Monday, May 08, 2006

How to spend money


I got an email announcement about The Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award of $25,000 which is just being started. My first reaction was "cool!" although it was quickly followed by "what's $25K gonna do for Canadian visual art?" And then by a little research.

These are all guesses and estimations on my part - and I'd love to get some hard figures - but...

The Hnatyshyn Foundation has two employees, let's say that they ain't getting rich, but they are getting by. One administrative assistant at $20,000/year, one director at $25,000. Let's say rent is $1,000/month, after all 160 Elgin is a swanky address. That's all fine and dandy, sorta fixed costs, not terribly expensive (assuming my guesses are close). Since they are giving out nine awards in 2006, let's say the visual arts award is 11% of the fixed costs, or slightly more than $6,000.

What then gets me is this; they are going to choose "an expert jury of six regional curators" who are going to make up the initial list of nominees. They then hash it out amongst themselves to come up with a short list of 10. (All of this is detailed here.) I would guess that that means the "regional curators" are going to be recieving some sort of honorarium. Let's be cheap, give 'em $500 flat fee, each. But as they are regional curators, and they are going to have to discuss and decide amongst themselves who gets short listed, the foundation is going to have to pay for travel, hotel and a per diem too, right? Assuming all the regional curators are from Montreal that plane flight is going to be $208+taxes - let's call it $250. Hotel for a couple of nights $200, pre diem of say $50. So were up to a total of $6,600 or so, just to get a short list. And that's if everybody flies from Montreal...

Then in September, the adjudicators kick in to make a "final" decision. Same process, slightly cheaper, because in the past they've only used three adjudicators. So we're up to a total of $10,000 so as to figure out what artist is going to get $25,000. Then there's the added cost of a PR company to get the word out, and the big gala party to celebrate the winner. Call it $5,000. If you add in the fixed costs, the grand total is $21K to give away $25K. Not a good ratio any way you look at it.

Personally, since Rene Blouin is on the Board of Directors, why doesn't Ms. Barbara Janes (the director) take Mr. Blouin out for a really really swanky dinner (say for the two of them, $1,500 including tax and tip - is there a restaurant in Ottawa that is that expensive?) spend another $500 getting him to and from Ottawa and putting him up at a fancy hotel for the night. Then, they can announce that one of the artists represented by M. Blouin is the recipient of a $44,000 prize. I'm certain whoever got it would appreciate the extra cash (despite what you think, none of them are rich) and the reaction in Canada and the rest of the world would be just about the same.

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