Live Performances Rapidly Move Online

Edmonton Arts Council creates Digital Arts Fund to pay almost 100 artists who’ve shared their work with organizations digitally, thanks to ECF grant.

Rapid Fire Theatre (RFT) artists went from performing a variety of improv shows monthly to not being able to perform at all, after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within a span of 24 hours, RFT and other arts organizations were forced to close the curtains and shut the doors. Some companies in the arts sector began offering virtual content for their patrons. While this became a good way for artists to show their work, it often came with no compensation.

“For most companies, not having attendees has been difficult,” said CK Dhaliwal, General Manager at RFT. “What we were able to do very quickly was adapt to the online platforms available. Then we realized that to get the type of guests that we wanted, we needed to ensure that we had some sort of funding to pay them for their work.”

Edmonton Arts Council (EAC) began to work on a solution to pay artists for their work during the pandemic. EAC is a not-for-profit organization that supports and promotes the arts community in Edmonton.

“We created some partnership arrangements where we would supply the funds so that organizations could do some programming online,” said Stephen Williams, Director of Grants, Awards, and Support Programs at EAC.  “Most of those funds would land in the pockets of the artists that were doing the work.”

A $50,000 grant from Edmonton Community Foundation allowed EAC to start the Digital Arts Fund. The fund focuses on the digital dissemination of artistic work and will offer artists compensation.

EAC is working with partners including Latitude 53, Rapid Fire Theatre, and more to administer payments to artists who share their creative works online. So far, nearly 100 artists have been paid.

“We’re starting to think about what phase two of this looks like as we think about what the real impact of this can be beyond the immediate payment of artists,” Williams said. “The digital space is very full at the moment and our concern in some ways is how to ensure that the work is done really well and done in such a way that it follows our goals through the Connections and Exchanges plan that talks about economic security for artists as well.”

The funding means that organizations like RFT can continue performing in the digital space while being able to pay their artists.

“Thank you to ECF and EAC because we can still make content,” said Dhaliwal. “It’s a lot more difficult and the thing that’s great about these types of funds is the reach. Some people don’t see artists as an investment of Edmonton, but what I love about this kind of work is we can really boast the reach that we have.”

Learn more about ECF’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.