Updates from 16 October are highlighted

Our response to the COVID-19 Crisis

The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and the BC Arts Council reaffirms that our top priority remains the health and safety of everyone, including those who make up B.C.’s arts and culture sector – artists, creative workers, staff, volunteers, patrons, as well as audience members and participants.

We recognize the immense and unprecedented impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having, and will likely continue to have, on the B.C. arts and culture sector.

To address these impacts, we’ve made significant updates to our policies and programs. These changes are outlined on this page and on the relevant program pages on our website. In making these changes, we have been guided by four key objectives:

  • To support the sustainability of arts and culture organizations;
  • To provide access to funding as efficiently as possible;
  • To ensure that funded projects and activities are not penalized by the unprecedented situation; and
  • To support the safe continuation of projects and activities.

We are committed to keeping you informed. The most up-to-date information will always be posted on this page and also be available on individual program web pages. Updates will also be announced on BC Arts Council  Facebook, and Twitter accounts.

B.C.’s Restart Plan

Under B.C.’s Restart Plan, government is working closely with public health officials, businesses and labour organizations, including WorkSafeBC, to restart in a phased manner, gradually allowing for more social and economic activity, while closely monitoring health information to minimize the risk to the public.

In alignment with orders and advice from the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), and guidance provided by WorkSafeBC and BC Centre for Disease Control, all organizations will be required to develop a publicly available COVID-19 Safety Plan that outlines the policies, guidelines, and procedures they have put in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

WorkSafeBC has also developed resources for different sectors to guide reopening, including:

The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture will continue to work with sector organizations to develop sector-specific plans.

On May 22 the Provincial Health Officer issued a revised Order for Mass Gathering Events which applies to those who own, occupy, operate or are otherwise responsible for outdoor and indoor sites and venues, including halls, theatres, and festival sites, or any other indoor or outdoor place. It stipulates that gatherings of more than 50 patrons for the purpose of an event, including performances, are not permitted. Please review the order in full for further detail.

In accordance with the continuation of public health orders, the BC Arts Council has updated its blackout period on projects involving travel and in-person gatherings.

For More Information

We recommend that individual organizations reach out to their industry or sector association or contact WorkSafeBC for advice as they develop their COVID-19 Safety Plan (Information Line at 1-888-621-7233).

More information on reducing the risk at the workplace.

More information on what employers should do.

More information for employees on staying safe at work.

More information on Designing Effective Barriers.

Small Business BC will be available to provide advice to businesses that do not have an obvious industry association to contact.

Given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the provincial response, please be sure to stay up to date on the current Provincial Health Officer orders as orders and guidance are subject to change.

COVID-19 – General Information and Resources

Public Health Information:

General Supports and Resources:

Supports for the Arts and Culture and Non-profit Sectors:

BC Arts Council Operations

BC Arts Council staff are available, Monday to Friday, during regular business hours. Please see the BC Arts Council staff directory for contact information.

In order to comply with physical distancing measures and other public health recommendations, Council staff are, at present, primarily working remotely.

As we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves in an unusually busy time. There may be some delays in responding to queries. We do acknowledge how important it is that we are available to answer questions and will do our best to get back to you promptly. Thank you for your patience if there are delays.

Blackout period on projects involving international travel and gatherings of more than 50 people

The blackout period on applications to the BC Arts Council for activities that involve travel and/or in-person gatherings has been updated:


In keeping with the Government of Canada’s advisory to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice, the BC Arts Council will continue to maintain a blackout on funding for activities that include international travel. This blackout will remain in effect until further notice. Please consult the Government of Canada’s travel and tourism page if you are planning any international travel.

Current BC Arts Council Scholarship awards to support international study are not affected by this blackout.

Applications for activities that involve travel within Canada can be submitted, however you must follow the public health protocols—including any requirements for self-quarantine—that are in place in the jurisdiction(s) where the activity is scheduled to take place. Information specific to travelling within Canada can be found on the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 and travel: Crossing provincial and territorial borders page. Upon your return, you must also commit to follow any public health protocols in place, which can be found on the B.C. Government’s returning to B.C page.

We also recommend that you delay making future travel arrangements until the advisories and orders currently in place are lifted or further information is available.

Public Gatherings

In keeping with current provincial public health directives, the BC Arts Council will continue to maintain a blackout on funding for activities that include in-person gatherings of more than 50. This blackout will remain in effect until further notice.

These guidelines are subject to change pending further provincial and federal orders and directives.

If you have applied for funding for a project that involves international travel or gatherings of more than 50 people, please contact your program officer to discuss possible changes to your project timeline or scope.

New applications for projects involving international travel or gatherings of more than 50 people to take place during the blackout period will be deemed ineligible and will not be assessed.

We ask all clients to adjust, reschedule, or postpone any projects that involve international travel and/or gatherings of more than 50 people.

If you need to cancel or postpone your plans related to a funded project, see the relevant section below and contact your program officer to discuss your options.

COVID-19 Response Funding

Arts and Culture Resilience Plan

On September 17, 2020 the Province of British Columbia allocated up to $21 million to support an arts and culture resilience plan.

The two programs that make up the plan-the Expanded Arts & Culture Resilience Supplement and the Pivot Program-launched on October 16. Administered by the BC Arts Council, these one-time funding opportunities will help support the arts and culture sector as it manages the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expanded Arts & Culture Resilience Supplement

The Expanded Arts & Culture Resilience Supplement (EACRS) is designed to support arts and culture organizations who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. Assistance will be available to:

  • current BC Arts Council Operating Assistance clients; and
  • arts and culture organizations who have received at least one BC Arts Council project grant in the past five years within eligible programs.

The deadline for EACRS is November 27, 2020. You can find out more about the program, including detailed guidelines and contact details for more information, on our website.

Pivot Program

The Pivot Program will support arts and culture organizations as they adapt their programs and practices in response to the pandemic, and includes the following streams:

  • Organizational Development and Transition
  • Adaptation in Artistic Practices

The deadline for Pivot Program is January 4, 2021. You can find out more about the program, including detailed guidelines and contact details for more information, on our website.

Organizations will need to be registered with the BC Arts Council’s online application system in order to apply. Please go here to learn more.


On May 19 the BC Arts Council launched its new Microgrant Program. The pilot has been possible by a generous donation from the Yosef Wosk Family Foundation and funding from the City of Vancouver, the timing of which has allowed the BC Arts Council to use this initiative in support of the BC Arts Council’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Microgrants support professional artists and cultural practitioners in B.C. to adapt either existing projects or their professional practice to respond to current changes in the arts and culture sector caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This can include the use of new technologies as well as digital opportunities. Awards of up to $1,500 are available and applications will be accepted and adjudicated on a rolling intake until June 30, 2020. You can find out more about the program, including how to apply, at the dedicated program page.

Arts and Culture Resilience Supplement

The BC Arts Council launched the Arts and Culture Resilience Supplement to help cultural organizations and the artists and arts and culture workers they contract to cope with the impacts of the COVID-19.

Organizations can choose how they spend the funding, guided by the principles of supporting organizational sustainability and artists and arts and cultural workers.

The amount of the one-time grant will vary (maximum $15,000) depending on the size and funding status of the organization.

The BC Arts Council understands that organizations continue to have ongoing fixed costs at the same time as they have seen earned revenue decrease substantially. In the short-term, the supplement will help organizations address immediate needs to continue operations.

The BC Arts Council recognizes that artists and cultural workers are the driving force of our artistic and cultural sector and the broader creative economy. In providing support to organizations, it is expected that those organizations will in turn do everything in their power to support the artists and cultural workers they rely on, particularly those with whom they have existing commitments or obligations.

Current Operating Assistance clients automatically received the supplement in April. The amount of the supplement was based on the size of the organization (maximum $15,000).

Arts and culture organizations who are not currently on Operating Assistance but have received at least one BC Arts Council grant in the past three fiscal years (that is, between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2020) through one of the following project assistance programs are eligible to apply for a grant (up to $5000):

  • Professional Performing Arts – Dance Projects
  • Professional Performing Arts – Theatre Projects
  • Professional Performing Arts – Music Projects
  • Professional Arts Training Organizations – Projects
  • Professional Literary Organizations – Projects
  • Arts Periodicals – Projects
  • Museums, Indigenous Cultural Centres &Visual Arts Organizations – Projects
  • Media Arts Organizations – Projects
  • Professional Arts Festivals – Projects
  • Book Publishers – Projects
  • Community Arts Organizations – Projects
  • Arts-Based Community Development – Projects

Please visit our website for full program details, including eligibility for project funding recipients. The deadline for applications to the Arts and Culture Resilience Supplement is May 31, 2020.

Vancouver Foundation – Community Response Fund

The BC Arts Council is pleased to support the Arts and Culture stream of the Vancouver Foundation’s Community Response Fund. The Community Response Fund deploys essential relief of $10,000 to $50,000 to charities offering arts, culture, and other community programming and services that are not considered front-line health and social services. through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations

On May 8, the Minister of Canadian Heritage announced details regarding the $500 million emergency relief fund for the Sports, Arts and Culture. $198.3 million has been earmarked for the arts and culture sector and will be distributed through the Department of Canadian Heritage. Another $55 million will be distributed via the Canada Council for the Arts and will go to organizations that help artists and arts organizations. More details on the program can be found here

Distribution of Funds by the Canada Council

The Canada Council for the Arts has released further information detailing how they will be distributing their allocated $55 million. Eligible organizations will be contacted directly in the weeks ahead. The amounts allocated will be calculated according to a formula rather than following an assessment by peers.

Details on the support through the Canada Council can be found here.

Changes to Operating Assistance funding

The BC Arts Council has suspended the 2020 intakes for all Operating Assistance programs, including the spring (April) and fall (September) deadlines.

After receiving the equivalent of 50% of their previous operating grant in April, organizations currently receiving Operating Assistance will receive the remaining 50% this summer, upon confirmation of continued eligibility and submission of required reporting elements. All affected organizations will be contacted directly with further information.

This step was taken in recognition that, at this time, organizations may have diminished capacity to prepare comprehensive two-year plans and projections to inform operating grant applications. We are also aware that organizations need certainty to work through the implications of COVID-19.

Applicants not currently on Operating Assistance will not be able to apply to the programs at this time.

Further information is available on the individual program pages:

Operating Clients and Current Programming Commitments

Clients with operating assistance grants will not be required to have replacement programming for events or activities that are delayed, changed, or cancelled due to COVID-19.  It is expected that operating funds received that are not allocated as planned will be repurposed for future programming and to support an organization’s sustainability.

Please advise your program officer via email as early as possible of any program changes or reallocations. Organizations will need to account for the changes to operating activities and allocations through future application and reporting processes.

Changes to operating activity as a direct result of COVID-19 will not affect future assessments.

Changes to upcoming project programs

Program guidelines, applications, and final report forms may be adjusted in response to the COVID-19 situation. Please ensure you work with the most up-to-date version of all program information available on the website. Notable changes to program guidelines and policies will be posted on our news page.

Changes to program deadlines

Intakes for the following have been cancelled or deferred:

  • Touring Initiatives (April 1 deadline deferred):  We encourage applicants with projects that are not within the blackout period (see above) to apply to the next program intake, which has a deadline of August 1, 2020. Please see the program page for more information.
  • Professional Development (April 1 deadline deferred):  We encourage applicants with projects that are not within the blackout period (see above) to apply to the next program intake, which has a deadline of August 1, 2020. Please see the program page for more information.
  • Enhanced Capacity: Both Spring and Fall intakes for Enhanced Capacity funding in 2020/21 have been cancelled.

The funds originally allocated for Enhanced Capacity this year are being redirected to support the new Arts & Culture Resilience Supplement (see below for more details). Funds already dedicated in Enhanced Capacity for interim clients in for 2020/ 2021 will remain available for these clients.

Cancelled, altered, or postponed events and activities for which you have already received funding.

We understand that there will continue to be cancellations, alterations and/or postponement of tours, projects, and events as a result of COVID-19. Our preferred option will be to help you find a way to realize your project even if that means adapting timelines and/or scope.

Please contact your program officer by email to discuss significant changes, such as cancellations, adjustments in scope, or date changes beyond the original project end date.  We will work with you to find creative and flexible approaches to uphold the original intention of your project, including remote or virtual solutions.

Organizations and individuals are encouraged to prioritize commitments they have made to pay artists, arts and culture workers, and suppliers, even if there has been cancelations or delays

We understand that decisions may need to be made quickly and that you may be unable to contact your program officer prior to making changes. If this is the case, please ensure that you inform your program officer as soon as possible, and that any changes to your project are fully documented in your final report.

There is no need to contact the office regarding minor adjustments to your plans that can be accommodated within the scope of the original proposal and project dates. These types of changes can be accounted for in the final reporting process.

You will NOT be required to pay back any expenses that you have already incurred and that were included as part of the original project proposal.

Additional or previously ineligible expenses

We recognize funded projects may experience additional expenses related to the extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency.

We are being as flexible as possible in how existing funds from currently funded projects grants are allocated to support artists, organizations, and the proposed outcomes of the funded activities. Some normally ineligible or extraordinary expenses may be considered eligible. If you have questions about eligible expenses, please contact your program officer by email.

Impact on current grant applications

A blackout is in place on new funding and applications for activities that involve out-of-province travel and/or in-person gatherings of more than 50 people between March 26th and September 30th. This date could be adjusted if the current provincial and federal orders and directives in place are extended.

If you have applied for funding for a project involving travel or gatherings that take place within the blackout dates, please contact your program officer by email to discuss possible changes to the timeline or scope of the project.

All eligible funding applications will be assessed based on the published program guidelines and the assumptions addressed within the proposal. Program intentions and assessment criteria continue to be based on the BC Arts Council’s stated values, vision, and strategic priorities. We will continue to fund the organizations, artists and projects that are most closely aligned with these intentions, while upholding the most recent government direction and public health advisories.

Applications involving travel or gatherings may receive conditional grants depending on their ability to postpone events until after the government eases its restrictions on travel and gatherings.

Additional Financial support for artists and organizations

The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and the BC Arts Council are continuing to develop approaches to address the implications of COVID-19 for the arts and culture sector, both for organizations and for individual artists and cultural workers.

For Organizations:

The Province of BC’s COVID-19 Action Plan includes supports for organizations and businesses. In addition, the Province has prepared a summary of resources and supports available for businesses and organizations in B.C. as well as a dedicated webpage for B.C. COVID-19 Provincial Support and Information.

The Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan: Support for Canadians and Businesses includes measures for small businesses and non-profits, including the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program.

Individual Artists and Cultural Workers:

The Province of B.C.’s COVID-19 Action Plan includes supports for individuals. The Province has prepared a summary of resources and supports available for workers, individuals and families in B.C.

The Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan: Support for Canadians and Businesses includes measures for individuals, including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and tax relief. The Government of Canada has also launched a web-based benefits finder tool, Find financial help during COVID-19, to help people determine which federal government benefits programs best meet their needs.