February 2016

The members of the Visual Arts Alliance (VAA) met the morning February 18, in Ottawa, in advance of the annual National Arts Service Organization (NASO) meeting at the Canada Council for the Arts. In the last few months, the potential repercussions of the New Funding Model (NFM) announced in January 2015 by the Canada Council for the Arts have been the subject of much discussion. The VAA members salute Council’s objective to simplify the programs and allow for better access to artists and emerging groups, but many questions remain and Alliance members continue to press for more details. One of the ongoing, nagging question relates to the multi-year support so important for the long-term stability of organizations, and the pressure for new organizations to develop new business models that embrace project support. Even though VAA members are aware that the Council is still working out the details, members may disagree on whether or not the promise of frequent application deadlines and larger amounts of one-off project funding are a positive development or not. In response to questions submitted to CEO Simon Brault in advance by the NASO meeting planning committee, his vision for the future is unwavering: Arts service organizations will be expected to limit their role to the support of artistic practice and the promotion of art appreciation (rather than lobby Council for more funds!). Meanwhile, VAA members actively encouraged their members and the community at large to respond to Council’s survey launched to inform its new strategic plan for 2016-2021.

Alliance members are also interested in clarifying the Alliance’s relationship with Canadian Heritage, especially given the near absence of the visual and media arts and crafts from Heritage programs. The Alliance continues to press for an art market study as part of its long term research agenda, and shared desire to deepen our understanding of the visual arts, media arts and craft sector, and achieve funding parity with other disciplines. Recent announcements by the newly formed Standing committee on Heritage to undertake a study on small museums indicates a renewed interested in arts and culture by our government, which spells hope for the many individuals invested in supporting long neglected small museums. The initiative is a direct outcome of the Canadian Museums Day 2016 organized by the Canadian Museums Association (CMA).

The health and well-being of our sector is linked to the financial resources available to our community and the various agencies supporting it. This is why the Visual Arts Alliance is eagerly waiting for the federal budget and we trust that the new government will respect its engagement to increase the Canada Council’s parliamentary appropriation beginning this year.

Stay tuned for developments!


In the picture, from left to right: Clayton Windatt, Interim ED, ACC; Emmanuel Madan, ED, IMAA; Milly Ristvelt, RCA; Todd Janes, Chair, ARCA; Maegan Black, ED, CCF; Susan Took, Chair, Carfac National; Anne Bertrand, ED, ARCA; Marcia Lea, Interim ED, Carfac National; Lise Leblanc, ED, AGAVF; Moira McCaffrey, ED, CAMDO; Audrey Vermette, CMA. Absent from the picture: Peter Dykhuis, UCAGAC; Nicolle Nugent, Chair, CAGE; Liz Edwards, ED, ADAC; Christian Bédard, ED, RAAV.

Report from the Chair on 2014-2015 activities

In June 2014, Anne Bertrand, director of ARCA is appointed chair of the Visual Arts Alliance, after a year as co-chair with Lise Leblanc, director of AGAVF (and ARCA board member). Emmanuel Madan, director of IMAA was nominated co-chair in December 2014. Alliance members recognize the importance of being at the same table and have actively worked to move some agendas forward. The VAA has renewed Daniel Roy as secretary which greatly facilitates the work of the Alliance.

Every year, the VAA drafts and submits a brief to the standing committee on finance of the House of Commons, focusing on the visual arts while echoing some of the Canadian Arts Coalition messaging. There is also an ongoing commitment to participate in the planning of the annual NASO meeting; last fall’s meeting featured research initiatives (by NASOs, government agencies, and private foundations), providing a great overview of our colleagues and partners’ work, their challenges and solutions in development. It is following these presentations that we were able to connect with Lise Laneville, Director of Planning and Research, Arts Policy Branch, Heritage Canada and agree to meet to examine the Alliance’s research agenda.

The members of the Alliance are also committed to following through some of the recommendations formulated by Guy Bellavance in his literature review titled The Visual Arts in Canada: Synthesis and Critical Analysis in Research as it proposes a coherent plan to fill some of the research gaps identified in the report toward a more complete and integrated portrait of the visual arts sector. Progress has been made in that area following meetings with Lise Laneville, and her suggestion to form a visual & media arts and crafts sector-wide working group to include, VAA members, representatives from Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council’s visual arts and research sections and independent researchers, as part of a longer term monitoring of the sector.

The VAA held two teleconferences with Sylvie Gilbert, Head of Visual Arts at the Canada Council for the Arts, in relation to the sector-wide operating program consultation process and report, allowing for the sharing of information with members as well as discussions (and much speculation) among members about the upcoming changes at the CCA and how the report’s observations will inform the new model. Following the announcement of the new funding model, the VAA followed with a letter to Simon Brault requesting the draft model be submitted to the VAA in advance, allowing for some oversight. In his response, M. Brault is committed to presenting the programs to the arts community for comments and suggestions once this initial phase is completed, at the end of 2015.

About the consultation, some members took part in one of the 11 workshops held across the country in the fall of 2014. Members’ members were encouraged to respond to the online survey. Responses to the online survey were also prepared and submitted in the name of the Alliance, reiterating the desire to cooperate with Council, expressing also our expectations of leadership to better federate the sector.


Produced in 2012 by MASS MoCA, Oh, Canada, was presented in multiple venues across Atlantic Canada from June 26 – September 21, 2014, and moved to Calgary in January 2015. Photo: Anne Bertrand

CMA Executive Director Appointed to the Order of Canada

OTTAWA, Ontario, January 7, 2015 – John G. McAvity, Executive Director and CEO of the Canadian Museums Association (CMA) was appointed to the Order of Canada by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, for his contributions to preserving Canada’s cultural heritage.

A proud Saint John, NB native, McAvity has been the Executive Director of the CMA since 1981. He steered the association through the cycle of major cuts that impacted the Canadian museum landscape of the 90s. On hearing the news, he said: “I accept this honour on behalf of all museums and heritage institutions in Canada. To be recognized for something I love to do is such a wonderful honour.”

The members of the Visual Arts Alliance wish to congratulate John on this appointment.

VAA Meeting in Montreal, December 5th, 2014

The members of the Visual Arts Alliance met in Montreal on Friday December 5th, 2014, to discuss issues of concern to the visual arts, media arts and fine crafts sectors.

The meeting was held on the Artexte premises, located in the 2-22 building in the downtown area. We take this opportunity to thank Artexte for their welcome and, on the following page, to promote their rich collection of documents, accessible to all on location, or through e-artexte, their digital depository.

On the photograph we see Artexte Director Sarah Watson offering members of the Visual Arts Alliance a tour of the collection.

VAA Meeting in Ottawa, May 29th, 2014

Members of the Visual Arts Alliance (VAA) met in Ottawa on Thursday May 29th, 2014, to discuss issues of concern to the community of visual arts, media arts and fine crafts in Canada.

On the photograph, in the usual order, Daniel Roy (secretary), Audrey Vermette (CMA/AMC), Anne Bertrand (ARCA), Emmanuel Madan (IMAA/AAMI), Lise Leblanc (AGAVF), April Britski (CARFAC), Peter Dykhuis (UCAGAC/ACGAUC) and Milly Ristvedt (RCA/ARC). Many thanks to the CMA for its warm welcome!

VAA Meeting at RAAV, Montréal, December 13, 2013

The members of the Visual Arts Alliance (VAA) met on Friday, December 13, 2013, in Montreal. With the addition of two new members — the University and College Art Galleries Association (UCAGAC) and the Canadian Society for Education through Art (CSEA) —the Visual Arts Alliance now groups fourteen national arts service organizations in the visual and media arts, and in fine crafts. We welcome these two associations toward working for a better understanding and recognition of the arts in our society.

During this meeting, members of the Visual Arts Alliance had the pleasure to exchange with Sylvie Gilbert, Head of the Visual Arts Section at the Canada Council for the Arts. Ms. Gilbert informed us of issues at Council that are of interest to our membership, such as “Leading the Change Agenda”. The VAA members were able to express the concerns of the visual arts milieu around these issues, while offering their collaboration. It was the second meeting with Ms. Gilbert since her nomination last spring, and the VAA looks forward to an ongoing, mutually beneficial dialogue.

Also on the meeting agenda were discussions on a study we hope to initiate next spring on the art economy, in response to a series of meetings that took place in various cities on this topic in the last year and questions raised by Bellavance in a survey of recent research commissioned by the Alliance, and published in 2011. Since the Visual Arts Alliance wants to work toward a better recognition of the visual arts in the long term, we are also discussing an education campaign to raise the awareness of the visual arts in Canadian society.

This meeting also marked the end of the mandate of Maegen Black, Director of the Canadian Craft Federation as co-chair, who was warmly thanked for her involvement over the last year. Lise Leblanc, Director of the Association des groupes en arts visuels francophones, and Anne Bertrand, Director of the Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference, will share the responsibility for the coming year. The Alliance also wishes to thank Christian Bédard and the Regroupement des artistes en arts visuels du Québec, for hosting the meeting in Montreal.

In closing, the members of the Visual Arts Alliance wish you a peaceful holiday season and a happy new year.

VAA meeting at the Textile Museum, Toronto, June 14, 2013

The Visual Arts Alliance members met on June 14 at the Textile Museum, located in Toronto and started working on the shared research agenda by examining a preliminary proposal for an art market study submitted by the Research Committee.

Leading up to this, the VAA had organized a series of informal discussions about the Art Economy as a means to collect knowledge from those who have a stake in the visual arts sector’s economic development. Discussions have taken place in Calgary, Kingston and Toronto. The next research planning phase will pursue this further, as per one of the recommendations of the Bellavance report published in 2011. Bellavance recommended that the Alliance promote research in a number of under-examined areas including the art market “a multiplayer system in the era of globalization” [Chapter 4 – The Art Market, of The Visual Arts in Canada by Dr. Guy Bellance] [Read the entire report]). His recommendation reads as follows:

“Initiate the updating of information on private-sector involvement in the visual arts. This step consists of gathering available documentation on the main private stakeholders: art galleries, private collectors (individuals and corporations), private foundations and any other individual or organization involved on a private basis in the valuation of artworks or artists (through a prize, for instance, or some honorary distinction)…This step would in fact be a crucial first gesture towards a more involved study of the contemporary Canadian art market (as outlined in the second approach) by a prospective inter-university consortium.”(p. 133)

In parallel, Alliance members have reached out to the Canadian Public Arts Funders (CPAF) members requesting that they support the Alliance’s research agenda by identifying researchers in the various provinces and territories in order to establish a consortium that could underwrite such an Art Market study, as part of a larger examination of the sector’s economy, including harmonizing relevant data across provinces and territories.


The Visual Arts Alliance thanks the Textile Museum for hosting our day-long face-to-face meeting and, more specifically, art educator Susan Fohr for taking members in attendance on a guided tour of the museum and its collection.

The VAA is a consortium of national visual, media, and craft arts service organizations comprised of artists, curators, art museums, artist-run centres and art dealers, brought together by the Visual Arts Summit in November, 2007. The Alliance’s objective is for many voices to speak simultaneously with a common message around a collective agenda which includes communicating the sector’s needs with a united voice.

Alliance Member Updates

Like many other alliances, conferences, federations and associations, the Visual Arts Alliance (VAAAV) wishes to communicate its accomplishments as well as those of its members. The Alliance is made up of national service associations in the visual arts (NASOs) who, in advance of each meeting, produce and share a brief update to bring everyone up to speed. These insightful briefs allow us to identify shared concerns and better understand our respective missions and challenges. Informative and demystifying, posting them to the new VAAAV website is a first step in introducing the Alliance to anyone who has a stake in empowering the visual arts through greater synergy. The updates provide a quick overview of the field, in English and in French, with handy links to other online content for further reading.

Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts, 2013

On Tuesday March 12th, the Canada Council for the Arts announced the winners of the 2013 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts at the Cinémathèque québécoise in Montreal.

The winners are:

  • Marcel Barbeau, Painter and sculptor, Montreal
  • Rebecca Belmore, Visual artist, Winnipeg (featured photo : Martin Lipman)
  • William D. MacGillivray, Filmmaker and director, Rose Bay, N.SGordon
  • Monahan, Sound artist, composer and media artist, Meaford, Ont.
  • Greg Payce, Artist-potter (Saidye Bronfman Award), Calgary
  • Chantal Pontbriand, Exhibitions and events curator, art critic (Outstanding contribution), Montreal/Paris
  • Colette Whiten, Sculpture installation artist, Toronto/Haliburton, Ont.

For more information, visit the Canada Council for the arts website.

Of special note:

For the first time this year, Alliance member IMAA has partnered with the Canada Council for the Arts to create artist video portraits of the laureates. Media artists and media artist-run centres were matched with each recipient in order to produce short videos to resonate with the laureates and their work. The videos are available on the Canada Council for the arts website, and will be screened at the National Gallery of Canada in the context of the exhibition featuring this year’s laureates. The exhibition can be seen from March 22nd to June 23rd 2013.

The Visual Arts Alliance applauds this initiative as it provides a glimpse of the Governor General laureates and their work, as well as recognizing the value of the artists and artist-run organisations who produced the videos as artworks in and of themselves.

First of its kind “research map” charts the strengths and weaknesses in our understanding of the visual arts sector in Canada.

Ottawa, June 15, 2011 – The Visual Arts Alliance is pleased to announce the release of a new research study: “The Visual Arts in Canada: A Synthesis and Critical Analysis of Recent Research”.

Commissioned by the Visual Arts Alliance, the study was conducted by Professor Guy Bellavance of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Centre – Urbanisation Culture Société, Montréal. It documents over 550 Canadian studies and a further 315 studies done abroad, identifying the biggest shortcomings in the available research on the visual arts , and proposing strategies to fill those gaps.

Among the study’s important findings are that the value to Canadian culture of this sector is underestimated economically because of a lack of study of the arts education systems, that research is thin in many areas because universities give precedence to the study of art history over study of visual arts policies, that much more needs to be done on the provincial level to address regional specificity, and that of five sub-sectors studied, the most poorly understood is the art market – how art reaches its audiences.

The study was made possible by a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. The report and an executive summary are available in English and French, on the VAA website: www.visualartsvisuels.ca.

The Visual Arts Alliance is an umbrella organization of national visual, media, and craft arts service organizations that represent artists, art museums, artist-run centres, arts professionals and art dealers in Canada that came together during the Visual Arts Summit held in November, 2007.

More about the study and a link to the final report on our Resources page.