Stage Door News

Ottawa: Ottawa festivals and arts organizations receive $1 million from province

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

More than a dozen Ottawa festivals and arts organizations were delighted to find out Tuesday that they will be getting a total of $1 million in extra provincial funding to help get through the pandemic. 

While the money had been allocated in last fall’s budget, the exact amounts came as a happy surprise for some, including the Ottawa Jazz Festival and the arts organization, Multicultural Arts for Schools and Communities (MASC).

“It’s a huge surprise,” said jazz festival director Catherine O’Grady upon learning of the $117,109 earmarked for her event. “We knew the allocation existed, but none of us had any idea how it was going to be deployed or when it was going to be available. This is wonderful news and we’re absolutely delighted. It’s going to help enormously.” 

Micheline Shoebridge, the co-executive director of MASC, was equally thrilled to hear about the extra $124,929 headed to her organization’s coffers. “Wow, that’s great,” she said, noting that more than 500 bookings were cancelled when the pandemic was declared last year. MASC coordinates a roster of more than 60 professional acts and books them to perform in schools, seniors’ residences and other community spaces. 

“Once we dealt with the logistics it takes to undo things, we turned our heads to creating a whole online program,” she said. The extra money is likely to be directed to putting artists to work, further supporting the transition to virtual performances and getting more programming into the community, she added. 

Across the province, a one-time investment of $24 million is being divided between 140 arts organizations and festivals that normally receive operating grants from the Ontario Arts Council. Another $1 million is earmarked for individual artists, with more information on their eligibility to be available soon at the OAC web site,

In announcing the funding, Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod, who is minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries, said it’s important to support the sector that was hit first, hit hardest and is likely to take the longest to recover from the impact of the pandemic. 

“The past 11 months, (arts organizations) have been shuttered. Some were able to provide performances virtually, while many others were not able to do so,” MacLeod said. “I’m committed to ensuring our artists, our creators, our dancers, our writers, our musicians, our painters, our visual artists have a fighting chance to be global leaders when this pandemic is over.”

The Great Canadian Theatre Company is the city’s biggest winner in this round of funding, with $191,830 to be allocated to the Wellington Street theatre group. Artistic director Eric Coates said it’s encouraging to see the government recognize the value of the arts and the impact of the pandemic on arts workers. The GCTC allocation will go towards paying bills and supporting local theatre artists in creating work that will be ready for the stage once it’s safe for the curtains to rise. 

“The thing that makes the most sense to us immediately is it’s going to allow us to really hit the ground running when the doors open,” Coates said. “We can make plans now to commit to local artists without any concerns about whether or not we can afford to support these individual projects. It’s a very gratefully received cushion that will help us keep the place solvent until we can start selling tickets in a real way.” 

RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest is on the list to receive $54,450, while CityFolk, which is run by the same team, will get $73,598. Director Mark Monahan said the funding will help keep the staff (equivalent to 15 full-time positions) in their jobs.

“The reality is that none of us have really had a regular event now for approximately a year and although there are some generous subsidies from the federal government, it still does not cover all of our costs,” Monahan said. “This will help us continue to pay staff, and to plan for the future.” 

At the moment, Monahan said he’s encouraged by the onset of vaccination programs, and feels it’s too early to pull the plug on the summer festivals. There are no plans for a drive-in event in 2021, he added. 

“We’re hoping there will be a return to some sort of live event space this summer and fall. How many people that is, we don’t know,” he said, promising a further announcement next week.

Meanwhile, jazzfest organizers are planning a small, socially distanced event, with two outdoor stages, one at Confederation Park and one at Festival Plaza, featuring a lineup of Canadian artists. 

“Whether we end up being able to do that or not is still a little unknown,” O’Grady said. “We’ve got everybody standing by, a full festival ready to take out of the box and set up, but we just need the permissions and guidelines to be ready to go.” 

Here’s the complete list of Ottawa organizations approved for OAC funding:

Aboriginal Experiences, Arts and Culture, $46,089

Canadian Film Institute, $26,674

CityFolk, $73,598

Great Canadian Theatre Company, $191,830

La Nouvelle Scène Gilles Desjardins, $103,068

Multicultural Arts for Schools & Communities (MASC), $124,929

Music and Beyond, $62,906

Ottawa Art Gallery/La Galerie d’art d’Ottawa, $119,929

Ottawa Chamber Music Society (Ottawa Chamberfest), $117,656

Ottawa Jazz Festival Inc., $117,109

RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest, $54,450

The School of Dance, $63,965

University of Ottawa Press | Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa, $15,962

Mouvement d’implication francophone d’Orléans, $15,518

By Lynn Saxberg for