TO Live expanding ways to directly support artist and art workers

It’s been an incredibly long year for all of us. For musicians, artists and people who work in the arts, it’s been agonizing and filled with an extra layer of uncertainty. 

TO Live has continued to do its best to support people who are unsure when the museums, music venues, studios and other havens will reopen, creating hundreds of short-term opportunities for actors, writers, technical production staff and directors. But the organization wants to do more, since we’re still not sure when the lights will return to these venues. 

Now TO Live is working with theatre spaces throughout the city to allow artists to use rent-free areas for their work, including Meridian Hall, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts and the Meridian Arts Centre. The organization is also underwriting crew and staff costs to allow artists and arts workers to get back to work. 

“When the pandemic hit, we immediately wanted to find ways to strengthen our investment in Toronto’s artistic community,” said Clyde Wagner, the president and CEO of TO Live. “The arts community has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and we wanted to play a meaningful role in supporting the recovery. We decided to leverage the strength of our physical space and our theatres to provide artists with opportunities to continue to create, rehearse, film and stream. Our focus was on providing employment to artists and arts workers while supporting new work and helping artists remain connected with their audiences.”

So far, TO Live is working with Fall for Dance North, Orchestra Toronto, Sinfonia Toronto and Hannaford Silver Street Band. The organization is also partnering with the Obsidian Theatre Company for its 21 Black Futures film project, which aired on the CBC’s Gem network during Black History Month. Additionally, TO Live is working with the Toronto Fringe Festival on its virtual Next Stage program and it provided DLT Experience with a month-long residency to begin development of an “immersive site-specific work” it commissioned. 

“I would very much like to thank TO Live for their generous partnership on 21 Black Futures,” said Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu, artistic director of the Obsidian Theatre. “As a small independent theatre company with no venue of our own, finding space to do our work is always challenging. This coupled with trying to find space in the middle of a pandemic would have been equally challenging had TO Live not reached out to ask if we needed help! 21 Black Futures was an ambitious project and needed strong partners to bring it to life. By not only donating the beautiful venue itself for the filming of the 21 monodramas, but by also covering the crew costs, TO Live made it possible for us to focus on making the best art possible and create something ambitious, timely and responsive to the current moment. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”

Added Lucy Eveleigh, executive director of the Toronto Fringe Festival, “TO Live has partnered with The Toronto Fringe for many years with our Best of Fringe series, and we are so grateful to be able to deepen this relationship. The Theatre Shorts series would not have been possible without the investment of TO Live, which gave artists a chance to work on something meaningful and be compensated for their labour.”

A majority of TO Live’s revenue — 85% — typically comes from its rental business, but that’s dried up as live performances have stopped. In the meantime, Live TO is working with support from the city of Toronto, Meridian and donations from other partner groups and individual to continue working with, and supporting, artists and arts workers. 

85% of TO Live’s revenue is usually derived from its rental business which has ceased while live performances are suspended. For now, the organization is working with the support of the City of Toronto, principal sponsor Meridian, and the generous donations of other partners and individuals to be able to continue to provide space to artists and associated activities.  With that support, new projects and activities with Toronto’s artistic community will continue to be announced.

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Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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