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Civic Impact

Ontario Arts Council takes on violence and harassment with a new fund

December 15 is the deadline to apply for arts funding to fight sexual violence and harassment in Ontario.

“Art in any form can be a really accessible way for people to connect, or relate, to the world,” says Loree Lawrence, Program Officer for the Ontario Arts Council. Lawrence heads up the Multi and Inter-Arts, Community-Engaged Arts and Community Arts Councils, which is currently offering up to $75,000 in grants to community- and arts-based organizations working on issues of sexual violence and harassment in Ontario. Administered on behalf of the Women’s Directorate as part of the Ontario government’s Never Okay action plan, the OAC’s Creative Engagement Fund to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment in Ontario take aim at a variety of issues facing Ontarians today.

“Basically, they want to raise public awareness about gender norms and healthy relationships, support survivors, strengthen laws, and improve safety,” Lawrence explains.

Lawrence anticipates a healthy amount of interest from the theatre and filmaking communities, but says that arts groups from all over the province are coming forward in advance of the December 15 deadline. “There are a lot of organizations across the province that are already working on these issues, and it’s a great opportunity for them to access a larger amount of funding and bring the work they’re already doing to a larger audience,” she says. The final products will often spark conversations in community spaces, film festivals, and on college and university campuses.

The fund has also earmarked 15% of their grants to Aboriginal organizations, which Lawrence says was prompted by the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. “This fund wants to be very specific about ensuring that 15% of the fund goes to shining light on the issues that Aboriginal women face in the province. Everyone is affected by sexual violence and harassment, men and women of all ages, but this is a critical issue.”

Lawrence encourages applicants to think not only about their finished projects, but also about the partnerships that will be created along the way. “Projects should be designed with consultation with the communities that are being engaged,” she stresses, citing the need for organizations to work closely with survivors when designing their projects. Over the next  three years, the OAC hopes to create a culture of intervention and interest. “It’s creating a storm of discussion about these issue,” she says.
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