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Abstract: The research objective of this paper is to explore the concept of artistic excellence and how it is applied during the peer-review process for arts funding among the Canadian art councils. The peer-review process has become the standard process to ensure equitable and effective distribution of funding. However, there are tensions between which applications get funded versus which applications ought to get funded since the discourses of excellence are neither clear not consistent. I studied three arts councils: The Canada Council for the Arts (CCA), the Ontario Arts Council (OAC), and the Toronto Arts Council (TAC). This study is based on 26 face-to-face interviews and observation notes. I apply discourse analysis to understand the tensions of the discourses of excellence, and evoke Michèle Lamont’s research on the peer-review process as a lens through which I examine the term excellence. I conclude by proposing a more clear definition of excellence in order to improve confidence in the peer-review system employed by arts councils.