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Matt Gurney: A $90,000 Canadian arts subsidy for Grimes, who lives in California with Elon Musk

National Post logo National Post 2020-11-24 Matt Gurney
Elon Musk, Grimes posing for the camera: Elon Musk, left, and his partner Grimes arrive at a gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2018. © Provided by National Post Elon Musk, left, and his partner Grimes arrive at a gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2018.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

It’s been a grim year in many ways, but we should still celebrate good news where we can find it. And if you discount a recent COVID diagnosis or two, it’s been a great year for the Musk family. 

Elon Musk, who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, seems to be recovering just fine. And he’s doing positively great in other areas.

Tesla, his electric car company, just broke through a share price of $500 for the first time this week. This pushed Musk’s net worth slightly higher than Bill Gates’s, making him the world’s second-richest man. (Amazon’s Jeff Bezos retains the top spot.)

In other good news for Musk, his space exploration company, SpaceX, successfully delivered four astronauts, three from the United States and one from Japan, to the International Space Station last week, in the first operational flight of the Crew Dragon vehicle (the previous successful trip to the ISS was considered a test flight).

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But he’s not the only member of his household who’s thriving. His partner, the Canadian musician who goes by the name Grimes, just scored a sweet arts grant. Grimes, born Claire Elise Boucher, was raised in Vancouver and attended McGill University before finding success with her music.

She now lives in California with her partner, Musk, and their young son, X Æ A-XII. Grimes received slightly over $90,000 from Factor, a Canadian arts subsidy program that’s partially funded by the federal government. This was first reported by MTLBlog, which in turn credited a Twitter thread by Niko Stratis, a Toronto-based freelance writer who looked over Factor’s annual reporting and noticed Grimes’s name.

To be clear, Grimes seems to have fully qualified for the program under its eligibility criteria, even though she no longer lives in Canada, and was listed as a Quebec artist (again, she’s from British Columbia). And it’s important to note that Factor has said that Grimes did not personally apply for the funds; the application was made by her recording company, Crystal Math Music Inc.

You can’t blame the company for that. If some government-backed arts incubator wants to hand your world-famous and well-established client a big cheque, what, you’re going to say no? A company seeking grants is no different than a person hiring an accountant to max out their tax refund. Even if it’s silly, don’t blame the company or the person. Blame the policy.

And this is, we must acknowledge, a weird policy. Grimes is a genuinely talented musician, and she has had a successful career. From an arts-grant perspective, it’s time to unfurl the big Mission Accomplished banner on the aircraft carrier and move on to someone who could use the help. Someone, for instance, who isn’t romantically involved with the world’s second-richest man, who literally launches people into orbit when he’s not changing ground transportation as we know it.

There are a lot of starving artists out there who could use some help — particularly now, when so much of the world has been flattened by the pandemic and its economic shock. Particularly hard-hit have been the service-sector jobs that many young artists turn to to survive, to put food on the table and make rent, while they direct their remaining time into honing their crafts and chasing their dreams.

Arts grants, particularly government-funded ones, are always controversial. They’re a flashpoint in the culture war between those who think the government’s job is to make life easier and nicer and those who think its job is to stick to the basics. I’m firmly in the latter camp, but still don’t lose any sleep over stories like this.

On the scale of government waste, handing Grimes’s company a big cheque is a rounding error of a fraction of an irrelevancy. And that was true even before 2020’s geyser of spending. Is it ideal? No. Am I going to spend too much time fretting over this? The hundreds of words above notwithstanding, no, I’m not.

But you know who might? Genuinely up-and-coming artists who are trying to find a way to pursue their passions in a year when all the performance venues are closed, all the festivals cancelled and the jobs they were counting on to pay the bills have all been killed by public-health decrees intended to save our struggling hospitals from collapse.

If you’re one of those people, hoping against hope that Factor or some other program will toss you a few bucks so you can survive and continue to create beautiful things, you might indeed fret a bit, even lose a few winks of sleep, over the unfairness of an established artist with access to vast financial resources (and space flight) getting grants because she has a record company with enough staff to apply for them. Yes, I can see how that might sting a bit, indeed.

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