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A dynamic group of artists including painters Lawren S. Harris and André Biéler, sculptor Elizabeth Wyn Wood and poet F.R. Scott came together in the early 1940s with a common vision for the sustained growth of the arts and artistic expression in Canada. In 1945, this vision fostered the establishment of a national arts advocacy body, the Canada Arts Council, which later evolved to become the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA).

Artists Conference at Kingston, 1941

Consultation with its members and others in the cultural sector has always been key to the work of the CCA. Its first major national conference, which called for increased funding and support for the arts, was organized in 1961. Thereafter, national conferences were held every few years, becoming biennial events in the 1980s and early 1990s. Issues tackled included taxation, status of the artist, new technologies, cultural funding, and arts and education.

Joan Chalmers

During the second half of the 1990s, a nation-wide government program review was initiated, as a result of which funding to the CCA was cut drastically and the conferences were suspended.  In 2000, the CCA initiated the Chalmers Conferences (named for philanthropist Joan Chalmers) to provide a much-needed forum for representatives of arts service organizations to discuss issues of interest and concern, and to provide opportunities for advocacy and networking. Since 2001, the CCA’s National Policy Conference has been an annual event, providing national forums for stakeholder input on a variety of timely and relevant cultural topics.

Since its inception, the CCA has worked ceaselessly on behalf of Canada’s artists and arts organizations to promote and defend their interests. The need for advocacy has not decreased with time.

Many issues identified in the early days remain on our radar today. The CCA continues to advocate for improvements for artists on many fronts, including:

  • taxation and access to social benefits

  • copyright

  • effects of and access to new technologies

  • public funding and support for the arts

  • culture and trade

For a detailed timeline of our history, click here.