Skip to Content

Federal government could invest in innovation through visual artists

Ottawa, Thursday, March 4th, 2010 – Visual artists are encouraged to see that the 2010 federal budget will maintain support for the Canada Council for the Arts but are concerned about cuts to the Department of Canadian Heritage. Given the ability of the cultural sector to attract talent and investment at a low cost, the cultural industries should be an important part of the federal government’s plan to foster innovation and economic growth going forward.

According to a 2008 report from the Conference Board of Canada, “Arts and culture industries are magnets for talent.” Current economic theories suggest that advanced industrial nations are transforming to knowledge-based and creative economies. Economic success depends on the capacity to generate innovated business models and increase productivity. Creativity is the source of innovation.

“Investing in the Canada Council for the Arts is a good way for government to maximize the impact of their investments,” said April Britski, Executive Director of the national association of visual artists (CARFAC). “Creating jobs in the culture sector is nearly ten times cheaper than some sectors they are focussing investment on. It’s also interesting to see a focus on giving Canadians access to foreign markets only a year and a half after cancelling programs that did just that for the arts.”

CARFAC made the following recommendations to the House of Commons Finance Committee. Download the full budget submission.

Bring the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts to $300 million

Increasing the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts would allow them to increase funding to individual artists. There is a capacity for artists to create value that is being wasted because the level of investment is too low. Every year there are projects put forward by visual artists that are highly recommended by Canada Council juries that are turned away because of a lack of funds. Increasing the level of investment would allow the Canada Council to support high quality projects that are currently being turned away.

Allow artists to pay tax based on their average income over five years

The income of a self-employed visual artist can fluctuate widely from year-to-year. Exhibition and sale opportunities often occur in clusters as artists complete a project or series of works and it generates interest. A good sales year can be followed by several years of little to no income as the artist works on new projects.

Artists are, therefore, at a tax disadvantage – paying tax at a higher rate in a good year, even though that income will support them in following years. Allowing artists to pay tax based on the average income they bring in over several years would rectify this unfairness and help to ease the financial pressure on visual artists.

Assign a zero tax rate to income from grants and awards

Many artists’ incomes are supplemented by grants from municipal and provincial arts councils, in addition to federal funding bodies such as the Canada Council for the Arts. Receiving a grant is a mark of success and demonstrates that an artists’ work is valuable and successful.

Grant and awards are currently subject to tax deductions. In most cases, the amounts awarded are already minimal, and any deduction makes a big difference. If grants and awards were not subject to tax, it is money that would otherwise be invested back into the artist’s work.

CARFAC (The Canadian Artists’ Representation/le Front des artists canadiens) is the national association of Canada’s professional visual and media artists. CARFAC defends artists’ rights through advocacy and professional development and produces a schedule of artists’ fees that is widely recognized as the national standard. The Status of the Artist Act empowers CARFAC to negotiate with national organizations on behalf of all visual artists in Canada.


For more information contact:

Melissa Gruber
Communications Coordinator
CARFAC National

For media inquiries outside business hours call: 613-791-6411