PAL Chapters Help Performing Artists

Committing to the ethos of show business

By Iris Winston | March/April 2019

The PAL organization has been a friend to performing artists in Canada for more than 25 years.

The fast-growing charitable foundation began its formal support of members from all areas of the performing arts, particularly in terms of shelter, because ofaclearneedforaffordablehousing,firstinToronto in the 1980s and later in other cities across Canada.

As Peter Haworth, the chair of the board of the Ottawa chapter of PAL points out, “While a person can make a lot of money in the arts, most people don’t. It’s a sacrifice they are willing to make, but when the average income for someone in the performing arts is $17,000 a year and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Ottawa is $1,100 a month, the need to provide affordable housing is obvious and urgent.”

The Toronto performing arts lodge, located on The Esplanade, includes 205 units of varying sizes. In Vancouver, there is one 110-unit building, plus a recently added 60-unit building.There is also a PAL house in Stratford. The PAL chapters in Halifax, Winnipeg,Calgary,EdmontonandOttawadonothave their own buildings yet, but, says Peter, the Ottawa chapter is focused on providing housing for Ottawa artists as soon as possible.

“Ottawa is one of the fastest growing cities in NorthAmerica,”he says.“We are now bigger than such cities as San Francisco, Boston and Baltimore.We need to recognize that and keep our artists here.”

He adds that, while affordable accommodation is of the utmost importance, the entire environment, emotional support and collegiality are equally vital to preserving the PAL spirit. The commitment “to nurture and preserve the ethos of show business” remains a central part of the foundation’s mandate and is part of the community’s bond.

“PAL exists to take care of our artists, to provide a place for them to keep working and to support them through the Supporting Cast volunteer program,”says Peter.

Whether the focus is on spaces to prepare for auditions, to entertain or to meet for communal meals, the aim is to maintain the type of creative environment in which the artists feel at ease. In addition, the friendship offered through the Supporting Cast program helps them to stay in their own homes as long as possible. As part of the commitment to care for their own, PAL is now also working to establish a long-term care facility in the Toronto facility.

“Moving here has been one of the best things I ever did,” says actor Nicholas Rice, who has lived in the Toronto PAL building since 2014.“Rent geared to income is pretty seductive for a self-employed actor in his 60s.”

Even more attractive is the lifestyle, adds Nicholas, who met his partner since moving in.“I always feel that the PAL way is best. If you are looking for company you can always find it, but if you want privacy, people respect that too.Then there are all sorts of activities for retirees.I feel very blessed to be here.”

For further information on the PAL umbrella organization, visit palcanada.org.