“Artist-run centres or collectives who are racialized, Black, and doing the work—many of them are new. Given the cycles of how people come into funding, it means they’re starting somewhere closer to the bottom, as opposed to at the top, where traditional institutions have been funded over time and have established themselves.”
Andrea Fatona is an independent curator and associate professor at OCAD University. Her PhD research examined equity in funding from Canada Council for the Arts for Black and other racialized artists during the 1980s and 1990s. Fatona is currently working on an online platform to host the works of Black cultural producers, critics, and craftspeople with practices in Canada between 1989 and the present.
Q: In the U.S. there is a stark disparity between funding for large cultural institutions versus racialized artist-run centres—does that only widen the gap, or amplify issues of visibility?
A: I think it amplifies it more than it widens. Because I think most artist-run-centres I know of, and the ones I work with, are doing the work. In terms of resources available to do the work, they’re getting significantly less support. I think the other thing about artist-run centres or collectives who are racialized, Black, and doing the work—many of them are new. Given the cycles of how people come into funding, it means they’re starting somewhere closer to the bottom, as opposed to at the top, where traditional institutions have been funded over time and have established themselves. And I believe that newer institutions are having to establish themselves and do the work to prove themselves to get to the level of funding that traditional institutions are at—although I think that newer institutions are doing much more interesting work in terms of equity and inclusivity. So that’s where I think the issue lies, in terms of funding going to organizations who, on the surface, are taking up this issue of diversity, not inclusion. It’s about getting a number of bodies through the space, or having a number of racialized bodies within the institution, but they’re not necessarily in positions of power where they’re making decisions that would actually open up the institution’s practice of equity.