CUE is a radical arts initiative dedicated to supporting new generation artists who live and work on the margins.
Throughout history, some of the most innovative artwork has been created by artists who experience marginalization, face systemic barriers, and who have been excluded by conventional arts and cultural institutions. We recognize that arts funding agencies and institutions have struggled to keep up with growing social, cultural, and economic inequality, and with changing demographics.
In response, CUE has designed a high-access funding program offering not only financial support for art projects, but also consultation in preparing project proposals, support throughout the production process, and opportunities for public exhibition.
CUE operates on SKETCH's shared platform.
How we do it
Grassroots outreach. We partner with arts and community organizations across Toronto, and employ past CUE grant recipients to outreach in their immediate communities and connect their artist peers to CUE's opportunities.
High-access applications and project development mentorship. Artists apply for up to $1000 to create a project in any discipline. We demystify the funding process by way of utilizing simplified grant applications, flexible submission formats, and by providing mentorship to each applicant. The option to submit through a verbal application process is available to those navigating significant literacy barriers. CUE's core Program Team and Community Mentors spend hundreds of hours with applicants, providing not only mentorship in grant-writing, but also in conceptual development in envisioning art projects. All CUE team members are practicing artists living and working on the margins, and the majority are past CUE grant recipients.
Support and mentorship through production. Grant recipients execute their projects within a 3-month production timeline. CUE team members meet regularly with artists, and we've implemented a variety of discipline-specific mentorship opportunities (i.e. Writer's Bursary program, literary arts workshops, residencies, mentorship for musicians, etc.), and connect artists with senior practitioners in a variety of fields.
Peer-leadership. Team leaders and mentors are a part of the same communities we engage and support. This model allows for past grant recipients to engage in paid leadership roles within CUE, and build professional experience in the arts sector while establishing strong relationships with artists.
Continuing support. We support grant recipients in multiple ways after the completion of their projects, including: consultation in writing grants to other funders and in strategic development of future practices and projects, access to charitable platform for those wishing to develop initiatives and apply for funding, connections with exhibitions, employment in the arts sector, employment with CUE, professional and artistic development consultation, and simply by maintaining relationships.
WHY ARE NEW FUNDING MODELS ESSENTIAL?
- Artists on the margins often experience barriers to securing support for their work. Poverty, mental health issues, unstable housing, stigmatizations associated with racialization, immigration, Indigenous and/or LGBTQ identities, amongst other systemic adversity often excludes important artists from conventional career avenues. The net effect of this exclusion can create a homogenized artistic culture, and can reinforce power structures that have historically perpetuated inequity and cultural divide.
- Fostering communities where underrepresented artists are encouraged and supported builds a stronger platform for personal and creative realization. This is also how rich and diverse culture is developed. A better society is one that acknowledges perspectives across social, cultural, and economic gaps.
- Artists on the margins can a bring powerful vision, insight, and talent that cannot be learned through curriculum, or manifested by of way social position or privilege.
- Artists should be spending maximal time conceptualizing and creating work, and minimal time navigating grant application processes. A simplified support system is beneficial to the creative process.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM RECENT ACTIVITIES (2014 - 2015)
- Provided 1060 hours of mentorship to young artists and emerging cultural leaders;
- Received 146 applications for funding and participation in CUE programs, and directly supported 78 artists in project creation (representing $72,400 in project funding);
- Engaged 25 artists in 36 employment positions;
- Partnered with 11 arts/youth organizations across Toronto;
- Launched the CUE Creative Enterprise Grants program (program engaged and mentored 30 artists to develop creative enterprise initiatives, supported 10 directly throughout production and public launch);
- Developed and launched the Story Reno Studio program, a 12-week literary development series engaging 8 writers to produce literary projects, and practice their craft through regular writing and critique exercises. 5 participants went on to receive CUE Writer's Bursaries accompanied by 7 months of editorial consultation from a publishing industry professional.
- Hosted 2 unique artist residencies;
- Mounted 2 multidisciplinary group arts exhibitions attracting 680+ audiences, exhibiting the works of 45 CUE-supported artists;
- 90% of projects supported were produced by artists of colour
- 64% of artists identified mental health issues as a barrier to their artistic careers
- 57% of grant recipients were female-identified, of which 80% were female artists of colour
- 44% of artists identified as LGBTQ
- Almost all CUE artists in this period were living under the Low Income Cut-Off, identified poverty as a key barrier, and many were receiving payments from Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program.
Since 2008 CUE has:
- Provided over $250,000 in high-access project grants to support the creation of 260 projects spanning every artistic discipline;
- Provided thousands of hours of one-on-one mentorship;
- Developed discipline-specific granting, mentorship programs, and workshops for writers, musicians, and arts entrepreneurs;
- Engaged in dozens of partnerships and collaborations with arts and youth groups across the City of Toronto including Platform A, a strategic initiative of the Toronto Arts Council in collaboration with Art Starts, and Jumblies Theatre, SKETCH, and VIBE Arts.
- Mounted 4 independent group arts exhibitions, and 3 coproduced exhibitions, together showcasing the works of more than 115 CUE artists;
- Engaged over 50 artists in paid positions within the initiative;
- Was named a Vital Idea by the Toronto Community Foundation in 2012, and the winner of the Toronto Arts Foundation's prestigious Arts For Youth award in 2014.