Commitment to Equity

Our commitment to Indigenous reconciliation, racial equity, disability justice, and gender and sexual diversity.

We acknowledge that the land we gather on, Mohkinsstsis, is the ancestral territory of the Siksikaitsitapi — the Blackfoot people — comprising the Siksika, Kainai and Piikani Nations, as well as Treaty 7 signatories, the Tsuut’ina Nation, and the lyarhe Nakoda Bearspaw, Chiniki and Goodstoney First Nations. Today this land is home to Metis Nation Districts 5 and 6 as well as many First Nations and Inuit from across Turtle Island.

We acknowledge that there has been art, music, dance, storytelling and ceremony on this land since time immemorial and it is in the spirit of this land and its people that we do our work.

Calgary Arts Development is the city’s designated arts development authority, supporting and strengthening the arts to benefit all Calgarians. We invest and allocate municipal funding for the arts provided by The City of Calgary and leverage these funds to provide additional resources to the arts sector. Our programs support hundreds of arts organizations, individual artists, artist collectives, and ad hoc groups in Calgary. Put another way, Calgary Arts Development is an organization that stewards public dollars for the public good. And when we talk about art for public good we envision a city where all artists and arts workers have the freedom, agency and platform to share and amplify their stories, art, cultures and experiences: a city where Calgarians of all backgrounds can access, create and participate in art as part of their everyday lives. 

While Calgary Arts Development’s intention to benefit all Calgarians has always been a guiding principle, we acknowledge that our actions — both conscious and unconscious, past and present, have benefited some communities while limiting opportunities and outcomes for Indigenous communities, Black communities, people of colour, persons with disabilities, Deaf communities, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, and gender diverse individuals. We also acknowledge that our efforts to work towards equity to date have prioritized the lived experience and needs of some communities over others. Disability justice, accessibility and anti-ableism in particular have been left out of focus, creating a disparity of equity within the work itself. 

Recognizing these inequities, Calgary Arts Development is committed to the process of eliminating institutional racism, ableism and barriers in our programs, policies and practices by centring the creativity and leadership of those communities most impacted by structural inequities. 

This commitment is the first step toward formalizing our equity values in organizational practices that can support equitable outcomes by assessing and addressing disparities of equity. We recognize that our work must identify and consider the ways that inequities intersect within individual lived experiences and expressions, and commit to centring intersectionality throughout this process. We are continuing to develop community relationships to ensure our accountability to the transformations we have committed to. This commitment will continue to evolve as we evolve, and we will actively share our learnings with City departments, partners, and institutions so the city as a whole can move towards systems that benefit us all. 

To learn more about our journey in this work, including our future aspirations, commitment to accountability, current initiatives, and past work in equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility, please visit the links below for more information, or contact Sayonara Cunha, the Community Liaison, through email or phone 403.312.6371.

The aspirations section outlines our long-term vision for how we might deliver on our commitment and what our organization could look like. The accountability section outlines how we hold ourselves and will be held accountable to our commitment and efforts to work towards these aspirations. The current initiatives section outlines the work that we are currently undertaking in order to better understand and achieve our aspirations and meet our commitment. The EDIA history section provides information and context about how we arrived at our commitment and current aspirations.

We have referred to and reflected on the journeys of many cities and organizations ahead of us in this work. We would like to acknowledge the Jerome Foundation’s RE-Tool: Racial Equity in the Panel Process project, LA County Arts & Culture, Toronto Arts Council, and Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, whose publications and documents informed much of our work. We would also like to acknowledge the countless staff members, assessment committee members, applicants and grantees, and individual community members and arts advocates who have generously offered their time, energy, feedback, and support as we continue to evolve in this work.

Our commitment outlines a vision for a city where Calgarians of all backgrounds can access, create and participate in art as part of their everyday lives. The below aspirations outline what it could look like to deliver on this vision and commitment, work with our community, and imagine how our role as a public funder and arts development agency might evolve and shift as we continue to work towards Indigenous reconciliation, racial equity, and disability justice. The intention is that these aspirations will change, develop, and grow into specific initiatives and accountabilities informed by the work we undertake through this journey. We do not yet know all the answers or pathways to these aspirations, and many require a long period of deep consultation and reflection with our community, and a vulnerability and openness to what could be.

  • We deliver granting programs that are widely accessible across the arts sector, that serve and address the complex and diverse needs for funding and support in the industry. Arts organizations and artists who have been excluded from arts funding through systemic barriers and bias based on colonial, racist, and ableist models of funding and philanthropy will be centred in the process to evaluate and restructure our granting programs.
  • We consult with Deaf individuals and people with disabilities to ensure that our programs, processes, and the ways that we communicate our work are accessible. 
  • We implement organizational processes and structures that are inclusive and accessible, and that uplift the work of our employees and partners. These include the City and Civic Partners, grant applicants and grantees, sponsors, arts advocates and leaders, funders, and other organizations and institutions we work with. 
  • We put our learning into practice by embedding professional learning on equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility into staff accountability frameworks, share what we learn internally and work to implement changes in response to what we learn. We  communicate our learning journeys externally to our community and are transparent about how we have implemented it into our work.
  • The arts organizations, individual artists, and artist collectives we fund share a vision and commitment to anti-racism, equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility through their own work. We have a better understanding and transparency about how we work with those we fund to hold each other accountable to this commitment. 
  • We clarify our role in dealing with conflict within the arts sector and our communities. We consider how we might support individuals and organizations through conflict and what our role could be in providing resources, training, or access to resolution services.
  • We invite principles of transformative and restorative justice and community accountability processes into our work internally and with our communities.

Calgary Arts Development is committed to ongoing community collaboration, reflective learning, follow-through and mutual accountability to help grow solidarity and trust in the communities we serve. We seek to foster meaningful knowledge exchange, dialogue, and learning in order to be better stewards of public funds and more impactful and effective in our work.
More specifically:

  • We continuously consult with the community about our work, getting into the weeds of our day-to-day workings with our EDIA community working group, and through broader sector-wide engagement with our larger goals and projects
  • We check in on the accountabilities outlined in our individual and team roles as staff to ensure that set goals remain relevant and have been or will be achieved, and are built into our regular workflow. 
  • We will set and share concrete goals that we can be held accountable to by the public, the arts community and our partners to ensure that learnings are embedded into our organizational structures, processes, policies, decision making, etc.
  • We will continue to reflect on and update our accountabilities to the community and this work on a regular basis knowing that accountability is ongoing and changes over time. 
  • We will work with applicants, assessors, and our community to develop processes and policies that ensure that our funding does not support activities that do not comply with or respect cultural protocols, promote hatred or intolerance, or use or present Indigenous cultural material, traditional knowledge or stories without permission from the community. 

Organizational Vision and Practices

  • Commissioning and compensating a community equity working group to help us re-craft our commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility, and further develop anti-racist policies and practices governing our work, including:
    • Recruitment of board, staff, and program assessors.
    • Greater access to granting programs for all artists.
    • More thoughtful procurement processes.
    • Broader community engagement with artists from a diversity of backgrounds.
  • Continuing our commitment to our reconciliation journey as led by the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation commission and the teachings of Elders and Indigenous artists who have generously provided counsel. We will expand the purpose of our Indigenous advisory committee to provide advice and direction on all aspects of our work, in addition to ongoing support for the Original Peoples Investment Program.
  • Contributing financial support for the Cultural Instigators—a group of artists-organizers learning and helping to build collective capacity in the arts communities for equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility, working on community initiatives for change.
  • Amplifying the stories of artists that reflect the rich cultural diversity of our city through The Storytelling Project, with a particular focus on sharing diverse stories through the podcasts and web series.
  • Hiring a third party to conduct an organizational equity audit to identify and help us remove barriers in our internal practices and policies and address historic and systemic issues of hierarchy and power in our organization.
  • Our offices are currently located at the Burns Building on Stephen Ave, which is not fully accessible to those who are gender-diverse or have physical disabilities. We are currently looking into new, accessible spaces to accommodate our staff and visitors to our office in the future. We will also hire a third party to conduct an organizational accessibility audit to identify and help us remove barriers in our physical and digital space
  • Organizational salary and benefits review to ensure our employees are being adequately compensated for their hard work and contributions to the organization
  • Integrating equity-related professional learning into the accountability frameworks of all full-time staff, in addition to providing company-wide training and workshops related to anti-racism and equitable practices. These learnings will inform and adapt our internal processes, and our work as individuals. 

Grant Investment Programs

  • Continuing to support the work of diverse artists through our granting programs, with emphasis on the Original Peoples Investment Program, the ArtShare Program, and the Artist as Changemaker Program.
  • Formalizing Application Assistance for eligible applicants to request assistance to help alleviate some of the costs associated with preparing and submitting a grant application, final report or receiving and accepting a grant investment.
  • Reviewing and re-designing the ArtShare Program and process with the intention to make the program more publicly accessible and available to equity-seeking artists and arts organizations.
  • Beginning the Operating Grant Program review process, with the intention to re-imagine and re-design the program for the 2023 grant year.
  • Announcing the Honouring the Children Program to support artistic projects responding to, honouring, or in memory of the loss of life, culture, ceremony, and language amongst the original peoples of this land to the residential school system.

We recognize that as an institution, there are a number of ways that Calgary Arts Development has, consciously or subconsciously, been complicit in upholding systemic barriers to those who would most benefit from our services. There are colonial dynamics at play in non-profit work and grantmaking that inform how we organize our work and distribute funds. Our programs have largely favoured white, European art forms, and those building and adjudicating those programs have also been entrenched in those same systems. Power and access has been unequally distributed in our work, for example our assessment committees, grantees, staff and board have not been fully reflective of the demographics and diversity of our city, and our hiring processes have favoured those who are in close proximity to our work.

Our journey toward a more equitable work environment and granting programs has been gradual but ongoing, and the following list outlines some of the initiatives and steps toward reconciliation, racial equity, and disability justice that have been taken at Calgary Arts Development in the past decade. We recognize that we are further along in some equity work, namely in our Indigenous reconciliation journey and our attention to racial equity. Our work on disability justice and gender and sexual diversity are not as far along and we acknowledge the importance of developing our knowledge, understanding, and capacities in these areas as well.


  • Arts for All program is launched, intended to invest in arts activity outside the downtown core, with a focus on Greater Forest Lawn. Partnered with the International Avenue BRZ, this program provided grant funds, an artist award, mentorship opportunities, and funding for ArtBOX on 17th.


  • Calgary Arts Development partners with Stage Left Productions to provide funding for the Calgary Congress for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts (CCEDA).
  • Calgary Arts Development begins working with JD Derbyshire for staff equity training and inclusive co-design practices.
  • The Common Ground (now known as Aisinna’kiiks) Dinner and Dialogue Series begins, an ongoing event featuring community meals, storytelling, and teachings from Indigenous Elders, and culminating in an evening of artistic responses by local artists.
  • The Storytelling Project begins on the Calgary Arts Development website as a way to share written stories of Calgarians living creative lives. The later addition of podcasts (2017) and a web series (2020) centres stories that better reflect the diversity of our city.


  • Arts for All is relaunched as the ArtShare Program, which provides project grant investments to artists and arts organizations who self-identify as equity-deserving or who have experienced barriers to access grant funding.
  • Group agreements and bias training are adopted into the grant program jury process, to ensure safety around sensitive conversations.
  • Staff co-design similar group agreements for internal meeting interactions.
  • Planning and development begins for the Original Peoples Investment Program (OPIP), including the formation of an Indigenous Advisory Committee to help design and advise on the program.
  • The Artist as Changemaker social innovation program is launched in partnership with the Trico Changemakers Studio at Mount Royal University.
  • Calgary Arts Development begins to expand and diversify its recruitment processes for new staff and board members.
  • Creation of an Accessibility and Accommodation Policy for grant applicants.
  • Our 2018 case for support, a proposal for an increase in funding to The City of Calgary, successfully doubled Calgary Arts Development’s budget for the 2019-2022 period. In this case, we argued that an increased investment will better reflect Calgary’s diverse population through the arts. Specific targets in the case for support included better reflecting the number of individuals and organizations served from Indigenous, racialized, gender-diverse, and disability communities.


  • Original Peoples Investment Program (OPIP) launches.
  • Calgary Arts Development staff take part in the Anti-Racism Organizational Change program through CommunityWise.
  • White and white-presenting staff members spend the summer of 2019 working through Me & White Supremacy by Layla Saad, and met regularly for group reflections.
  • The Organization Access Program opens the operating grant program up to new organizations.
  • Individual Artist Program evaluation leads to greater accessibility for applicants.
  • Equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility measures are built into individual staff accountability frameworks, so it is woven into the fabric of every position in the organization.


  • A Black Lives Matter Statement is issued following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
  • The Anti-Racism Town Hall Series is launched and holds monthly town halls to discuss racism in Calgary’s arts sector.
  • The Cultural Instigator group is formed, a collective of artists creating anti-oppression, community-based art projects; the group is CADA-supported but not CADA-led.
  • The internal staff equity working group is formed to discuss and act on necessary internal changes, including policy reviews, town hall planning, the writing of this commitment, and following up on action items identified by the community equity working group.
  • The community equity working group is formed, a diverse group of artists and arts advocates who discuss and hold space around equity-based initiatives and changes at Calgary Arts Development.