Buenos Aires Times

culture INTERVIEW WITH SIMON BRAULT, DIRECTOR AND CEO OF THE CANADA COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS

‘We think Canada and Argentina complement each other well’

The Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) is the North American country’s primary funder of art and artistic institutions, and is one of the strongest arts councils in the world.

Saturday 23 February, 2019
Simon Brault, President and CEO of the Canadian Council for the Arts, speaking at the Centro Cultural de Kirchner on Monday.
Simon Brault, President and CEO of the Canadian Council for the Arts, speaking at the Centro Cultural de Kirchner on Monday. Foto:ANNA LAFFREY

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Simon Brault began his term as director and CEO of the organisation in 2014, after 10 years as the vice-chair of the council’s board of directors. He visited Buenos Aires this week with fellow CCA staff in tow, attending a host of meetings with cultural experts in Argentina.

The CCA did not sign any specific treaties with Argentina this week, Brault told the Times, though he indicated the Council could soon begin funding projects proposed by Canadian artists working with Argentine partners.

He sat down with the Times between meetings to discuss Canada’s cultural landscape and the CCA’s vision of future relations with Argentina.

How is the Canada Council for the Arts growing, and what are you focused on right now?

The Canada Council is the only arts council now in the world enjoying major, major re-investment from our government. Between 2016 and 2021, the government will have doubled out budget. By 2021, we will have a budget of onethird of a billion dollars every year to give support: 50 percent to support individual artists and projects, 50 percent to support ongoing operations of theatre companies, opera companies, and similar groups.

What we are now really focusing on with new money and attention is youth. We have committed that 25 percent of the new money will go to firsttime recipients.

Why is the CCA participating in Canada’s cultural trade mission to Argentina?

We believe that it’s very important to support Canadian artists [in order for them] to have more access to the world stage, and also to have more reciprocity in exchanges with other countries. The CCA serves the traditional role of a major public arts funder, but we also believe that cultural diplomacy is really important. Culture needs to be an essential dimension of the exchanges we do in any country.

What does the CCA look for in the projects that it supports?

We have a set procedure for our projects. Most of the time a project, it needs to be initiated by a Canadian partner, artist or company that applies to the Canada Council.

The decision of whether or not to fund each project is made by body of peers on a jury. It’s about the artistic merit of the project and also the possible impact of the project in terms of long-term development.

What artistic resources in Argentina have you identified that could be leveraged by Canadian partners in collaborative work?

In Argentina, we’ve seen a huge interest for theatre, for dance, for most all artforms.

We know there are very strong traditions in terms of music, and it’s one of the countries with the highest readership. We know there’s a lot of potential for exchanges and export, and we think the two countries complement each other well.

We think there is a lot of territory to cover here, and the pot e n t i a l g rows a s w e v i s i t more, as Valerie Creighton, President and CEO of the Canada Media Fund, signs a co-production treaty with National Institute for Film and Audiovisual Arts President Ralph Haiek at the reception Monday. ANNA LAFFREY we exchange more, and as people hear about how Argentina is becoming more open to the world.

How can new funding for cultural projects promote commerce for Argentina and for Canada?

What I see as our role, as my role, is to make sure that we nurture the fundamental ecosystem of arts creation, artists and the creation and sharing of arts. If we don’t do that, cultural industries don’t have what they need to have a vibrant commerce success.

If there is no artist, there is no culture, and there is no industry. It’s our role to make sure we train and challenge and push and support artists. Some of them will work for commercial industries, some of them will not.

Every country in the world has aggressive strategies to export their cultural products. What makes the difference is the authenticity, the originality of the work, the quality of the work. That comes from the artists themselves.

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