Two years of COVID - what we have done and what we plan to do

After two years of pandemic hardships, Toronto Arts Foundation is committed to ensuring that our artists and arts organizations are well prepared for any future uncertainties that may come. With a generous lead donation of $1 million from the Hal Jackman Foundation, we launched our Resiliency Fund to support Toronto artists and arts workers. The announcement was soon followed by a matching $1 million donation by The Slaight Family Foundation. As we look forward to organizing a donation campaign for our Resiliency Fund to address the immense financial losses to artists and arts organizations due to forced closures, we look back at some of the programs and initiatives that Toronto Arts Foundation launched in the past two years in response to the pandemic. 

At the beginning of the pandemic when all arts venues were mandated to shut down and hundreds of artists lost valuable contracts, we launched the TOArtist COVID-19 Response Fund for artists left out of work. Through the Response Fund, thanks to the support of hundreds of people, we were able to distribute $836,347 to 982 Toronto artists. It was especially heartwarming to see generous donations pouring in from fellow artists. One such donor was Joey Gollish, founder of the luxury brand Mr. Saturday. Speaking with Toronto Arts Foundation, Gollish said, “I wouldn’t be where I am if members of my community hadn’t taken their time and resources to give back to us …. I wanted to support people who were where I was six months, or a year ago.” 

Like many other organizations we too pivoted to re-imagine our existing programs and create new ones to address the specific needs of the arts community arising from the pandemic. In 2020 we launched our Mentor in Residence program, designed to provide one-on-one free mentorship to artists, helping them re-imagine and re-plan their artistic practices and performances. Over the past two years, our Mentor in Residence has helped161 artists. We are delighted to see the success of the program as well its growth into several new areas including Black Arts Projects Mentorship in partnership with Toronto Arts Council. 

This is what one of the mentees of the program had to say: 

“[My mentor] allowed me to ask her questions and she walked me through a process of finding answers myself, she literally mentored me to be a mentor. After every meeting she will share her own resources with me so that I can benefit from them too. It has been a privilege knowing her and learning from her.”

While it seems that the worst of the pandemic is over, it is clear that the arts sector is still feeling the effects of the pandemic. We want to ensure that our artists and arts organizations are prepared for other unforeseen circumstances that may come in the future. With help in part through our Resiliency Fund, Toronto arts organizations and artists have the resources to face some of these challenges.