Monday, January 31, 2011

A Plan Dashed

I was absolutely thrilled last week when I received an invitation to teach a two day  polymer clay workshop at a beautiful venue in Washington State. I took it as a perfect opportunity to finally put together a class teaching my crackle technique on canvas and under resin. I've been back burnering this idea for a few years now. I have always wanted to travel and teach. Having seen so many inspiring instructors from the US visit Canada I thought it would be marvelous to do the same. It didn't occur to me that the ease with which they visit Canada as paid instructors couldn't be reciprocated should I travel southward .

Here are the simple facts- I could accept an invitation to teach for room and board and travel expenses but no payment. If I were to try to teach a two day class for pay I would need to have the party that invited me go through a long process of completing  forms as well as having to pay $325 US for the privilege- at that point I might be eligible for a Visa. I would have to go through this every time I was invited to teach.

Conversely American instructors may travel to Canada as a "Seminar Leader" with no requirement for a work permit whatsoever. They are welcome to teach for up to five days. They are eligible to receive full payment for their services.

I suppose I could put together an instructional  DVD for sale but I love teaching and travelling. The way that this goal has been dashed is especially bitter with the inequity involved in a country with which we are supposed to have "Free Trade". I can't teach in the US but Americans can teach here.

When I cross the border into another country I feel most comfortable being honest about my reason for visiting.  I'm interested in hearing from other artisans who may have solutions to this issue. How do Canadians or other nationals teach short term workshops in the US without "bending the truth" at the border? 


  1. That is totally not fair,'s hard enough being an much for free trade!

  2. Gera, I sent this letter to the "contact" at the Ontario Ministry for Culture. We'll see if I get any response.

    Dear Rebecca,

    Canadian artists are at a terrific disadvantage compared to our American counterparts. An American can come to Canada and teach workshops or seminars for up to 5 days with no requirements whatsoever from the Ontario or Canadian government. In contrast, a Canadian who is getting paid for teaching a seminar must get a business visa which requires a lot of paperwork and a large fee for the group issuing the invitation. Most of the "inviters" are small guilds or clubs of enthusiasts with limited funds. Because many artists make a large portion of their income from teaching, this inequity severely hampers Canadian artists.

    You can see a description of the problem on this artist's blog:

    Do you have any suggestions about who we should contact in the national government to convince them to negotiate with the Americans to redress this inequity? It may be a small item in the overall trade situation between Canada and the U.S., but it has a huge impact on Canadian artists. We would rather not tell lies when crossing the border, but this unfair limit on our ability to make a living is a serious problem.


  3. Well written Cynthia!
    I'm looking forward to hearing the response.


  4. I got a reply to my email above:

    Hi Cynthia,

    Thank you for your email. I suggest you contact Canadian Artists Representation (, an advocacy group for Canadian artists. You can also try contacting the Canada Council for the Arts.

    Best of luck,


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  6. So NOT fair, do keep trying to get an answer! Unfortunately, it's their loss AND yours as well....would have been a wonderful workshop!

  7. I really hope this will become reciprocal and easier in future. I never understood the North American FREE TRADE Agreement, certainly not fair.

  8. Just a note to apologize to Robin- for the disappearance of her post! She can contact me to find out the reason- her suggestion was very good tho.

  9. Gera, I posted about your dilemma the other day on an American art retreat group. Not one person answered me! I was sure a Canadian had taught at least once at that retreat, but no. If they have, they weren't willing to say.
    I have no plans right now to ever teach in the States, but I find this topic very interesting.
    In 2000, my sister and I were invited to Los Angeles to appear in an infomercial. We were to get no pay, just all expenses paid and some spending money. The agency told us to check off "pleasure" or "personal" instead of "business" on the customs form or we wouldn't get past customs. Since we weren't getting paid, that was fine, but I can understand you wanting to get in legally.
    Looking forward to seeing how this turns out.

  10. What a huge loss for both Canadian artists and American students. I dearly hope this gets a quick response for a much more equitable arrangement.

    Debbie Goodrow

  11. Gera, That is great that you had the opportunity and totally not fair that you can't make the journey. I don't have anything of help to add except to say that about 5 years ago I took a workshop from a Canadian artist. In fact, she taught at least five classes at this particular venue. She lived in BC, had a young family and definitely would not have done it without pay. Unfortunately, that's all I know as she kind of fell off the earth a year or so later and I lost touch with her.



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