Charitable Choices: Claire Hopkinson, Director & CEO of Toronto Arts Foundation

Toronto Arts Foundation is a non-profit organization that connects every Torontonian to the arts. We spoke with Director & CEO, Claire Hopkinson, to find out more about them.

Toronto Arts Foundation

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

The vision of the Toronto Arts Foundation is to connect every Torontonian to the transformative benefits of the arts – whether you’re an artist, arts lover, or have limited exposure to arts – no matter where you live. With the help of our donors and sponsors, we offer unique programming, professional development workshops, awards and opportunities to increase access to the arts.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Toronto Arts Foundation’s guiding principle is that the arts are essential, and provide huge benefits to those who practice art, who enjoy art and to communities. Cities thrive when there’s a strong and healthy arts and culture scene; that’s because people become engaged,  conversations are sparked, and gathering spaces emerge. We aim to improve arts in Toronto for the benefit of Torontonians and the city itself.

When did you start/join it?

I became the Director & CEO of Toronto Arts Foundation and its affiliate Toronto Arts Council in 2005. At that time, the organization was much smaller than what it is now. Since my appointment, we’ve launched major pillars of the organization, including our awards ceremony, Neighbourhood Arts Network, our initiative to engage community artists, Arts in the Parks, our initiative to bring arts events to parks throughout the city, we’ve incubated two Arts Service Organizations, and so much more.

What made you want to get involved?

At that point in my career, I wanted to make creation and access to the arts more possible. Prior to this, I commissioned, developed and produced theatre and opera. Through my volunteer advocacy work serving on boards of arts organizations and co-founding Creative Trust, my passion to become more deeply involved as a funder and fundraiser was sparked. I began to think larger, about the entirety of the city, and how I can make an impact through my work in the arts.

What was the situation like when you started?

Toronto has always been an arts destination. However, support for the arts was well below that of other cities in Canada, and certainly not in step with the abundance of talent and creativity evident in our city. There was very little access to the arts outside the downtown core.

Representation of the diversity of our population was neither evident on our stages nor in audiences.

How has it changed since?

Municipal support for the arts has improved since 2005, helping us to ensure that Toronto’s arts community is representative of our populations. With public and private support, new programs have been created to support Indigenous, black and newcomer artists. We have created opportunities for arts access in neighbourhoods throughout the City through programs in libraries, museums, parks and local community centres. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with several Toronto mayors to improve the profile of the arts, for example, by strengthening the Foundation’s major fundraising campaign, the Mayor’s Evening for the Arts.

What more needs to be done?

There are a number of pressing priorities. The pandemic has hit the arts and culture sector very hard, with artists thrown out of work, and organizations working hard to keep audiences engaged through virtual performances, with minimal revenue.

Moreover, a research survey conducted in 2019 found that Toronto’s artists are bearing disproportionately high costs for both work space and essential training, and are burdened by disproportionately low incomes. Many Toronto artists believe they cannot sustain a living and are considering leaving or have left the city; these are people who give so much to our city through their work. Access to the arts needs to increase throughout the City, into neighbourhoods that have fewer services. This is a matter of equity. In general, more support for artists needs to be made available, as well as affordable creation and presentation spaces.

How can our readers help?

Make a donation to Toronto Arts Foundation. No matter how big or small, your donation matters. If you can’t donate, consider volunteering your time at an arts event, or volunteering your expertise at an arts organization. Another way you can help is to advocate! Let your city representative know that you support the arts and increase arts funding. For ways to help join our website.

Do you have any events coming up?

Our city-wide initiative Arts in the Parks brings arts programming to parks across the city. Hundreds of events will take place throughout the summer, beginning in June. Visit artsintheparksto.org to see what events are happening in a park near you.

Where can we follow you?

Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

Most arts organizations in Toronto, large and small alike, are charities and would be very appreciative of a direct donation. A list of organizations that the Toronto Arts Council supports can be found here.