TOARTIST COVID-19 Response Fund

Report on Fund - March 2021

On March 17, 2020 the Government of Ontario declared a state of public emergency to protect the public from COVID-19. Toronto’s 9-billion-dollar culture sector quickly complied with Toronto Public Health’s requirements to practise social distancing.

Immediately following the shutdown staff at Toronto Arts Council received calls and emails from artists who faced potentially devastating financial strains due to loss of income from cancelled events and performances. To provide emergency short-term relief to Toronto's artists, the Council redistributed funding towards a new program and called on Toronto Arts Foundation to contribute and raise additional funding from concerned citizens.

Within the first hour of launching the #TOArtsTogether fundraising campaign on March 26, individual donors gave over $10,000, and by the end of the campaign just over a month later, individual, corporation and foundations contributed over $386,000. With this incredible outpouring of support, and with utilizing additional reserve funds and the commitment from Toronto Arts Council, a total of $833,667 was distributed to 982 Toronto artists.

The news of the fund reached out far and wide, and engaged individual artists who had never applied to Toronto Arts Council in the past – in fact 86% of the recipients (843/982) had never received funding from Toronto Arts Council before.

As a touring musician whose dates have been summarily cancelled due to the current pandemic, receiving the response fund was and continues to be such a support. I am so grateful to the Foundation as well as the donors.

100% of all the funds donated went directly to artists.

Qualifying artists received up to $1,000 in non-taxable funding. Artists applied through a simplified online application portal with descriptions of the contracts cancelled and income lost. Funds were distributed quickly, with no restrictions on how the funds were used and no required reporting. The application portal remained open until it was determined that all the funds available were allocated – with the drop off of applications coinciding with the drop off in donations, and the announcement of government support of artists.

The majority of these artists (47%) were from the music industry – highlighting how these artists live in the gig economy with precarious incomes. A total of 461 music artists, consisting of instrumentalists, instructors, producers, composers, arrangers and songwriters collectively received $383,789.

I have lost all sources of income, including my production gig, two paid exhibitions and the sale of one of my largest paintings to date. So this fund couldn't come at a better time. Please take care and once again thank you and everyone there for your support during these critical times.

In addition to financial support, Toronto Arts Foundation provided opportunities for artists receiving funds to promote their art through social media, with a dedicated  Instagram campaign entitled #TOARTSTOGETHER profiling over 100 artists.

Although this Fund has now concluded and all funds have been dispersed, the Foundation continues to develop programs and work with partners to support artists including an expanded mentorship program, workshops for board members, and research on the impact of the pandemic on artists and arts organizations.