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The Arts Grant Landscape of Rural British Columbia

By Marya Folinsbee      (

Being a working artist outside of Canada’s major urban centres – in small towns, rural communities, and remote areas – requires a particular kind of hustle, an eye for unique potential, and… a lot of grant writing (I know, I know…). Let’s get into the hustle for artists who live and work beyond the Victoria and Vancouver areas, in the many unceded territories West of the Rocky Mountains, known colonially as British Columbia.

Starting at the top, the provincial Mommy of arts funding is the BC Arts Council, the disseminator of provincial government arts funding. They support a broad range of disciplines, available for arts organizations, companies, community groups, and individual artists. Priorities, deadlines and specific grant availability varies by year and discipline, so regular visits to their grant directory are worthwhile.  Confirming your eligibility is also important – the BC Arts Council has high standards for who qualifies as a professional artist. Their grants can be labour-intensive and highly competitive, so review and start them early for best chances, and seek out the support of their grant officers – their job is to help you be successful!

Beyond the BC Arts Council, there are networks of regional and local arts councils who distribute local funding for artists in their communities. These grants tend to be smaller and provide an accessible entry point for artists at the beginning of their careers who need to gain experience. It’s well-worth becoming a member of your local or regional arts council – connecting you not only to grants, but also call-outs, events, professional development and other opportunities. There are too many local councils to list here, but a quick search will put you in touch with your local or regional council.

If you live in the beautiful Columbia-Kootenay area, you may be eligible for grants from the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance, the arts and culture branch of the abundant Columbia Basin Trust. CKCA grant funding usually becomes available in January, with deadlines in March, and has grants available both for individual artists and arts organizations working in the Columbia Basin region.

For artists who want to work in schools, Artstarts is a fantastic organization providing funding specifically to get artists working in schools in BC. For these grants, you need to find a teacher or administrator to collaborate with, and design a project bringing your practice into their school. Artstarts also delivers some great professional development for artists wanting to work in schools, a Directory for people to find artists to work with, and an annual Showcase.

If you’re on the Coast, Creative Coast is a collaboration of arts councils and organizations across BC’s coastal and island regions, focused on the power of collective resources and action for artistic fantasticness!

Although they don’t offer grants themselves, the BC Alliance for Arts & Culture is a service organization to connect and serve BC artists. They have a job directory, provide group insurance, and an abundance of resources for BC-based creatives. They also facilitate BC Culture Days, part of a Canada-wide arts and culture initiative that describes itself as “Canada’s largest public participation campaign for the arts”.

Creative BC is an “an independent society created and supported by the provincial government to sustain and help grow British Columbia’s creative industries”, and has funds and resources geared towards film and television, publishing, music and audio creation, and interactive and digital media.

Musicians should check out Music BC, Amplify BC, and the BC Touring Council – whether they offer grants themselves, or connect you with funding for music projects and tours, they are excellent sources of information and support for folks who want to go on the road or record a new album.

Finally, collaboration, patience, and self-worth are key! The projects that are successful at attracting funding are often looking long term, with lots of evidence of community support. Reach out to the people and places you hope to work with well in advance and prepare to come up with creative exchanges – ways that all parties can benefit from a potential project. Grantors want to see abundant community support and ripple effects from your projects. They also want artists to be well paid! Create a budget that is realistic, and generous, and doesn’t undercut professionals. It may seem like it’s better to ask for less money, but in fact, projects are more likely to get funded when they properly compensate all workers. So, dream big, plan long-term, and ask for what you deserve. Let these funders lift you up! It’s what they’re there for.


Photo credit: Xela La 

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