grant applications:
  1. Assessment by a jury (for applications from individual artists and for project funding);
  2. Assessment by an advisory panel of artists, arts administrators and non-arts professionals with experience and understanding of the arts in their communities (for annual operating grants for arts organizations);
  3. Assessment from third-party recommender programs (where OAC selects a partnering organization to act on OAC’s behalf and make recommendations for funding – there are three such programs at OAC, for theatre artists; visual, media and craft artists; and writers).

Access & Equity

The OAC is committed to ensuring that our programs and services are fully accessible for Deaf artists and artists with disabilities. Funding is available for applicants who need support to complete an application or who have additional accessibility expenses related to realizing a project. The OAC is also committed to ensuring equitable access for everyone, with particular emphasis on six priority groups and the organizations that serve them and the public – artists of colour, Deaf artists and artists with disabilities, Francophone artists, Indigenous artists, new generation artists (18-30 year olds) and artists living in regions outside Toronto.