Early this year (2023) GAC, the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition and the City of Guelph launched the first ever Activating Art & Neighbourhoods Micro-Grant Program. This micro-grant program offers small grants to fund great ideas that strengthen our communities through innovation, art and action. Individuals, artists, groups and organizations were encouraged to submit their ideas through an online application form for up to $1,000 in funding.
The first round had about 180 applications and GAC the grant to 18 applicants, the average award being around $700. We touched base with one of the award winners, Meredith Sweeney, the coordinator of The Ward Night Markets and asked how this grant helped them activate art and their community!
GAC: How did you find out about the Micro-grant Program?
Meredith: I found out about the Micro-grant Program through social media. Our market account was following GAC and saw a number of posts from the members announcing the grant. Several friends and fellow entrepreneurs also mentioned it, emphasizing how beneficial it could be for small-scale projects like our market. I reposted the grant to our social media and a few of our participating vendors applied for successful projects of their own!
GAC: How did you use the Micro-grant to help you?
Meredith: The Micro-grant served as a pivotal catalyst in elevating the Ward Night Market to new heights. First and foremost, it enabled us to secure a partnership with the Guelph Little Theatre, a venue that not only accommodates more vendors but also offers full accessibility, including washrooms. This strategic investment in a local venue resonates with our ethos of community equity and inclusivity.
Additionally, the grant facilitated our collaboration with the City of Guelph’s Water Wagon, allowing us to provide fresh, local tap water to our attendees, thereby promoting sustainability and reducing single-use plastics. We also opened our stage to local musicians, adding a vibrant auditory layer to the market’s atmosphere.
To broaden our reach, we allocated a portion of the grant to a targeted social media advertising campaign. The impact was immediate and substantial, drawing vendors and visitors from neighboring communities and thereby diversifying both our market’s offerings and its audience.
We used the grant to subsidize vendor fees for emerging artisans, encouraging a rich tapestry of creative talents to participate and enriching the market’s cultural diversity. The grant alleviated some of the logistical burdens that often hamper community initiatives, covering essential operational costs like permits and insurance.
The Micro-grant didn’t just fund our market; it empowered us to create a more inclusive, diverse, and vibrant community space.
GAC: How did it feel when you found out you were selected as a recipient?
Meredith: When I found out we were selected, I was overjoyed and incredibly grateful. It felt like a validation of the hard work we’ve put into creating a community-centered market. The grant not only provided financial support but also boosted our community’s morale, giving us the encouragement to aim higher and make the market even better.
*I created a Mr. Roger-themed Instagram reel mentioning the grant and announcing our upcoming market at the time.
GAC: Why do you feel that a program, such as this one, is beneficial to the community?
Meredith: Programs like the Micro-grant are invaluable to the community because they empower small-scale initiatives that might otherwise struggle to get off the ground. They foster innovation, encourage community engagement, and create opportunities for local businesses and artisans. By supporting projects that are rooted in the community, these grants contribute to local economic development and help build a more vibrant, connected community.
GAC: Tell us about upcoming projects/exciting things you want to share?
Meredith: The grant continues to have ripple effects in our community – we have our entire fall/winter Ward Night Market schedule ready!
Last Outdoor Ward Night Market of the Year
Date: Thursday, October 5th, Guelph Little Theatre
Wicked Ward Night (Halloween Market & Party)
Date: Thursday, October 26th, Ukrainian Church
November Ward Night Market
Date: Thursday, November 30th, Ukrainian Church
The Workshop Market
Date: Tuesday, December 12th, TBA
*The Workshop Market is a unique, interactive experience where vendors host mini-workshops in 10-15 minute intervals, allowing participants to shuffle between multiple creative sessions in one evening. It’s a fantastic opportunity to support local artists while crafting your own handmade gifts.
Solstice / December Ward Night Market
Date: Thursday, December 21st, Ukrainian Church
The final market of the year!
Applications for Phase 2 of the Micro- Grants open September 25, 2023 and will be accepted until October 31, 2023 at 4 p.m. EST.
Applications will be reviewed by the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition and Guelph Arts Council grant review committees in November 2023.