Facebook Canada and the National Arts Centre (NAC) team up to offer entertainment to Canadians and provide financial relief to performers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 19, Jim Cuddy, of the Canadian band Blue Rodeo, kicked off the English live stream of #CanadaPerforms and Lisa LeBlanc, a French musician, played for the French stream at #Canadaenprestation on March 20.

Facebook Canada approached Heather Gibson, the executive producer for popular music and variety at the NAC and #CanadaPerforms lead, when COVID-19 isolation began affecting artists who make their livelihood by performing. Since large group gatherings have been restricted performers are no longer getting paid.

“Facebook contacted us and said they had noticed how this is affecting musicians and touring artists. We came up with the program and decided it should be for all performing artists not just musicians. I brought in all my peers so there are all three theatre departments and the orchestra are now part of this process,” said Gibson.

#CanadaPerforms and #Canadaenprestation offers professional artists a chance for a $1,000 grant to perform a livestream presentation for 45 to 60 minutes. Everyone gets the same amount through the grant for performing. 

“With the exception of guys like Jim Cuddy who did not take any money. Everyone gets the same amount,” said Gibson.

To apply for the grant, performing artists should submit their name, a description of their performance, the date and the streaming platform (which doesn’t have to be Facebook). The email address is [email protected]. They can also follow the #CanadaPerforms link at nac-cna.ca.

According to Gibson, there have been just under 4000 applications for the program. Artists can apply up until April 13 and #CanadaPerforms plans on live streaming performances until the end of May. Gibson and her team of 50 members are currently reviewing applications.

“We are probably about a week behind right now. Some people are applying and hoping to hear right away, but with 4000 applicants it is taking us some time,” said Gibson.

For those who are missing professional entertainment, #CanadaPerforms has a wide variety of artists lined up for viewers during physical distancing. They can go to nac-cna.ca for the upcoming artist listing.

The program is running well for both artists and viewers. It offers entertainment, a distraction from current events and financial help for struggling artists at this time. Gibson has learned this program is also offering a little more.

“We are learning that people are looking for that connectedness and Facebook Live and Instagram are providing that. We are seeing a lot of talk between the artists and the people who are writing on the stream and there’s a lot of talking back and forth between audience members. It is good to see. We are all stuck in our houses and looking for some kind of humanity.”

Viewers can follow #canadaperforms or #Canadaenprestation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.