Public Dollars for Public Good

Public Dollars for Public Good

What does this mean for us and why does it matter

If you have heard me speak at all in the past few years, one of the ways I describe Calgary Arts Development is that we are a public agency, stewarding public dollars in the interests of the public good.

There’s a lot packed into this and I wanted to write this fieldnote to describe what this means for us and why it matters:

We are a Public Agency…

We are a wholly owned subsidiary of The City of Calgary, and were created as a not for profit entity under the Business Corporations Act in response to the 2004 Civic Arts policy.

We are also identified as a Civic Partner with The City of Calgary and it is through this designation that we receive our grant from The City that covers our granting and arts development programs and operations.

We are governed by an arms-length board of directors that is appointed by our shareholder—The City of Calgary as represented by City Council. Our board members are 100% arts champions who represent the full spectrum of Calgary’s arts sector that we have the privilege of serving. All of our policies and procedures are stewarded by our board and we meet annually with our shareholder at our annual general meeting. We also report regularly to City Council and City Administration through various committees and departmental meetings.

The role of our board is an important one as it means that members of the community steward our work and determine our direction in support of our mandate for the benefit of the arts for Calgary. And we extend this community practice wherever we can as we use citizen assessors for our grant investment programs and seek input from our community, with corresponding reporting to our community as often as we can.

Stewarding Public Funds…

More than 95% of our total budget comes from our grant from The City of Calgary. And with this grant a minimum of 75% of what we receive must go out in the form of grants to support the arts sector. The rest of our budget is generated through other partnerships and earned revenues used primarily in support of grant making and artist awards.

We take our work very seriously and recently when a member of City Council made allegations that challenged the integrity of how Calgary Arts Development uses the funds we receive; we sent a memo to all members of City Council the next day in order to clarify how we steward the funds entrusted to us. You can read that memo below so that our community is also aware of how we try to be accountable to our mandate and the sector.

In the interests of the Public Good…

Of the many parts of my job that I value, perhaps the greatest gift is that we get to use the investment entrusted to us by The City to build our city with Calgary’s artists and arts organizations for the benefit of all citizens not just some. And never have we seen this benefit so clearly demonstrated as we have during the COVID-19 pandemic.

People are leaning on the arts more than ever before. From online shows, to the delivery of curbside art kits, to online classes to curbside concerts that have now become a national phenomenon, Calgary’s arts sector has risen to the task. And the access and affordability to this work is due in large part to public support of the arts. We are now seeing the power of the arts to build community in ways only artists can imagine.

My team and I are so proud to be able to work with and for artists every day and to see the connections that the arts are making is remarkably gratifying.

More information can be found on our publications page.


To: Calgary City Council
From: Brian Frank, Chair of the Board and Patti Pon, President & CEO
Date: May 12, 2020
Subject: Calgary Arts Development Budget: Setting the Record Straight

During The City of Calgary’s Strategic Meeting of Council on Monday, May 11, 2020, Cllr. Chu made a statement regarding Calgary Arts Development Authority (CADA) spending of additional funds received from the City of Calgary in 2019. Specifically, Cllr Chu stated that “most of our increase went to benefits and new staff.” For the record, in 2019 CADA allocated 88% of additional funding to the arts sector in Calgary through its various grant programs.

Below we are sharing details of CADA’s budget funding and granting allocations to ensure that any discussion of CADA funding and granting is based on facts and real numbers.

Our record demonstrates a commitment to running effective, efficient and thoughtful grant investment programs that support hundreds of arts organizations and artists in Calgary, the broader arts community, and ultimately the citizens of Calgary.

As part of CADA’s Civic Partner Agreement with The City, a minimum of 75% of our budgetary funding from The City must be spent on grants to arts organizations and artists. We have always met or exceeded that requirement.

In 2018, CADA received $6,400,000 from The City of Calgary as a total funding budget and distributed

$4,828,255 in grants directly to hundreds of arts organizations and artists. That represents 75.4% of The City’s funding

In 2019, after an 88% increase to our funding, CADA received $12,040,000 from The City of Calgary as a total grant. CADA allocated 88% of that increase directly as grants by investing $9,789,980 directly to arts organizations and artists. That represents 81.3% of the City’s funding and a 102% increase of support to the sector compared to 2018

With regard to direct salaries and benefits costs at CADA, the significance of the increase to our granting pools in 2019 over 2018 did require additional resource including staff positions to address the additional work. Further, we also took this opportunity to make adjustments to some existing positions in order to align to other comparable agencies as reported in industry salary surveys for the not for profit sector. Of note, not for profit salary and benefit levels are substantially below comparable levels in The City of Calgary and other government organizations. The increase to salaries and benefits (including new hires) in 2019 equaled 5.5% ($331,458) of the total increase to CADA funding. Salaries and benefits represented 11% of CADA funding in 2018 and 9% of CADA funding in 2019. Furthermore, our direct admin/overhead also decreased from 8% to 6% of total budget in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

The $2 million in Emergency Resiliency Funding approved on May 11 is a much-needed injection of support into Calgary’s arts sector during this challenging and unprecedented time. In 2017 when Council invested $2 million in bridge funding to Calgary’s Cornerstone companies, CADA granted out 100% of that funding, relying on existing organizational capability to allocate the additional funding. Likewise, in 2016-17 CADA granted out $1,980,000 out of $2 million in Emergency Resiliency Funding, with 99% going out in grants.

We hope this memo clarifies any confusion about how The City’s grant to Calgary Arts Development is used to benefit the arts sector who in turn contribute to Calgary’s economic and social well-being. If you would like more information, we would be happy to go through our budget and financials in whatever level of detail you feel appropriate. At our upcoming AGM in June, we will provide a full report for the year (2019) including a complete list of all grants awarded and audited financial statements.

2018 %
2019 %
City Funding $ 6,400,000 $ 12,040,000
Grants $ 4,828,255 75% $ 9,789,980 81%
Grants and Impact Delivery $ 935,300 15% $ 748,045 6%
Admin/Overhead $ 540,523 8% $693,103 6%
Arts Development $ 581,132 9% $ 879,230 7%



$ 6,885,210




$ 12,113,567



*Totals includes non-City revenues and expenses in order to align with our audited financial statements.

Download Memo as a PDF

Calgary Arts Development’s President & CEO Patti Pon in Olympic Plaza
Patti Pon | Photo: Amy Jo Espetveidt

Calgary Arts Development President & CEO Patti Pon is a veteran community and arts champion with an extensive track record of leadership and service in Calgary.

Patti has deep and diverse experience in the arts sector, she comes to the position of President & CEO from her most recent position as Director, Resource Development, Calgary Arts Development.

Patti holds a BFA in Drama and an MBA in Arts Administration, and has been awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal as well as the 2013 Harry and Martha Cohen Award, recognizing significant contribution to Calgary’s theatre community.

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