Bill S-234

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Canada needs a Visual Artist Laureate

The visual arts community is concerned that  Bill S-234, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Visual Artist Laureate), died on the Order Paper in the House of Commons in November.

The bill intended to create a two-year position of a parliamentary Visual Artist Laureate, similar to the Poet Laureate position. The purpose of the position is to “promote the arts in Canada, through Parliament, including by fostering knowledge, enjoyment, awareness and development of the arts…[through] drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, photography, videography and filmmaking.”

It was proposed that a Visual Artist Laureate would be appointed through a competitive process by both the House and Senate speakers, from a list of three artists recommended by a committee chaired by the Parliamentary Librarian, and composed by the Director of the National Gallery of Canada, the Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada, the Chairperson of the Canada Council for the Arts, and the President of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, or their designates.

The Poet Laureate position was created in 2001, and in 2015 visual artist Peter Gough began to question why there wasn’t a comparable position for visual artists. “Artist contribute so much to the spirit of this country and therefore should have a platform for articulating the issues that face our country and all Canadian,” he said.

Mr. Gough worked with Senator Wilfred Moore to introduce a bill to the Senate, and Senator Patricia Bovey became the bill’s sponsor when Sen. Moore retired. “Creating this position will demonstrate Parliament’s leadership in underlining the importance of the arts and the significant contributions they make to Canada’s overall economy. We as parliamentarians obviously have a strong societal responsibility, so too do artists,” Bovey said.

The bill was passed in the Senate last May, but it did not secure a sponsor in the House of Commons. MP Dan Vandal intended to be the sponsor, but he was unable to do this after becoming parliamentary secretary. Before a sponsor could be confirmed, MP Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet proposed a unanimous consent motion to pass the bill at all stages, in an effort to fast-track what she believed to be an uncontroversial bill. Unfortunately, the bill did not reach unanimous consent, and the whole approval process must now start over again.

Members of the Visual Arts Alliance, a consortium of national visual, media, and craft arts service organizations comprised of artists, curators, art museums, artist-run centres, and art dealers, are deeply disappointed by this latest development. The visual and media arts contribute to the public understanding of our national culture and heritage, and the creation of this position would put us on an equal footing with our colleagues in the literary arts. Toronto and Victoria have municipal visual artist laureates, and the federal government could similarly take the opportunity to spotlight Canada’s finest professional artists through this appointment.

 We are hopeful that there still remains the collective will to enact meaningful change in this regard; as indeed, this initiative would benefit the lives of many Canadians, and we urge the government to implement this action as soon as is functionally convenient.

Meeting in Ottawa on February 3rd, 2017

As part of their ongoing discussions, the members of the Visual Arts Alliance (VAA) met in Ottawa on February 3rd, 2017.

Two main issues have been keeping the VAA members busy over the last few months. One of them is the creation and implementation of the New Funding Model (NFM) by the Canada Council for the Arts. The VAA has been following closely the rollout of the NFM, first to ensure that the interests of the visual arts, media arts and contemporary crafts milieus will be well-served by the new programs and, second, to provide input into the development of this funding model. The VAA members have been meeting regularly with officers and directors at the Council, asking many questions and raising awareness on points of concern for our community. The New Funding Model is now being implemented and the VAA continues to ask questions and clarify various measures on behalf of its members. As the implementation of the NFM continues over the next few years and its effects start to become apparent, the VAA intends to maintain its vigilance to make sure the best interests of the visual arts, media arts and contemporary crafts are preserved.

The other focus of members of the VAA is an upcoming survey from the Department of Canadian Heritage. Over the last few years, the VAA has initiated discussions with Heritage to raise the profile of visual arts at large within the Department, notably by following up on the study conducted in 2011 by INRS’ Professor Guy Bellavance, The Visual Arts in Canada: A Synthesis and Critical Analysis of Recent Research. One of the main recommendations of this study was that “the art economy or market should be the priority for future research”, as it is essential to understand how the whole system contributes to the visual arts economy. The Visual Arts Alliance is proud to announce that it has succeeded in convincing Canadian Heritage to undertake a survey on the art market in Canada, that will be launched in the coming months. Members of the VAA have been working in consultation with officers at Heritage to make sure the survey covers the needs of the community, is well adapted to its target respondents and is relevant to its stakeholders. We will keep you posted for developments before the summer.

Photo taken in the CMA office in Ottawa, during the February 3rd meeting. Front row, from left to right: Marcia Lea, CARFAC; Anne Bertrand, ARCA; Milly Ristvedt, RCA; Audrey Vermette, CMA. Back row: Elizabeth Edwards, ADAC; Christine Blais, AGAC; Moira McCaffrey, CAMDO; Emmanuel Madan, IMAA; Lise Leblanc, AGAVF; Bernard Guérin, RAAV; Daniel Roy, VAA Secretary.

Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts 2017







The Visual Arts Alliance wishes to congratulate the winners of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts 2017:


  • Michelle Cournoyer, Filmmaker/animator
  • Mike Hollboom, Filmmaker
  • Shelagh Keeley, Visual artist
  • Glenn Lewis, Visual artist
  • Landon Mackenzie, Visual artist
  • Philip Monk, Curator & writer
  • Shelley Niro, Visual artist
  • Pamela Ritchie, Jewellery artist, Saidye Bronfman Award


To learn more about this year winners and their work, please visit the Canada Council for the Arts website.

April 2016

The members of the Visual Arts Alliance (VAA) met by teleconference on April 5th. They applauded the recent announcement to increase the Canada Council for the Arts’ parliamentary appropriation by $40M for the 2016-2017 year, and subsequent annual increases to reach a total of $360M by 2021. This increase is a most welcome investment in the arts in Canada. The Canada Council will distribute the new funds according the 2016-2021 strategic plan which will be announced in the third week of April.
The Visual Arts Alliance has reiterated its interest in the working group established last spring with the Research and Planning section of the Arts Policy branch at the Department of Canadian Heritage, to examine the following four points:
– Dissemination of the visual and media arts and contemporary craft by encouraging the expansion of the notion of ‘dissemination’ to include not only performing arts such as music, theatre and dance but also exhibitions and performance art and the growing need for cultural mediation, or art education;
– Translation/interpretation for individual artists, art publishers and organizations into both official languages, and Aboriginal and sign languages where applicable.
– Documentation and historical archiving of both material and intangible art forms as well as the preservation of institutional memory as part of Canadian Heritage;
– Acquisition and conservation of art works, both material, digital and intangible.

The Alliance is confident that the recently announced House of Commons Heritage committee survey of community and small museums will address some of the above concerns. The Alliance is also hoping the Department of Canadian Heritage will take this opportunity to better represent the visual and media arts and craft in its programs, for the benefit of the Canadian public at large.

In the coming months, a calendar listing the Visual Arts Alliance members’ main activities for the upcoming 150th anniversary will be posted on the website. Stay tuned for developments!

Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts 2016

The Visual Arts Alliance wishes to congratulate the winners of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts 2016:

To learn more about this year winners and their work, please visit the Canada Council for the Arts website.

Photo: Edward Burtynsky, Colorado River Delta #2, Near San Filipe, Baja, Mexico, 2011, chromogenic print, 1.52 m x 2.03 m, on loan to the US Embassy in Ottawa. ©Edward Burtynsky

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!