City grants $335,000 to cultural groups, review of program proposed

Based on feedback, staff is suggesting a full review
of the cultural grants program.

The City’s Cultural Grants Program funded 18 of 23 applicants this year, contributing $335,000 to community arts programs in Barrie.
The total amount of grant requests from the 23 applicants for 2019 was $540,140, Amanda Dyke, cultural development officer, told city council in an update on the program which was launched in 2005.
The goal of fostering and supporting cultural growth in Barrie was identified in the cultural master plan, Culture, Building a Creative Future. It included the creation of a cultural grants program to “create a fair and equitable opportunity for all arts organizations, which serve the City of Barrie, to apply for grant funds that were designated as part of the City’s investment in the local culture sector,” writes Dyke.
The programs objectives included:
• To encourage creation and displays of arts and cultural expressions to enhance the quality of life for Barrie and area residents and tourists
• To increase the opportunity for funding to City of Barrie arts organizations and artists from other (non-municipal) sources such as corporate sponsors and federal and provincial government
• To raise artists’ and arts organizations’ awareness of the need for strategic planning, business planning, sustainability planning, sector analysis, understanding competition and more
• To encourage market and product development
• To identify and support sector champions
• Maximization of the City of Barrie’s return on investment in the culture sector. 
Operating grants provided totalled $308,000, while $27,000 went to project grants. Of the operating grants, $137,000 went to the MacLaren Art Centre, $62,000 to Talk Is Free Theatre, $35,000 to the Barrie Film Festival, $24,000 to Theatre By The Bay, $20,000 to the Huronia Symphony, $15,000 to Simcoe Contemporary Dancers, $5,000 to Kempenfelt Community Players, $5,000 to Ontario Musicians Cooperative, $4,000 to the Barrie Concert Band, and $1,000 to Word Up.
Of the project grants, $4,000 went to the Barrie Native Friendship Centre, $4,000 to Bravado Show Choir, $4,000 to Caring Kids Concerts, $4,000 to King Edward Choir, $3,000 to the Barrie Concert Band, $3,000 to Huronia Symphony, $2,000 to La Cle de la Baie, and $2,000 to Skyliners Youth Big Band.
“It is important to note that 82% of the 2019 funding goes towards five organizations who receive funding annually,” Dyke told council.
The program, she continues, “has been deemed a great success by many members of Barrie’s culture sector, due to its role in helping to build capacity in the arts.”
However, not all artists or organizations are happy with the program’s funding approach, she says.
“Specifically, in discussion with some cultural grant recipients, it was noted that despite showing year-over-year improvements in their applications and organizational performance/results (which included implementing improvements that were recommended by previous juries, driving increased growth in several areas of their organizations, or even deploying new types of community-focused programming), these recipients were not being rewarded by the jury with funding increases for their ongoing responsiveness and organizational improvements.”
Based on the feedback, staff is suggesting a full review of the program is required.
“In support of this recommendation, staff will be submitting an intake form as part of the 2020 budget and business planning process, to retain an independent, third party organization to conduct the review and community engagement. Recommendations from this process will be brought forward to Council for review and approval.”
The City saw significant return on investment for the $325,000 grant to cultural groups in 2018, says Dyke. Municipal support helped grant recipients receive additional funding from other levels of government, and private and corporate sponsorship.
In addition to the 2018 grant of $325,000, a further $795,526 was raised through other government sources, $3.8 million in earned revenue, and $211,338 in sponsorship revenue. 
“The total leveraged funding represents a 1,497% return on investment for the City of Barrie’s cultural grant funding, resulting in local job creation in the cultural sector, and directly supporting growth,” says Dyke.
“The funds raised by the organizations are primarily spent locally, generating further spin-off value for local businesses and creating local employment opportunities.”
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