THE SCOOP | Canadian Opera Company And TSO Get Funding Slashed Over Diversity Concerns

By Michael Vincent on May 25, 2018

Toronto City Hall council chamber. (Photo courtesy of City of Toronto)
Toronto City Hall council chamber. (Photo courtesy of City of Toronto)

As first reported by Signal Toronto, an independent outlet that focuses on covering Toronto City Hall, Toronto City Council has clawed back funding expected by the Canadian Opera Company (COC) and Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) for the 2018-19 season.

The city has cut $100,000 from the COC’s proposed $1.6 million grant, and $50,000 from the TSO’s $1.27 million grant. The money represents a significant financial blow to each of the organization’s bottom lines.

Norm Kelly, a board member of the TSO and city Councillor, described the cuts as a “wake-up slap,” to those arts groups who might otherwise take city diversity guidelines lightly.

According to Mike Williams, General Manager of Economic Development and Culture, the funding adjustment was made on the recommendations of a four-member committee who had serious concerns surrounding the COC’s and TSO’s diversity, as well as issues surrounding board stability, and a declining in the perceived impact they had on Toronto’s cultural life.

Ludwig Van first made mention of concerns towards the diversity of Toronto’s big six arts organizations this past December, when we found that board memberships were generally white, and in some cases, mostly male.

Diversity requirements have become an increasingly important feature for granting programs that look for assurances that applicants audiences, staff, board membership all reflect the demographics of the city.

“We’re looking for evidence that they’re trying to reflect the city’s demographics,” Williams said in a statement to Signal Toronto. Otherwise, they are in danger of not accurately representing the cultural fabric of the city, which now sits at the top of global urban diversity rankings.

In 2017, The Canada Council for the Arts implemented new diversity assessment guidelines which were no longer seen as best-practice, but a major factor in determining how much money an organization receives. The diversity criteria not only extends to staff and governance but also a commitment by arts organizations towards diversifying audiences.

Michael Vincent
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