Member Spotlight on The Metcalf Foundation

For the month of September, GIA’s photo banner features work and artists supported by the Metcalf Foundation. The goal of The George Cedric Metcalf Foundation is to enhance the effectiveness of people and organizations working together to help Canadians imagine and build a just, healthy, and creative society. The foundation invests approximately $5.4 million each year in charitable activities to work focused on the environment, performing arts, inclusive local economies, and special initiatives.

Through its Creative Strategies Incubator, Metcalf’s Performing Arts Program provides support to professional performing arts companies. Every year, in consultation with the arts community, the foundation identifies a specific focus issue. Over a three-year period, companies share learning while pursuing an individual initiative that addresses the focus issue.

Highlights from the first three years of cohorts include the following:

  • A musical theatre company amplified revenues and accessed new markets by remodelling its annual concert hall series to be a unique client and staff hosting opportunity for corporations.
  • Working on ways to engage audiences and build community, a theatre company completely rearticulated its core practice to become a live arts hub and an open and accessible public space for people to gather around a range of social issues such as city building and the environment.
  • A theatre company developed a new source of revenue by capitalizing on an existing asset — namely its expertise in diversity and anti-oppression — and is offering customized training in social justice and anti-oppressive practices to private and public organizations.

As a funder, the Metcalf Foundation asks its grantees to be open to experimentation, failure, and risk — to explore the edges, where the biggest breakthroughs can occur. Recognizing that there is often a gap between the ambition of an initiative and the human resource capacity to make it happen, the foundation is reevaluating its three-year all-in funding model and considering ways of investing in more ideas early on. Additional financial support would then be provided over subsequent years to the most potent and sustainable initiatives.

As Michael Trent, performing arts program director shares, “We have scrutinized our program design, teased out the issues, and questioned our own assumptions as a funder.” Asked what excites the foundation these days, he says, “Two things. One is the extraordinary accomplishments of our grantees. The other is the disruption of our own approach, and a willingness to be transparent and to experiment — in other words, to embrace the same behaviours that we ask of our grantees.”

The Metcalf Foundation joined GIA in 2006, and is one of six GIA member organizations based outside of the US.

Learn more about the foundation and its programs.

You can also visit the photo gallery on our Photo Credits page.

Photo by Marko Kovacevic, Makeup by Charm Torres.