What is a theatre without artists in it?

When we fight for the survival of our artistic institutions, who are we fighting for?

Like so many of my colleagues, I am involved with many different artistic constituencies in Canada. I volunteer on boards, I interact with government and I strategize with colleagues. And I believe now is the time to sound the alarm.

When governments pledge emergency funding for organizations during this pandemic, it is never with the intention of making them whole. It’s to keep the lights on and the infrastructure preserved. As someone who helps to run an artistic institution, I value this support and I’m grateful for it. It’s necessary, and I have been impressed by the speed at which it was delivered. A speed, it’s important to point out, made possible by the fact that many (not all) organizations have an existing relationship with government.

The same thing can’t be said for my freelance colleagues. And it’s these professionals that I am deeply concerned about.

I am sensing, in some quarters, the belief that the support given to organizations will “trickle down” to freelance artists. For the most part, this is simply not true. While arts organizations feel a deep responsibility to their freelance colleagues, they have lost virtually all of their earned revenues and can’t maintain the same level of employment and engagement-even in new and imaginative roles.

At the same time, the urgency that governments felt in April is giving way to a different kind of focus. The “re-opening” mindset is evolving, but many of us are unable to meaningfully take part in it.

With the future of the CERB program in question, I am urging all my colleagues and friends to speak on this specific issue to your elected representatives. Explain these unique circumstances. Deflect the talking points and keep moving back to the issue. It isn’t complicated. It is urgent. I personally know hundreds of people who need a solution to this problem. You might too. Let’s speak clearly and passionately, now.