Hey artists! This Sask agency has money for you. Maybe.

by Gregory Beatty

Creative Saskatchewan recently held a series of information meetings across the province to inform people about its mandate and the programs it offers to build Saskatchewan’s creative industries.

For decades now, Saskatchewan has provided funding to help visual artists, crafters, musicians, writers, playwrights, choreographers and others create art. That’s good, but as public funding (from all three levels of government) has stagnated, artists have come under increasing pressure to generate revenue through product sales, paid attendance at live events, licensing agreements, and whatnot.

Artists have always had savvy business sense. They have to — they wouldn’t survive otherwise. But survive, unfortunately, is all that most manage to do.

Creative Saskatchewan is mandated to change that.

“We were established as a Crown agency by the Saskatchewan government in July 2013, and began accepting applications for investment last October,” program coordinator Lisa Lanigan said at the Sept. 5 session I attended in Regina. “The agency was created in recognition of the integral role that creative industries play in a vibrant Saskatchewan.”

Creative Sask.’s mission, program coordinator Tobi Lampard added later, “is to facilitate the commercial development of creative industries, producers, entrepreneurs, businesses and associations in realizing their economic potential within and outside Saskatchewan through product development and market access.

“In short, we want to help artists generate revenue,” she said.”

So far, Lanigan said, Creative Sask. has invested over $3.5 million in Saskatchewan’s creative industries. You can find out how some of that money’s been spent in the adjacent sidebar. Visual art and craft, music and sound recording, publishing, live performing arts and screen-based media are the industries eligible for support.

Currently, there’s nine different funding programs. Although as Lanigan and Lampard emphasized during their presentation, Creative Sask. is still fine-tuning its operations in response to the diverse needs of the different creative sectors.

“Some programs are tailored to specific sectors while others are available to every creative industry,” said Lanigan. “Every program requires that commercial intent be the primary purpose. If the application indicates the project will result in a loss of revenue it’s not supportable by Creative Saskatchewan.”

More information is available on the Creative Saskatchewan website — which is not easy to navigate, I warn you, and is apparently set for a redesign. But the nine programs are generally geared to providing funds to assist artists and arts organizations to do things such as advertise and promote themselves, tour and attend trade shows and showcases, do market research, make music demos, develop TV/movie pitches to attract outside investors, and whatever other activities they can think of to boost their revenue.

That way, they have a chance to do more than just survive financially. In the process, they contribute to the province’s economy, and generate buzz about Saskatchewan being an interesting place to visit, live and do business in.

For artists and other creative industry members thinking of applying to Creative Sask. for support, said Lampard, the key is to have a realistic budget.

“An accurate budget demonstrates the quality of the project plan and speaks to the applicant’s ability to successfully manage the project. A large variance can mean cash flow shortfalls and jeopardize the project’s success.”

To help with budgeting, Lampard suggested gathering formal quotes from service providers and suppliers to get accurate numbers. Consulting with industry professionals to ensure there aren’t any expenses you’ve forgotten was another good idea.

Oh, and one final piece of advice: “Each grant has a corresponding budget template. We can’t stress enough that you should use it. If you have questions, call us, we’ll try to help you out.”

What Can Green Do For You?

Saskatchewan culture workers report how they put Creative Sask cash to work. /Gregory Beatty

Alexis Normand
Singer/Musician (Saskatoon)

In an era where independent musicians must also be entrepreneurs, Creative Sask.’s support is vital. They focus on results (sales, exposure, business expansion and profit) and this resonates strongly with the businesswoman in me!

The Marketing Export and Development Grant I received allowed me to continue building industry and audience relationships, which lead to commercial market growth outside Saskatchewan, including three tours that took me from Vancouver to Halifax, and even Whitehorse. I also invested in radio tracking, online promotional initiatives, and working with Susan Busse, a Saskatoon-based publicist who helped develop extensive media coverage in support of my tours. I conducted dozens of interviews including one with Bernard Saint-Laurent on C’est La Vie — a CBC radio program that’s broadcast nationally and on the web.

These initiatives got people out to my shows, increased brand exposure, boosted my profile outside Saskatchewan, and doubled my mailing list. As a result, I’m better positioned to expand my team to include a booking agent and/or manager. I’m very thankful for the support that helped build a solid foundation upon which my music business can continue to grow.

Industry Organization Representing Publishers (Regina)

With retail opportunities being lost as bookshops close their doors, and eBook distribution difficult to acquire for independent producers, marketing support from Creative Sask. certainly helps promote books produced in the province. SaskBooks participated in Creative Sask.’s joint marketing exhibition in Los Angeles last December, from which we received interest in our province’s books from movie producers (very exciting).

We are also collaborating with SaskArt to produce an art+books calendar for distribution in western Canada. We’ve been producing and distributing a catalogue of Saskatchewan books across western Canada for several years. In fact, SaskBooks has been promoting Saskatchewan publishers and their books for 25 years! It’s nice to finally have an agency that supports production, marketing, and promotion.

Cheshire Smile Animation Inc.
Broadcast TV and Interactive Media Producer (Saskatoon)

We’ve received grants for projects in the Production, Development, Travel, and Market Export and Development streams. We value all the support from Creative Sask., however we accepted only three of the four grants. The terms offered with the Market Export Development Grant were not workable for our company.

To be competitive in today’s global marketplace, Saskatchewan creative producers need tools that allow them to develop, finance, and produce content that can travel beyond the province’s borders. Creative Sask. has built a toolkit for Saskatchewan’s creative entrepreneurs with this objective in mind. The challenge for both parties will be to fine-tune the tool set to meaningfully meet the diverse needs of the creative economy without becoming burdened with administrative red tape.

Slate Fine Art Gallery
Visual Art Gallery (Regina)

With the Creative Sask. Marketing and Development Grant we received, SLATE is planning to attend Art Toronto, an international art fair that runs from Oct. 24-27. Over 100 art galleries from around the world will be in attendance. SLATE’s participation at Art Toronto will enable us to showcase our numerous well-established Saskatchewan artists as well as many exciting emerging artists to a national and international market. This is a wonderful opportunity to raise new awareness of Saskatchewan’s strong art scene to a broader audience and benefit Saskatchewan’s art market as a whole.

Ken Wilkinson
Ceramic Artist and Production Potter (Saskatoon)

This is my 40th year as an artist/potter. I used to do half a dozen craft shows a year, but the travel was prohibitive, and the income wasn’t necessarily there. Creative Sask. is helping me move to a wholesale business. I’ve gone to trade shows in Toronto and Edmonton where I’ve taken orders, then filled and shipped them. So I’m taking the next step in my career, and the grant money has helped a lot.

I’ve also created a new website (kenwilkisonpotter.com) that’s attracting some attention, and getting my name and work out there. I’ve also been able to hire some help, mostly in the area of packing, shipping and promotion. The workers assist with some of the less distinctive production work too, like sanding the bottom of pots. It’s been wonderful, and I think Creative Sask. will be a big help for a lot of artists.