A non-profit media art centre is supporting artists and their contribution to the economy by giving them access to health insurance.
Previously known as SAW Video, the Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC) is located inside the Ottawa Arts Court. Its mission is to support a diverse community of media artists empowered by technology, programming and the exchange of ideas.
Emilie Azevedo became DARC’s engagement and mobilization manager last year. A visual artist since childhood, Azevedo picked up photography in 2019 and got into videography in 2021 when working with the local Digi60 Filmmakers’ Festival.
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It was during her time with the festival that Azevedo learned about DARC. When she saw that DARC was hiring, she threw her hat in the ring.
“Every day I was like, ‘I’m gonna get this job,’” she says. “And I got it – I was really happy when I got the call.”
According to the Ottawa Film Office, the film, TV and animation industry contributes approximately $120 million to the city’s economy each year, with holiday movies generating a sizable portion.
DARC’s focus, however, is on independent content creation, whether in film, art installations, video games or sound design.
“We’re giving you the means of making your own work and owning it,” Azevedo says. “It’s how we use these tools to question systematic issues and just tell stories that wouldn’t otherwise be told.”
The not-for-profit’s facilities include a recording studio, editing suite and a new soundstage, which includes a blue- or green-screen backdrop. With membership tiers starting at $25 a year, DARC offers artist residencies, workshops and grant-writing clinics.
With a view to taking its support of artists to the next level, DARC offers health insurance as part of its $100 annual membership tier. As well as access to DARC’s space and resources, members receive health insurance that could otherwise cost hundreds of dollars monthly if applied for independently.
“No matter if you’ve got a big medical bill, you’re still going to pay this ($100) fee,” Azevedo says. “It’s the same for everyone.”
When you’re already sick, dealing with insurance can be even more difficult, especially when you need to prove that you’re unwell, she adds.
“It just goes (with) what our mission is,” Azevedo says. “For artists to be able to thrive and do what they want – for anyone, really – they need to know that their basic needs are being met.”
DARC’s health insurance is provided through the Arts and Entertainment Plan, a national, not-for-profit insurer created exclusively for artists. Azevedo says that artists can access the national plan by being a member of any arts organization that is subscribed to it.
With insurance like this, Azevedo says, “You feel more supported and like you’re ready to heal, because you’re surrounded by people who care about your well-being.”
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