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Located in Manitoba, Canada, Winnipeg stands as a thriving region rich in arts and culture. For those unfamiliar with Winnipeg, the city not only boasts a vibrant arts and culture scene but is also home to esteemed institutions like the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, and the Winnipeg Folk Festival — with the Winnipeg Arts Council at its heart.

The Winnipeg Arts Council, a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to funding, supporting, initiating, and promoting the development of arts for the people of Winnipeg. The arts council believes that art should be integrated into the lives of all individuals and be made accessible to all.

The GO Smart team had the privilege of interviewing Programs & Arts Development Manager Dominic Lloyd, now entering his 15th year at the arts council, to learn more about its history, initiatives, programs, and how GO Smart has played a pivotal role in it all.

Get to Know Dominic Lloyd

Dominic Lloyd joined the Winnipeg Arts Council in 2009 to work on a special project celebrating Canadian arts and culture. In 2011, he became the programs & arts development manager, where he oversees arts and cultural programs, primarily focusing on design and delivery.

“I manage all aspects of our grant funding programs, which means that I design the programs, create and update the guidelines, and respond to queries from the public about how to access our funds. I also meet with applicants to help them through the application process and give workshops on how to apply for grants.

And because our grant programs are peer assessed, I also oversee the whole jury process. Part of my job is to make sure there are different voices represented at the table but the funding decisions are made by the arts community itself.”

During his time at the arts council, he has also been involved in other parts of its work, including the Poet Laureate program, a program that teaches students about the city’s relationship to the arts. As Dominic says it himself, “It’s the greatest job in the world!”

A headshot image of Dominic Lloyd from the Winnipeg Arts Council.

Dominic Lloyd, Program & Arts Development Manager, Winnipeg Arts Council

Winnipeg’s History in Arts and Culture

At WESTAF, our strong interest in Winnipeg’s history in arts and culture is driven by our role as arts grantmakers and our mission to support arts funding through GO Smart. Our team was eager to delve deeper into Winnipeg’s history in arts and culture — here’s what Dominic had to say:

“Winnipeg has a reputation to some as a cold barren wasteland and to others as being the beating heart of culture in Canada. Often referred to as ‘Winterpeg,’ there’s a lot going on in the city and the arts have always been an important part of Winnipeg’s identity.

The quality and quantity of the arts in Winnipeg has a great impact in Canada even though it’s a smaller city of 700,000 people. Winnipeg has one of the oldest ballet companies in Canada with lots of independent musicians who’ve emerged from here over the years. Artists such as Neil Young, Miriam Toews, and Marcel Dzama, to name a few. Artists emerging from Winnipeg demonstrate a strong commitment to the city, actively contributing to the development of arts and cultural resources.”

Winnipeg Arts Council’s Programs and Opportunities

The Winnipeg Arts Council offers a plethora of grant opportunities tailored for artists, administrators, organizations and collectives, and museums. They serve 65-75 organizations through their programming and are one of only a few cities in Canada that offer grants to individual artists. These grants help to support artists’ creative process, from emerging to mid-career artists and also offer professional development grants, so artists can access training, mentorship, improve skills, and attend exhibitions.

With so many programs and initiatives coming to fruition over the years, the arts council needed to find an online solution to help streamline their grants management process — and GO Smart was the answer.

A lady performing on stage for a crowd outside.

Urban Shaman, 2022. Reaching our Relatives performance with artist Kris Snowbird. Photo by Synonym Art Consultation.

Trends and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Arts Funding Practices

The grantmaking field is constantly changing, and it’s up to all of us as arts funders to keep up with trends to ensure we are adequately and equitably  supporting the arts sector. In Canada, and across the world, the biggest trend that’s circulating right now is dealing with the ongoing aftermath of the pandemic and asking experts on the ground: How can we support the arts and be there for new and emerging forms of practice? 

“Pandemic recovery is not just about audiences, it’s about volunteerism, and looking at the ways people are giving their time and money because that has changed a lot in the past few years” noted Dominic. “There is also a concern about the looming specter of artificial intelligence (AI) and how it will affect the arts field. Will it be used in a positive or destructive way?”

These trends raise major concerns in the arts industry, and at the Winnipeg Arts Council, they believe that no one understands just yet what the extent of reach of AI will be. “For now, the artists who apply for a grant with the Winnipeg Arts Council have to declare use of AI” said Dominic.

On the flip side of trends in arts funding, it is imperative for the future and growth of arts and culture to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion in grantmaking. These values are at the forefront of everything they do at the Winnipeg Arts Council. The five grant programs they run on GO Smart are as broad as can be, so artists can tell them what kind of art they want to make, ensuring that all communities are being represented, especially Indigenous, and disabled communities.

“Our grant programs provide a platform for all for their voices to be heard. We make sure there is a diverse team in our jury and on our board. After an external audit, we realized we’re in a good place, but this type of work is ongoing work we want to improve on” stated Dominic.

A picture of a band playing on stage for the public.

Aboriginal Music Manitoba 2021. C-Weed Band at the Ka Ni Kanichihk pop up. Photo by Alan Greyeyes.

The GO Smart Impact

When the arts council first started rolling out grants, they were using an outdated paper/mail system and even tried to come up with a way to use PDF forms and iPads, but that wasn’t ideal for them, either. They quickly learned that they needed to look for an online platform that could help them through every step in the grantmaking process. In 2018, Dominic was in Denver, Colorado for the Americans for the Arts Conference and came across the GO Smart exhibit table. After meeting the GO Smart team and learning more about the platform, he automatically knew this would be the perfect solution for the arts council’s grantmaking.

“GO Smart streamlined the process for us and saved us time. We were no longer spending so much time photocopying and sending big binders of paper across the city. And because of GO Smart, grant funding is now accessible to many more people in our community!”

Looking to the Future

At GO Smart, we’re thrilled to hear about the stories and impact our clients have on their communities, and we’re honored to play a small role.. The Winnipeg Arts Council has not only used GO Smart to launch various diverse initiatives but has also been able to make the arts more accessible in their communities, equipping themselves with the necessary tools to reach those in need.

We would like to express our gratitude to Dominic for his time and the opportunity to learn more about him, Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Arts Council, and the impactful role GO Smart plays in fulfilling their mission to fund, support, initiate, and promote the development of arts for their communities. As we look ahead, we’re moved by these impactful words from Dominic about the power and importance of arts and culture:

The Color Purple. A bunch of people dancing and singing on stage in the spotlight.

Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre 2019. Cast of The Color Purple. Photo by Ian Jackson, Epic Photography.

“We all need art. Aside from money, the social impact and quality of life art brings to cities is so important. It’s how people share stories, share experiences, and create their civic identity. The work they do is vital. As a board member in the past liked to say, ‘Roads are nice to have, but the arts give you a reason to use them.’”

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