AFA engagement (April 2021): What We Heard

Date: Jun 25, 2021

In April 2021, the AFA hosted targeted stakeholder engagement sessions to gather input and feedback that could be used to inform the AFA’s 2021-22 spending plan and potential arts sector relaunch communications following the pandemic. The AFA sought input from arts organizations, individual artists, and Indigenous artists and arts workers.

The AFA heard from 91 clients and stakeholders from across Alberta during seven virtual meetings held via Zoom. By seeking stakeholder input on the arts community’s challenges, needs, and expectations, the AFA sought to make funding decisions that both fulfil our mandate and are as responsive to the current situation as possible.

To increase transparency and to help fulfill the AFA’s commitment to evidence-based planning, we have published a summary of what the AFA heard from this engagement process.

What did the AFA hear?

The AFA heard several consistent overall themes during the engagement. Stakeholders highlighted their views and concerns related to:

  • funding and support for grant writing
  • relaunch and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic
  • digital capacity
  • communication and advocacy they would like to see from the AFA
  • artistic practice supports and professional development opportunities

While we heard a variety of ideas, reflections, as well as concerns, related to these themes, there were four topics we heard repeated across all sessions and through many of these themes:

  1. Uncertainty due to the pandemic: We heard about the many challenges that artists and arts organizations have had to endure during the COVID-19 pandemic. One challenge we heard that has been felt profoundly across the sector has been the uncertainty associated with the pandemic, both during the here-and-now and for the future during relaunch and recovery. This uncertainty impacts every aspect of the advice and input we received during engagement.
  2. Stability of funding: While many stakeholders shared ideas for new programs that could be of value to the sector, a consistent message we heard across all sessions was the importance of maintaining current programs. Operational clients also stressed the importance of predictability and sustainability of funding levels from year-to-year. 
  3. Flexibility for use of grant funding: Comments along this theme varied based on program, but we did hear a consistent desire among clients and grant recipients for fewer restrictions on eligible uses for funding. During discussions on this theme, we also heard some ideas for eligible uses of funding that the AFA already permits in many of its grant programs, such as support for professional development, research and development, costs related to cultural expenses (such as protocols and gift giving), and for child care costs. 
  4. Advocacy: In all sessions, we heard many ideas about how the AFA could advocate on behalf of the arts community. We heard the importance not only of better outcomes that could be realized by the arts sector based on increased advocacy efforts, but the value artists and arts organizations see of the AFA advocating on their behalf. 

We encourage all artists, arts workers, other stakeholders and organizations that are connected to the AFA to read the full report

What are the next steps?

The AFA values the input provided during engagement sessions and has addressed some of the priorities raised in our 2021-22 spending plan. Our priorities this year are to maintain predictable and stable support for Alberta’s arts organizations, and to continue to provide project opportunities for individual artists.

Some suggestions will require more time and analysis in order to address appropriately. We will take the proper time to analyze the report and develop short, medium, and long-term actions to respond to the needs articulated in the report. This may include additional stakeholder engagement to explore on certain issues in depth.

We will also consider ways to increase communication on current supports available and other topics raised during the engagement sessions. In the coming weeks, we will publish a page in our grant funding Help and Resources section tthat provides a short overview of eligible uses for funding, based on feedback we heard during this engagement. All impacted grant program guidelines pages will link to this new page. Please also continue to reach out to us with any questions you may have regarding supports available through the AFA programs.

The AFA remains committed to ongoing engagement with our clients and stakeholders to ensure we are as responsive as possible to the community’s needs.


The AFA values input from all clients and stakeholders, and you may share your perspective or ask any additional questions by emailing

Download the report