Volunteers are the very fabric of our communities who, by freely giving their time, talents and expertise, help make us stronger and more resilient and connected. During National Volunteer Week, we salute all those volunteers who are committed to building a brighter world for us all, one small act of kindness at a time.
At Business & Arts NL, we are fortunate to have many dedicated volunteers who generously contribute their time and skills to our programs, helping us achieve our mission of strengthening the creative sector. Two of our longest-running programs, the Business Workshops for Artists series and Business Volunteers for the Arts, would not be possible without the generous support of the Law Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The grants from the Law Foundation (established in 1980) help advance public understanding of the law and access to legal services, and have helped many individuals and organizations run their programs. Thanks to their support, over the past year Business & Arts offered nine workshops to 254 artists (covering topics such as intellectual property basics, incorporation vs. sole proprietorship, etc.) and matched 16 arts members with over $11,800 worth of pro bono support. The Law Foundation also supports the community in other ways, such as through their annual Law School Entrance Scholarships and Legal Research Awards.
We spoke with Regan O’Dea, Chair of the Law Foundation’s Board of Governors, about the Law Foundation’s work, their commitment to helping strengthen creative networks in the province, and the value of volunteering.
Business & Arts NL: The Law Foundation of NL provides grants to help advance public understanding of the law and access to legal services. Why is increasing this knowledge and understanding so important for members of the public in general, and for those in our arts community in particular?
Regan O’Dea: Business & Arts Newfoundland and Labrador holds artist workshops that cover a variety of topics to help artists and arts organizations gain skills and knowledge to help run their businesses. The Law Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador has previously provided grants in support of such workshops that focus on legal and governance matters, such as intellectual property ownership, contract issues and governance and board development. These workshops serve the individual artists as well as the arts community at large by fostering a better understanding of artist rights and the value of strong governance practices.
Business & Arts NL: Are there any other ways in which the Law Foundation helps support the local creative community?
Regan O’Dea: The Law Foundation’s support has been through grants for projects or events that fall within the object or mandate of the Law Foundation. In addition to support for workshops, the Law Foundation provided funding to Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada (now Atlantic Ballet Atlantique Canada) for their “Celebrate Courage” Youth Program in association with the Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador and a presentation of “Ghosts of Violence” for students.
Business & Arts NL: About how many grant applications does the Law Foundation receive from individuals and organizations each year, and what criteria must be met in order for a grant application to be successful?
Regan O’Dea: The Law Foundation evaluates applications for grants annually. Grant applications are usually due in March/April and evaluated in May/June. Any person is able to apply for a grant from the Law Foundation and the application is considered against the objects and mandates of the Law Foundation, such as legal education, law reform and legal referral services. The Law Foundation typically reviews and considers approximately 8-10 applications each year. This is in addition to contributing 2/3 of its net revenue to Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission and funding scholarships to law students and endowments to various universities.
Business & Arts NL: In your role as Chair of the Board of Governors, what do you find most fulfilling regarding your work with the Law Foundation?
Regan O’Dea: The Law Foundation has a unique mandate and it’s fulfilling to see people and organizations put forward applications which aid those organizations and align with the objects of the Law Foundation. Business & Arts NL is a prime example with their applications in support of workshops that provide their members and the arts community an opportunity for legal education. The support for such an initiative is fulfilling as it brings value to the applicants while raising awareness of legal or governance issues that strengthen the overall community.
Business & Arts NL: We’re appreciative of the Law Foundation’s support, which has helped strengthen the local arts sector. Conversely, from what you’ve seen over the course of your work with the foundation, what can members of the legal community gain by connecting with members of the creative community?
Regan O’Dea: I think there are a number of lawyers in Newfoundland and Labrador who are artists or well connected to the arts community, either in theatre, music, visual art or otherwise. Some are practitioners and some operate more in the background as administrators or service on boards. I believe this community or connection is valuable to both the arts and legal community. Even for those who may not be directly involved, having that appreciation for art or the creative community may open new perspectives or attitudes. Ultimately, I think art and law should complement each other. While law can sometimes appear to dwell in black and white categories (not as strongly as science or engineering) and arts play more in the gray space or ambiguity, having regard to both sides gives a greater perspective on the functions of humanity or how we operate as a society.
Business & Arts NL: In your own experience, what value has volunteering brought to your life, personally and professionally?
Regan O’Dea: I have had the good fortune of volunteering in a number of different capacities, from legal oriented organizations to coaching youth sports. All have given value, albeit in different ways. Some of the opportunities give me a sense of goodwill. Some have given me a new perspective or greater connection to the community. But the greatest pleasure has been the personal connections and seeing the growth in myself and others.