On Wednesday (November 1), applications open for the City of Peterborough’s 2024 community grants program — the final year of the program as it is currently designed.
The community grants program provides financial assistance to local not-for-profit and charitable organizations that provide direct programs, services, or activities that enhance the quality of life for Peterborough residents in the areas of social services and health, arts, culture, heritage, recreation, or the environment.
More information about the program is available at peterborough.ca/communitygrants, where an online application will also be available at noon on Wednesday. The deadline for grant applications is noon on Wednesday, December 6th.
The community grants program has provided almost $250,000 each year to local not-for-profit and charitable organizations through two grant streams: the community project grant and the community investment grant. For community project grants, the city provides $250 to $1,000 for specific projects. For community investment grants, the city provides $1,000 to $15,000 for projects, events, programs or operating budgets. Grant applications are reviewed by an assessment committee of two city councillors and 11 citizen appointees.
For the 2024 community investment grants, multi-year funding will no longer be an option as the city is transitioning to a new community grants program beginning in 2025. The city will honour applications previously approved for multi-year funding in 2022 and 2023.
Last Monday (October 23), Peterborough city council approved a change to the community grants program in 2025. Instead of the existing two funding streams, the program will have three streams: community well-being grants, services delivery agreements, and an art investment fund to be administered by the Art Gallery of Peterborough in collaboration with Electric City Culture Council. The art investment fund would include existing funding for individual artist grants, Artsweek, and the city’s poet laureate program and, beginning in 2025 as a two-year pilot project, a new $60,000 professional arts organization grant program.
The change to the program followed a public survey about the community grant program earlier in the summer, after city council at its March 27th meeting had unanimously directed city staff “to ensure the integrity and fairness of the community investment grant’s program, and report back to council with any recommended changes.”
At that same meeting, councillors had voted 7-3 against providing funding for two community arts organizations — The Theatre On King and the Artisans Centre Peterborough — that had appeared before council to appeal an earlier decision by an assessment committee to deny the organizations’ applications for 2023 grants. In 2022, The Theatre On King had received the maximum grant of $15,000 and the Artisans Centre Peterborough had received $9,250. In 2023, neither organization received any grant funding.
For The Theatre On King, the change from a $15,000 grant to no funding at all from the city threatened their financial viability (the organization has since fundraised to cover its operating costs). Several delegations appearing before city council in March had raised concerns about the process used for determining grants for arts organizations.
“If your assessment process has led to the severing of funding for this essential part of our community, then your assessment process needs to change,” said Peterborough family physician Dr. Laura Lawson, speaking in support of The Theatre On King at the council meeting.
Concerns about how the city’s community grant program is delivered are not new. In 2017, former city councillor Dean Pappas had a motion passed to review the program, but no action was taken. The city’s arts and culture advisory committee, which includes members of the arts community, has also expressed concerns about how the city funds arts organizations.
In 2020, the Electric City Culture Council called on the city to align its processes for community grants for arts organizations with those of the federal government, most provincial governments, and many municipal governments.