I recently met with Kristian Clarke, the Executive Director at the Canadian Artists Representation/Le Front des Artistes Canadiens, Ontario about what the organization does, where its located within the Toronto and Canadian arts communities (what's it's role), how it's surviving and, of course, what kind of people work for the organization and if I could be one of those people in the near future.
CAR/FAC Ontario is an independent arts advocacy organization in that its mandate is separate from other arts organizations like the Ontario Arts Council (OAC), Toronto Arts Council (TAC) and Canada Council (CC) and its board and staff operate independently from these organizations as well. However, CAR/FAC is still integrated in to the same funding system, receiving support through the TAC and OAC (along with earning revenue from membership fees and publications), and its mothership, CAR/FAC National in Ottawa, does get a chunk of funding through the CC. It is an organization started out of the desire for artists to be able to live off of their art practice: to be paid commensurately for exhibiting their work and to also ensure that their work is protected (ie: they're not getting ripped off), right along with the artist-run centre movement in the 1960s where artists were looking for better representation in the gallery circuit. Solution: create your own that runs parallel.
Although CAR/FAC allocates certain projects to representatives in the field who meet with institutions and organizations actively advocating for artists' rights, it mostly operates as an organization that artists seek out on their own terms, when needed. Member artists are meant to employ the organization as a resource to learn more about professional development, obtain legal advice through courses/workshops (with a new OCAD course on professional development), self-promotion strategies and financial management. Without CAR/FAC, artists would be on their own without a unified professionalized support network or information service pertaining to how to survive as an artist, you know, like in the real world where money has to be made, work is exhibited and property (art) must be protected and preserved.
The one component of CAR/FAC with which I was already familiar, from both my gallery work and my independent curatorial work, was their artist-fee regulatory documents. These fee schedules are maintained by an affiliated CAR/FAC body called the Canadian Artists Representation Copyright Collective Inc. (CARCC), and although the fees increase by 3-5% annually, the minimum requirements are still surprising low--based on individual institutional funding, not much more can be accommodated in some cases I'm sure (I have also found that galleries will often pay far above the minimum anyway). In 2007, a 'Memorandum of Understanding' was signed by Canadian Art Museum Directors' Organization (CAMDO) and the Canadian Museums Association (CMA) so that the associated galleries and museums would promise to pay minimum fees as dictated by CAR/FAC's fee schedule. Even since 1975 there has been a legal agreement with Canada Council that applicants must adhere to CAR/FAC's fees for living artists as a stipulation of the receipt of the Program Assistance Grants to Public Art Galleries, making the volunteer agreement much more real. Certain larger arts institutions still do not comply with this volunteer agreement, because it's simply that: not legally binding and only for the moral betterment and respect of the arts community.
CAR/FAC is the shining example of an organization that artists needed to establish in order to obtain basic legal rights for the exhibition and dissemination of their work. Although this can be considered as another aspects of the increasing business side or commoditization of art, having to participate in the system, or create its own system in order to play along; it's also simply a survival response made to ensure that artists have recognizable and binding ownership over their production. Without CAR/FAC, no one would be sticking up for individual artists on a case-by-case basis or a larger scale. Great things have been achieved since the organization's inception in 1968: http://www.carfac.ca/about/carfac-history/ and the comunity continues to improve.
Talking with Kristian, he concluded that job opportunities at CAR/FAC are few and far between, and that their staff had indeed been significantly reduced in the past year, with only a couple full-time workers and the odd part-time and intern contributing alongside. Is this due to the "recession", causing a tough year? In fact he said "no way". The recession has shifted emphasis off of big business and the regular ways of generating revenue since they have now proven to fail. The arts and culture sector can be healthily placed within the tourism sector, and along with things like Nuit Blanche and the Toronto International Film Festival, sometimes it can also seem like there's no lack of funding or attention being paid to the culture sector in Toronto. Kristian believes that this shift in focus has been good for the arts community, now that we're perceived as an asset that can be invested in: something with measurable success and revenue, and not just a bottomless pit with no quantifiable pay-back?
The tide seems to move back and forth depending who I talk to on this matter of art funding- bountiful or depleted?