Artist BIG 2.0: Now Accepting Applications

Artist BIG is the first Basic Income Guarantee program for independent artists in Canada. The program offers participants an annual minimum financial guarantee from Talk is Free Theatre for three years, which they earn through separate individual contracts. 

But at its core, Artist BIG is more than just a financial guarantee. It is a program designed to provide artists with more authority over the projects with which they engage, opportunities for creative diversification, a space for safe dialogue with creative leadership, and a greater sense of community with other artists. 


It isn’t work just for work’s sake–Artist BIG is a long-term commitment to a person’s value as an artist that seeks to horizontalize the power structure and experiment with a new paradigm of governance of a theatre company and how it produces its art. Artists are more effectively positioned to assert their point of view, affect change and illuminate the world, without having to demonstrate their validity to secure a contract. In other words, artists don’t execute someone else’s vision, they are the vision.


This is the second intake of the program after a successful pilot that launched in October, 2020, which saw designers becoming directors, actors taking risks with life-altering roles, experimentation and innovation in new technologies for the stage, skill-sharing, new web applications for the industry and its enthusiasts, development and deployment of new outreach and support programs, lots of new work development–all instigated by program participants. The possibilities are endless; an idea can only be too small.


How does it work?


BIG Artists maintain a high degree of agency, authority, flexibility and freedom with respect to the projects they undertake. 


Successful applicants enter into an agreement that TIFT will offer a minimum financial guarantee each calendar year for three years (beginning January 1, 2024), which the artist earns through separate individual contracts. In collaboration with TIFT Artistic leadership, participants co-curate their artistic endeavours based on their personal needs and creative impulses, rather than by having to serve a more conventional, top-down institutionalized mandate. Guarantees may be earned through various avenues: engagement in TIFT theatre projects, development of new works, education/training, administrative or service projects proposed by BIG members, etc. While Artist BIG exists as a three-year program, there will be a staggered, annual intake of new members. 


Offers in the Artist BIG program are a two-way street: it is expected that artists will actively propose their own projects, roles, and activities, while also being open to offers originating from TIFT. While it is mutually understood that an artist ought to be available to earn their guarantees, artists are not obligated to accept every offer they are given, particularly if a project they are offered does not serve their needs or impulses. Artists can also move, forego, or cancel minimum commitments should the circumstances of the Artist change. 


It is also expected and encouraged that artists continue to seek opportunities elsewhere–they are not required to be exclusively available to TIFT. It is a core value of the program to allow artists the freedom and flexibility to grow however and wherever they can, and a benefit when they can bring the practices and programs fostered under the BIG banner out into the community. 


The Artist BIG program helps to ease the financial precarity experienced by theatre artists in Canada by allowing them to plan for some amount of flexible guaranteed income. It hopes to remedy practices in Canadian Theatre that treat artists as disposable. Instead, the Artist BIG program formalizes a long-term commitment to the artists who will bring their creative spirits and skills to the organization and share the artistic process with the greater world. 


For this second phase of the Artist BIG program, interested candidates will apply for one of two “streams”: 


Theatre Innovation Stream


Applicants to this stream are visionaries who are entrepreneurial by nature: self-starting, creative, and excited about diversifying their artistic practice and the way the artistic process permeates the theatre ecology and beyond. Their engagements could include creating/developing theatrical experiences that push the boundaries of form, scope, or practice. They can also include projects utilizing the skills and practices of the theatre in the interests of equity, diversity, health and safety, financial resilience, education, and accessibility, to connect the artistic process to improving social fields and practices outside the theatre. (For a list of past and ongoing TIFT Service Projects, please visit


Applicants to this stream are prepared to assume a leadership role (e.g., member of a creative team, project manager, etc.) in their projects, which may include administration, recruiting and managing other artists. The minimum annual guarantee for this stream is $15000.


Applicants are invited to write a short cover letter of up to 1000 words that outlines their history of theatre practice and describes how a basic income guarantee would contribute to their career, and lets us in on some of their big ideas, interests and/or concerns. Applicants whose work is new to TIFT may also be asked for an interview to learn more about their skills and interests, and/or an audition to demonstrate their primary artistic discipline.


Theatre Maker Stream


Artists in this stream will earn their Basic Income Guarantee mostly through offers to perform in, direct, write, or design productions and/or workshops that appear in TIFT’s season. This stream is intended for artists who wish to work mostly in their primary disciplines, in which they already have an established history of practice. Some opportunities to train or work in new disciplines may be available if desired, and TIFT will consider these desires when planning its seasons. Artists in this stream are not expected to propose or generate their own projects. The minimum annual guarantee for this stream is $5000.


Applicants are invited to write a short cover letter that describes their history of practice, states in what capacity they would like to work on TIFT productions, states if they have any desire to train or work in a new discipline and describes how a basic income guarantee would contribute to their career.  Applicants whose work is new to TIFT may also be asked for an interview to learn more about their skills and interests, and/or an audition to demonstrate their primary artistic discipline.

Deadline for submissions is June 30, 2023, at 9pm EST. Anyone able to work in Canada is invited to apply. In your submission, please also include a professional resume and please indicate whether you are applying to be a part of the Theatre Innovation Stream or the Theatre Maker Stream.

Applications and any questions may be directed to

Note: We would like to emphasize that this is not an application to contribute to or take part in our recently-announced 2023/24 season. We have deliberately chosen to stagger the timing of the new iteration of the Artist BIG program with that of our seasons so that we can better incorporate the visions of the new cohort of participants into TIFT’s planning for future productions and projects. Therefore, while members of the new cohort may still participate in the 2023/24 season in some capacity, we kindly discourage applicants from considering their perceived suitability for those projects when applying.


An information webinar will be held on Monday, May 8 at 1pm EST during which we will discuss the program and provide an opportunity to ask questions.


Register in advance for this webinar:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.