ArtsNL Forfeits Riddle Fence Sustaining Funding

Riddle Fence, along with The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society and Wreckhouse Jazz and Blues, was recently denied year 2 and 3 of their previously approved multi-year sustaining funding as a result of administrative errors. Riddle Fence requests that its sustaining funding be reinstated and that an artist engaged review of ArtsNL be conducted. We stand in solidarity with The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society and Wreckhouse Jazz and Blues.

Riddle Fence is the only independent arts and culture journal in Newfoundland and Labrador. It encourages, supports and reflects arts and culture in Newfoundland and Labrador while contributing to a national and international dialogue. It is integral to the fabric of our artistic and cultural community across all disciplines.

Specifically, our error occurred in CADAC, a financial data software program where arts organizations are required to input information from Review Engagements prepared by accountants. Grant Thornton prepared Riddle Fence’s Review Engagement which was delivered to ArtsNL Program Officer Ken Murphy on February 1st by Riddle Fence’s Executive Director Megan Coles. Riddle Fence understood the additional reports to be successfully received. This error did not appear on our software.

Riddle Fence’s Executive Director was notified on February 6th that the journal’s sustaining funding had been forfeited. The determination was not made by the peer jury but by ArtsNL staff members. Riddle Fence was not provided an opportunity to address this development. In response, Coles prepared an additional application to Annual Operating Program For Professional Artists while the Riddle Fence Board of Directors appealed to the ArtsNL Board of Directors to overturn the decision. We were told that our letter of appeal would be discussed by the board at a meeting on February 20th. On February 22nd, Riddle Fence received a letter stating that the funding would not be reinstated. This letter was signed on behalf of the ArtsNL Board of Directors by Chair Stan Hill.

Riddle Fence is dismayed and disturbed that ArtsNL would jeopardize the viability of established and valued arts organizations as a result of minor discrepancies unrelated to programming. We do not feel this is representative of their intended role in our community and are concerned that this development will negatively impact understaffed, underfunded and overworked arts organizations. ArtsNL’s core function as an arms length corporation is to encourage the creation of Newfoundland and Labrador art free from government influence. The peer jury’s purpose is to determine that the funding is distributed to artists and arts organizations contributing to the artistic and cultural canon of our province. The revocation of funding by ArtsNL staff undermines this jury process and is disrespectful of the talent, knowledge and time of the artists who adjudicate applications to the program.

The recent decisions of ArtsNL undermines government policies established to encourage the creation and dissemination of arts and culture. It undermines the function of sustaining funding which is intended to provide predictability and security for organizations. It impedes the processes in place because of minor clerical oversights on the part of primarily volunteer-run organizations. These decisions run counter to ArtsNL’s mandate and are not indicative of the relationship between the funder and Riddle Fence who now feel blindsided by this unnecessary development. A strained relationship with the provincial funder negatively impacts artistic creation, hinders productivity and threatens the livelihood of arts administrators and artists. These individuals are contributing members of our province and deserve to be treated professionally. Riddle Fence perceives ArtsNL’s complete revocation of multi-year funding over nitpicking of annual status reports to be excessive and damaging to the well being of arts organizations.

Furthermore, the past practice of redistributing funding clawed back from arts organizations to their partner arts organizations is harmful to the overall creative wellness of our community which relies heavily on collaboration and cooperation to deliver high calibre arts and culture programming to the province. Though ArtsNL has not yet declared how they will be reallocating the revoked funds from this year, the funder’s failure to recognize their usual redistribution practice as an ineffectual and detrimental policy is a growing concern.

Executive Director Megan Coles notes that “This arbitrary decision does not reflect the journal’s strong position in the community, the capabilities of the organization or the high quality of the work published within. Riddle Fence has published over 400 artists and paid over 50 contributors last year alone while maintaining thriving partnerships and strongly advocating on behalf of provincial literacy. We ask that our fellow community members stand in solidarity with us as we navigate this unexpected and unfortunate situation.”

-Riddle Fence Board

Contact Information | Emily Deming Martin | RF BOD Member | 709 631 8138

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