PEI Arts Grants: Bringing Island artists’ ideas to life

Reequal Smith held her breath, opened her email, and hoped for the best.

“I was very nervous. But when I read the good news, I was ecstatic,” says the 28-year-old who moved from the Bahamas to PEI in 2016 to study dance at Holland College.

Smith’s application for a PEI Arts Grant had been approved, giving her the funding she needed to develop her idea for a performance that showcased her dance and choreography.

“I created a full show in only a month’s time,” says Smith, who applied for the grant in May last year and got word of her approval in June.

Receiving the support was like getting a “stamp of approval” for her art, Smith says.

That sense of support is why government programs like the PEI Arts Grants were established, says Mathieu Foran, a cultural development officer with Innovation PEI.

“Arts and culture are in the fabric of our identity.” 

Supporting Island creators builds on that identity and inspires amateur and emerging artists, says Foran.

“We want artists to feel like they can make a living off their art here on the Island, so we want to help build opportunities for them to create more.”

Funding through the PEI Arts Grants ranges from $1000 to $8000 – depending on which grant an artist applies for – and is based on criteria met by each artist and their proposed project.

Applications are reviewed by a jury of fellow creators from PEI’s arts community that includes both established and emerging artists. 

“These are your peers,” Foran says, referring to the jury members who assess the submitted applications. “So don’t be afraid to express yourself, to be unique, and experiment with your ideas.”

If an artist isn’t sure which grant they might be eligible for or what they need to apply, he says department staff are available to help.

“We often do one on one calls for this and we are happy to provide tips.”

While jury members select which projects receive approval, government provides the funding to make those projects come to life.

Reequal Smith
Image caption: 
Reequal Smith began dancing as a young girl growing up in the Bahamas. She moved to PEI in 2016 where, she says, her love for dance has been supported by many people, as well as programs - like the PEI Arts Grant.
Smith’s show came to life last September when it was delivered to a live audience at the Florence Simmons Performance Hall. 

‘Euphoria: A Rainbow in the Sky’ celebrates female empowerment and self-realization through dance and music.

“The energy and message of the show really meant a lot to me,” says Smith. 

It was an evening she says she’ll never forget.

“It was a magical night of fun, hard work, music, dance, and sweat.”

She encourages other artists to apply for a PEI Arts Grant, so their ideas have a chance to be shared with audiences, too.

“If you believe in your work, put it out there and don’t let fear be your barrier.”

And don’t be afraid to reach out for help either, says Foran. 

“We’re all here for anyone who is searching for feedback on how to prepare an application,” he says.

“Call me to talk about it!”

PEI Arts Grants will be open for new applications beginning April 13 through May 11, 2022.

For more information, visit: PEI Arts Grants
To apply to become a jury member, visit: Innovation PEI - Peer Selection Jury

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