City of Kingston Arts Fund grants brought before council

July 15, 2023

Editor’s note; the station this journalist is affiliated with, CFRC 101.9FM , received a project grant of $15,000 from the City of Kingston Arts Fund program.

The recommendations for the 2023 City of Kingston Arts Fund have been approved by council, but not without concerns raised about this year’s allocation of funding. 

First established in 2007, The City of Kingston Arts Fund (CKAF) consists of both Operating Grants and Project Grants allocated each year by the Kingston Arts Council (KAC) to support local arts. Applications are reviewed and assessed each year by peer juries and decisions are made by the Kingston Arts Council and the city. This year’s grants consisted of a total of $619,345 to be distributed to successful applicants. 

The grant recipients and their respective amounts are as follows:

2023 Operating Grant Recipients

2023 Project Grant Recipients

Typically, CKAF grants are not returned, unclaimed or unspent. But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some projects had to be canceled or modified, resulting in grant funds being left unspent. This year, all of the money that was available has been allocated. While requests always exceed the amount of funding available, the amount that they were able to award through the program this time around has been closer to meeting requests than ever before.

The recommendation was brought forward for the approval of the city council at their meeting on Tuesday, July 11. While the funding decisions received the required majority approval from council, it was not unanimous.

Some council members had questions regarding the distribution of funds.

In response to the report submitted by the KAC, Counc. McLaren inquired, “...I noticed that the Agnes Etherington Arts Center and the Kingston Symphony Association are receiving the most amount of funds and yet also seem to be one of the two most financially well-endowed groups here. And I noticed that the H’art Centre, which is going through an existential crisis now as they're being forced to move, is also getting near the very bottom of the amount handed out here. So I'm wondering what the rationale is for the amounts given.”

The funding allocated to the H’art Centre, a not-for-profit organization which provides arts programming for adults with disabilities and those who are underserved in the arts, was a central topic of concern amongst council members.

Counc. Osanic referenced the lack of funding to the H’art Centre as she expressed her disapproval, stating, “I can't approve this tonight. I won't be approving it. Again, for H’art, you know, like they applied for, they only received one-third of operating grants of what they had asked for. And, you know, I hope next year when it comes back they will have received more. Rent is $4,000 per year. It's just so important for the inclusiveness of Kingston.” 

In response to these concerns, Colin Wiginton, Director of Arts & Culture Services, provided some context in regards to the decision-making process for the KAC. 

“It is based on a scoring system and it does take into account the quality of the applications,” said Wiginton, “There's a number of forces at play here also in terms of new people coming into the program and excuse me, the historical allocations that have been made.” 

It was also mentioned that the H’art Centre was entered into the program about four or five years ago as a new operating fund recipient, and that grant allocations can't alter more than about 20 percent from year to year. These are just some of the forces at play which led to the decisions made.

The KAC also anticipates changes in the coming years which will respond to these concerns. They will be undergoing a KCAF review in full this fall, and return to committee and council in summer 2024 with recommendations to inform budget planning for 2025. 

“We likely will not change the funding structure for 2024,” states Wiginton, “but will have an impact on 2025.”

The resulting vote from council was 7-4, with councilors Osanic, McLaren, Hassan, and Glenn opposed.

Story by Christena Lawrie, CFRC News, for the Local Journalism Initiative