The financial life of an artist is known to be difficult, so artists here are welcoming the additional funding through the Year of the Arts.
Artist Shan Pomeroy’s home is filled with art of all kinds. By taking one step inside, it’s not hard to tell someone here finds their livelihood in the craft.
A cat tapestry, floral prints, and countless illustrations line the walls of the living room. It’s an apt reflection of the ever-growing creative landscape in St. John’s. In the past five years, much of Pomeroy’s income has been fueled by her art, whether it’s from commissions, freelance projects or grants.
Soon, it may become easier for Newfoundland and Labrador artists to see the financial benefits of their craft.
“It’s time to start prioritizing art and not making it seem like it’s something extra. Because it’s not really something extra. I think it’s an important part of being alive,” said Pomeroy.
Premier Andrew Furey designated 2024 as the Year of the Arts in May 2023, announcing programs and celebrations of the province’s rich artistic culture. Later, $2 million in grant funding was committed in preparation for 2024 events.
As the year progresses, Pomeroy is looking forward to seeing the product of that extra funding.
“I get to see how it’s affecting organizations, rather than just me,” they said. “I was really excited about the possibility of friends of mine getting more funding as well, because I know so many people who are more aware that there are grant opportunities now … so people are going, ‘Oh, OK, I’m a valid artist. I’m going to apply for this.’”
ArtsNL’s Professional Project Grants Program is administering the government funding which is split into two intakes, with the second one coming in March. Pomeroy received a grant during the initial 2023 intake, and plans on using the funds for a residency in Spain.
During the time between art jobs or grants, it can be hard to make ends meet. This is especially true for emerging or immigrant artists like Nasim Makaremi, who sits on the board at Eastern Edge – an artist-run centre in St. John’s – with Pomeroy.
“I have to pay rent, I have living expenses. When the government supports me as an artist, that half of my mind will be OK. I can easily focus on my work.”– Nasim Makaremi Nia
Makaremi is a longtime visual artist known for her intricate embroidery with menstrual products for a 2021 project. She says she hopes for greater accessibility to funds and resources to diverse artists.
“There are many immigrant artists here, and all of us have something from our culture in our artwork,” Makaremi said. “I really love that; this is something which is very special.”
Seeking support hasn’t always been easy.
“I’m Iranian and I came here just four years ago,” said Makaremi. “While I was in my country, I didn’t have any support. But here, I’m very happy. There are different grants and funds for artists, but there’s something that I’m faced with.
“As I’m international, I’m not eligible for some funds.”
However, Makaremi is eligible for ArtsNL grants, and is grateful for a heightened level of government support for the arts.
“I have to pay rent, I have living expenses. When the government supports me as an artist, that half of my mind will be OK. I can easily focus on my work,” she said.
In a province that has music, literature and craft at the heart of its culture, established artists may know how to work the system in their favour.
As someone who’s been visually creative their entire life, Pomeroy would like to see more resources for emerging artists, even after the provincial campaign is over.
“I think we need maybe more active (courses) or art courses in the province or in the city for younger people,” Pomeroy said, referencing Eastern Edge’s yearly Wake Up Inspired exhibit.
The show focuses on young artists of any skill level.
Though much of the programming for the 2024 Year of the Arts celebration has yet to be announced, Pomeroy and Makaremi are eager to see its impacts on the value creativity holds with Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.