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Watch a recording of the January 31, 2024 Operate - Sustain Information Session.

This program is designed to enhance stability within established arts organizations that develop and sustain Nova Scotia’s arts community. Support is provided to organizations that produce or present artistic performances and events involving professional artists. 

The purpose of this program is to:

  • Foster the vitality and long-term health of arts and cultural life in Nova Scotia
  • Support organizations that produce or present artistic performances and events
  • Enhance stability for arts organizations
  • Provide support for ongoing core creation, production, presentation and administrative costs 

Support is provided on a four-year basis and is subject to annual provincial budget availability. 

Priority will be given to equity-deserving organizations as outlined in our Equity Framework.

Strategic Priorities

In the Arts Nova Scotia 2022-23 annual report, the Board of Directors identified our 2023-2025 Strategic Priorities that inform our work to improve and/or change programs. 

As part of the strategic priority of anti-oppression, we have developed an Equity Framework that acknowledges the power imbalances embedded in our systems and aims to mitigate the effects of this oppression.  Included in the Equity Framework are designated priority groups that are the focus of our strategic measures through dedicated programs, funding prioritization processes and outreach to better address historical inequities.  The designated priority groups consist of applicants who are:

  • Indigenous (Mi’kmaq, First Nations, Métis, or Inuit);
  • African Nova Scotian, Black, or people of colour;
  • Deaf or experience disability; or
  • Located in regional areas (outside of the Halifax Regional Municipality)

Organizations whose statement of purpose includes support for and who are led by arts and cultural practitioners rooted in communities as listed above are considered a designated priority group.  

What makes an organization eligible?

Eligible organizations must:

  • Be registered not-for-profit societies or not-for-profit cooperatives in good standing with the Nova Scotia Provincial Registry of Joint Stock Companies, or federally registered under the Corporations Act as a not-for-profit society or cooperative based and operating in Nova Scotia. 
  • Have a centre of operations in Nova Scotia.
  • Have been active for at least four years.
  • Have a mandate to create, produce and/or present work by professional artists.
  • Engage the paid expertise of art professionals in programming and administration.
  • Pay professional fees to artists according to industry standards.
  • Conduct an annual audit, review engagement or independent financial review by an accounting professional not associated with the organization on an ongoing basis
  • Have received at least three project grants in the last five years from public arts funders (new applicants only).
  • Have median annual revenues of $100,000  or greater.
  • Have strategic and operational planning and evaluation processes that support work and mandate.
  • Secure multiple sources of revenue such as corporate contributions, donations, sales, and membership fees and must pursue other sources of public or private funding.
  • Comply with all Arts Nova Scotia policies.

Ineligible organizations include:

  • Private or for-profit entities
  • Organizations who receive operating assistance from the Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage
  • Organizations whose primary mandate is education and/or training
  • Organizations that submit incomplete applications

What are the funding levels?

Funding level maximums are determined by organizations size, scope, and budget. 

Amount received is based on assessment performance every four years and subject to availability of provincial budget. 

Annual Budget

(median over 4 years)

Funding Maximum Reporting Requirements
$100-250K Maximum 25% of revenues or $50K, whichever is less A review engagement or audited statements.
$250-500K Maximum 20% of revenues or $75K, whichever is less A review engagement or audited statements.
$500-1M Maximum 15% of revenues or $100K, whichever is less A review engagement or audited statements.
$1-2M Maximum 12.5% of revenues or $180K, whichever is less Audited statements.
$2M+ Maximum 10% of revenues or $550K, whichever is less Audited statements.










Funding is awarded with a four-year agreement. 

Organizations that receive Operate – Sustain funding will also have access to one Arts Nova Scotia project grant, one professional development or development grant and one commissioning grant every three years.   These same limits apply to organizations that receive more than $25K in funding from The Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage’s Operating Assistance to Cultural Organizations program.

What are the financial and statistical reporting requirements?

As of January 2024, Arts Nova Scotia will be utilizing the Canadian Arts Database (CADAC for short) to collect financial and statistical information for Operate – Sustain grants. 

NOTE: for the March 15, 2024 deadline, only organizations who have already registered with CADAC will be required to use this tool. Moving forward, we will work with organizations to assist with the registration process and provide training.

CADAC is a joint effort of arts funders across the country and is dedicated to the collection, dissemination, and analysis of financial and statistical information about Canadian arts organizations in a system of record. CADAC provides a simplified process, standardized forms and a web-based application to arts organizations applying for operating (core) grants to submit financial and statistical information for use by funding agencies.

By participating in CADAC, Arts Nova Scotia can report on the health of Nova Scotian organizations and the impact of the arts in our communities. It also allows users to have access to their own historical data and comparative reports to similar organizations. 

How often is funding awarded?

Application intake happens every four years. Organizations who are successful receive a funding agreement for four years. Interim reporting is required after year one, two, and three.

Funding levels correspond to organization size, scope, budget, and performance against assessment criteria.

Can our funding level change?

Arts Nova Scotia is committed to fair and transparent processes and to not destabilizing organizations, while holding organizations and groups accountable to the competitive nature of the program, program requirements and the obligations of the grant.

For the Operate – Sustain program, any grant reduction of more than 25 percent requires advance notice. Fair Notice is issued to an organization that underperforms in the assessment criteria and/or its programming has changed so that it no longer aligns with the program purpose.

Arts Nova Scotia will inform an organization in writing of its Fair Notice status, explain what concerns were identified during the assessment process, how it will be monitored, and the time period to address the concerns. If the concerns are not addressed within the identified time period, the additional reduction will be implemented. The reduction to the grant amount more than 25 percent will be held for an identified time period for potential restoration at a future assessment closing date.   

What should our application include?

Please refer to the Application Checklist for detailed information on what to include. 

How will our application be assessed?

We use Peer Assessment Committees (PACs) to make funding decisions. PACs in this program are made up of three assessors who are professional arts workers with experience working in organizations. Program officers work to ensure diversity of region, gender, age, race, and culture when inviting assessors. You can sign up to be an assessor here.

The program officer is available to help facilitate the decision-making process but does not participate in the scoring or ranking of applications. They apply our policies and procedures to ensure fairness, and to avoid conflict of interest throughout the process.

Contents of the applications and proceedings of the meetings are strictly confidential. We publish the names of all peer assessors in the previous year in our annual report. However, we do not provide a breakdown of individual committee makeup.

For Operate – Sustain, the program officer presents the recommendations of the PAC to the Arts NS Board of Directors for final approval. 

Using an Assessment Tool, assessors will consider the following:

Artistic Impact (40%) 
The assessment committee evaluates excellence in the achievement of professional artistic activity. The committee will consider: 

  • How programming furthers the artistic vision of the organization, its role in the discipline and the NS arts ecosystem. 
  • How the programming is achievable and appropriate for the organization’s capacity.   
  • How the programs support the development of the general art form and of artistic practice in Nova Scotia, as well as nationally, and/or internationally. 
  • The level of exploration, risk, originality, and production values achieved in programming, as it relates to the organization’s purpose. 
  • The integrity of the creative and artistic processes; including research, collaborative processes, the ethical treatment of contributors and materials. 
  • The organization’s commitment to the development, support, and presentation of work by Nova Scotian artists. 
  • The effectiveness of practices that eliminate cultural appropriation and support meaningful representation, using appropriate protocols and practices. 
  • The level at which the organization shows commitment to advancing opportunities for and service to equity-deserving and under-represented communities. 

 Relevance and Community Impact (30%)  
The assessment committee evaluates the quality of the organization’s level of engagement with the following communities: the general public, the artistic community, and relevant cultural and community partners. The committee will consider: 

  • The relevance of the organization to the communities it serves, as demonstrated through programming, audience development, outreach, or curatorial choices.  
  • How the organization provides opportunities for the public to engage and interact with artists and art and the communities it serves. 
  • How the organization’s community engagement practices serve the artistic vision 
  • How the organization develops and maintains collaborative relationships/ partnerships 
  • How the organization provides opportunities and mentorship and support for the professional development of professional and pre-professional artists 
  • The effectiveness of marketing and communication activities  
  • The level of accessibility and engagement, including physical spaces, cultural safety, affordability, and support for diverse participants or those who experience barriers or disability. 
  • The significance of steps the organization has taken to pursue equity, diversity, inclusion, and access depending on its region, community served, size, and mandate.  

Organizational Effectiveness (30%) 
The assessment committee evaluates the quality of the organization’s management practices, governance, and planning. The committee will consider: 

Governance practices and policies. Including structure, strategic planning, and governance practices.  

  • The relevance of the organization’s structure to the organization’s purpose, community, lifecycle, and size.
  • The strength of the organization’s policies in upholding equity in its human resources, governance, and operational practices. 

Human resources. Including staff, board, and volunteers.  

  • The role of leadership, management, and the board in good governance and fostering inclusion and a healthy, sustainable workplace.  
  • Human resources practices provide fair remuneration, professional development, equitable employment, cultural competency, cultural safety, and a safe and respectful workplace. 

Financial management. Including budgeting, expenditure management, and revenue generation.  

  • The achievability of the proposed programs is determined by sound budgets, planning, resource allocation, and the organization’s overall financial health.  

Operational effectiveness. Including work planning, communication, marketing, and facility management (if applicable).  

  • The organization’s ability to navigate change, adapt to new circumstances, and tolerate risk. 

What happens if concerns are identified in our application?

The assessment committee may, through its evaluation process, identify organizations that underperform when measured against program objectives and assessment criteria. In these circumstances, the committee may recommend the organization be placed on Concerned Status.

Please refer to the Concerned Status Policy for details.

When will our funding be confirmed?

Funding decisions are made following confirmation of Arts Nova Scotia budget. All efforts will be made to confirm funding with organizations within 8-12 weeks. 

What if a deadline falls on a weekend or holiday?

If the deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, the deadline is moved until the next business day.

How do I submit my application?

Send your application to according to the instructions below. You can watch our YouTube tutorial Submitting Your Application Over Email for more detailed instructions.

Before Sending Your Email

  • Include your name on all files
  • Number your files in the order they should be opened (application forms have a list of required documents in order)
  • Ensure your page limits and file sizes are in line with the program guidelines
  • Upload large audio and video files to a streaming service such as YouTube, Vimeo or SoundCloud

When Submitting

  • Address your email to
  • Submit by 11:59pm the day of the deadline
  • Send one application per email 
  • Subject line should be: “Organization Name – Program Name”
  • Keep attachments under 25MB
  • Do not attach large audio or video files; include a streaming link in the body of the email
  • Do not send cloud-based attachments (WeTransfer, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.)
  • Do not duplicate your application; do not send an additional hard copy

Only submissions will be accepted to this email address. Please direct all questions to the program officer. 

If you are unable to submit by email please contact the program officer.

All applications sent to ArtsNS Submissions should receive an auto-reply confirmation. If you do not receive confirmation within one week, please contact a program officer. You must contact the program officer within two weeks of the deadline for us to consider your application. Applications will only be considered if there is proof of email being sent by the deadline.