Mission and history
As an organization created to serve the city's artistic community, the Conseil des arts de Montréal supports and recognizes excellence in the creation, production, and presentation of professional artistic endeavours by way of financial support, advice, and consultation and development initiatives.
In order to accomplish this, the Conseil relies on the expertise, dynamism, and spirit of innovation of its members and staff, as well as on its continuous exchanges with the artistic community and municipal authorities in order to ensure the relevance of its activities and encourage Montrealers to participate in their city's artistic life.
The Conseil des arts de Montréal, the very first arts council created in Canada, was founded on April 18, 1956, thanks to an initiative by Mayor Jean Drapeau, under the banner Conseil des arts de la région métropolitaine. Chaired by Léon Lortie, the Conseil's mandate was to coordinate and foster cultural initiatives in the Greater Montreal area, notably by providing financial assistance to high caliber artistic events.
During its first year of existence, the Conseil had a modest grant budget of $129,000 which was shared by six artistic and cultural organizations (the Museum of Fine Arts, Symphony Orchestra, Festival Society, Jeunesses musicales, Dominion Drama Festival, and the Montreal Repertory Theatre). Its resources steadily grew, however, and, for its 25th anniversary in 1982, the budget reached $1,481,675 - having thus increased tenfold for the benefit of sixty-six groups and companies. In 2005, the Conseil's budget was $10 M, providing grants to 289 arts organizations.
In 1980, the Conseil des arts was integrated with the Montreal Urban Community and a broad public consultation, chaired the following year by The Honourable Jean-Pierre Goyer, gave it new impetus. "It is clear, wrote the president, that the Conseil des arts can no longer limit itself simply to giving grants, to be merely a giver of funds. The Conseil des arts must be the driving force behind Montreal's artistic life."
In 1982, the Conseil sought artistic excellence and focused on presenting works of art and making them accessible to the greatest number of people possible, by creating touring programmes for performances and exhibitions throughout the municipalities in the island. Twenty-three years later, during the 2005-2006 season, the Conseil des arts de Montréal en tournée featured 430 professional shows by 50 arts organizations, offered by 33 municipal presenters and over 20 libraries. This is the largest arts tour in the entire city, featuring the very latest and best creations in the visual arts, dance, theatre, music, literature, film, and now, in media arts."
In 1985, the Conseil des arts created its Grand Prix in order to recognize, each year, the excellence of a production or event which took place in Montreal. Today, the Grand Prix includes a $25,000 bursary and is accompanied by a commemorative work of art commissioned from a Montreal artist. Eight arts organizations are nominated in the following disciplines: visual arts, media arts, film and video, dance, literature, music, theatre, and new artistic practices."
A second round of public consultations in 1988, chaired by Me Yves Bériault, and the opening of the Maison du Conseil des arts in the former premises of the École des beaux-arts de Montréal in May 1989, further broadened the Conseil des arts' mission.
During the 90s, under the guidance of its president, Madeleine Arbour, and then spurred on by her successor Gilles Lefebvre and director general Jacques Cleary, the CACUM developed an international exchange programme with the Conseil Régional d'Ile-de-France, which was twinned, at the time, with the Communauté urbaine de Montréal. This programme allowed many creators and arts groups from both sides of the Atlantic to present their works of art to each other's audiences.
It is also under the presidency of Gilles Lefebvre that creating awareness for the arts among audiences aged 3 to 17 years old became a priority, with the creation of "Jeunes publics- publics de demain" (Young Audiences - Audiences of Tomorrow). The aim of this programme was to provide youths with greater access to the arts and to offer activities and awareness materials. This philosophy, initiated by the Conseil's programme, is today largely integrated by companies that target young audiences.
Succeeding the CACUM, the Conseil des arts de Montréal was put into place in 2002 by the Québec Government as part of the city's municipal reorganization. As of January 1, 2006, the Conseil has come under the Conseil d'agglomération de Montréal.
The budget increases awarded by Gérald Tremblay's administration in 2003 marked the end of a long, 11-year freeze. Although this increase allowed the Conseil to welcome some 50 new organizations, increase its support to small- and medium-sized companies, and slightly increase its funding to larger institutions, it could not make up for the accumulated shortfall. The needs are great and the challenges are daunting. Organizations from ethnocultural communities, emerging artists, and emerging disciplinary sectors such as media arts, and presentation venues, to name but a few, are examples of the needs with which the Conseil must contend.
In 2004, the Conseil des arts de Montréal underwent a strategic planning exercise, laying the foundations which will allow it to grow and be the driving force it is expected to be. Among the actions that are already underway are the following: the involvement of artists and audiences from ethnocultural communities; the Conseil's association with the Forum jeunesse de l'île de Montréal for the implementation of an action plan that aims to improve the socio-professional integration of emerging artists; the modification of the Conseil's rules to allow increasing its members from 21 to 25, as well as the participation of individuals from the artistic sector or who are still active in cultural organizations; and the creation of consulting committees made up of peers to communicate the needs of the arts sector and the priorities related to each discipline, and, consequently, advise the Conseil on defining its policies, criteria, and grant programmes.
Lastly, in 2006, the Conseil is celebrating 50 years of formative actions that have contributed to the development of "Montreal, Cultural Metropolis."