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women? extreme weather? Rob Ford? Miley Cyrus? the selfie?

I love reading the news at this time of year when the media reminds us of all that has transpired over that last 12 months. Those sometimes controversial top ten lists and best of the year articles are always great fodder for dinner table debate. What were your most memorable moments of 2013?

Looking back at my own experience, this was a year of intense research and writing, ambitious and fruitful artistic pursuits, and the emergence of several new professional collaborations. Here are some highlights, including a bit of what’s in store for 2014.

Click to read more.

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2012 has been a full year and I’m looking forward to a little break over the holiday season. Click HERE to enjoy a little recap of the last 12 months of dancing, creating, performing, writing, researching, speaking and advocating.


Tuesday October 23rd marked the Canadian Arts Coalition’s annual Arts Day on Parliament Hill. Building on four years of positive momentum, Arts Day 2012 welcomed over 130 arts supporters from across the country – converging under the banner of the Canadian Arts Coalition to advance a common message. The Coalition’s membership includes artists, arts organizations, business leaders, volunteers and audience members from all corners of the country – effectively the largest consortium of arts, culture and heritage supporters in Canada. The Coalition is non-partisan, 100% volunteer-led and receives no government funding – important features that have contributed to the Coalition’s reputation as a credible arts policy advisor. It is led by a dedicated Steering Committee that includes Co-Chairs Katherine Carleton (Orchestras Canada) and Éric Dubeau (Fédération Culturelle Canadienne-Française), as well as Melissa Gruber (CARFAC – Canadian Artists Representation – Le Front des artistes canadiens), Sarah Iley (Canadian Arts Summit), Bastien Gilbert (Regroupement des centres d’artistes autogérés du Québec), and myself (Business for the Arts).

Arts Day briefing session

Arts Day participants shared a common goal and strategic message, carefully crafted by the Coalition and focused on consensus issues within the sector that are reasonably aligned with Government interests and priorities. This year’s message focused on two key policy priorities, the first of which was to ensure critical program renewals at the Department of Canadian Heritage. A suite of programs re-packaged by the Conservative Government in 2009 is set to expire in 2015. These programs are currently under review by the Department and include the Canada Arts Presentation Fund, the Canada Arts Training Fund, the Canada Cultural Investment Fund and the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund. A total of $80 million is up for renewal.

The second priority is one that has been championed by the Coalition since its inception in 2005: continued and increased support for the Canada Council for the Arts. Given the government’s careful management of economic recovery at this time, our message was framed around sustained support with consideration for increased investment as the Canadian economy continues to recover. Last year the Coalition’s Arts Day helped to protect the Canada Council from potential cuts, in a context of spending reductions across all departments as part of the government’s Deficit Reduction Action Plan.

Arts Day participants

A record number of 115 meetings were scheduled this year with MPs, Ministers, Senators and senior officials from all parties. Key meetings included Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Heritage Paul Calandra, Official Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, Liberal Leader Bob Rae, and senior officials at the Department of Finance. Heritage Minister James Moore was unable to meet with us this year, as he was at home in his riding. Moore has been an important champion of the Coalition and our work, mentioning us recently on the George Stroumboulopoulos show as effectively advocating for sustained investment in the Canada Council for the Arts. Moore tweeted supportively during #artsday and commended the Coalition for our friendly and productive approach. Watch his impromptu speech from the 2011 Arts Day reception here.

Sarah Iley, Dorothy Dobby, Jean Giguere, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, myself and Éric Dubeau

Arts Day participants were prepared with MP biographies, notes from past Coalition meetings with the MP, and profiles of arts activity in the MP’s riding. With the help of Government Relations firm Ensight Canada, attendees were also briefed on the politics and protocol of Arts Day. They were encouraged to frame key messages in the context of their own work, illustrating the impact of investment through personal stories and narratives that connect to the MP’s local constituency. For some MPs this is an important educational piece and for others a chance to express pride for the artistic activity taking place in their home communities.

Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

Arts Day closed with a lively reception hosted by Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin. The room was beyond full and many MPs who were unable to meet with us during the day made brief appearances. Canadian actor and Queen’s University Political Science grad Graham Abbey of The Border offered a few compelling words on the importance of government investment in the arts, following an equally supportive and impassioned speech from Deputy Speaker Comartin.

The strategic approach to advocacy employed by the Canadian Arts Coalition has paid dividends over the years, as we are now recognized as a credible and respected representative of the arts sector across all parties, able to offer sound policy advice to Government and elected officials. Following Arts Day, the Coalition received an invitation to lend our “expert point of view” with the Standing Committee on Finance during their upcoming cross-country pre-budget hearings. I will be appearing in front of the Standing Committee on Finance in Ottawa on November 20th along with the Coalition’s Co-Chair Éric Dubeau.

With Coalition Co-Chair Éric Dubeau

Looking ahead, the Coalition continues to grow as an effective and strategic advocacy body for the national arts sector. We aim to maintain our focus on a small but effective complement of signature activities, including our pre-budget brief to the Standing Committee on Finance and our annual Arts Day. To continue this work, the Coalition is relying on contributions of time and financial resources from its members. Consider making a contribution to the Coalition – helping us strengthen our collective voice on behalf of the arts from coast to coast to coast. http://www.canadianartscoalition.com

Coalition Co-Chairs Katherine Carleton and Éric Dubeau

Sarah Iley and Jean Giguere of the Canadian Arts Summit

Dance artist Jordana Deveau and TAPA Advocacy Chair Brad Lepp (Luminato)

Actor Graham Abbey addressing the Arts Day reception

Actor Graham Abbey with MP Justin Trudeau

MPs Pierre Jacob and Jean Rousseau

With Melville-Yorkton MP Garry Breitkreuz

Over the past two years as the first-ever Metcalf Arts Policy Fellow, I have spent time taking stock of current industry trends at home and abroad in order to identify ways in which the arts sector can better adapt to its changing environment. I met with more than 100 cultural leaders across Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and Australia, and arrived on the other side of this arts policy immersion with a better understanding of how Canada might begin to address its own process of systemic evolution and innovation in order to realign policy and practice in today’s dynamic social, cultural and political climate.

In recent years, the economic recession has incited new conversations across industry sectors about how to adapt to a volatile, unpredictable and rapidly changing economic environment. In the arts, we have been closely monitoring government decision-making across jurisdictions in order to protect the important investments that underpin the arts ecosystem in Canada. A political focus on deficit reduction, financial recovery and the negative impact of failing global markets have informed major cuts to important public resources. To the credit of arts advocates, many governments in Canada have protected arts spending while affirming their understanding of the positive social and economic impacts the arts have in communities. Some have even championed the notion of increased support, though in the short term, most government’s still face significant challenges in funding these convictions.

While arts supporters are admirably defending the sector’s fragile ecosystem in this time of economic instability, there is simultaneously a quiet, large-scale arts industry (r)evolution ensuing based on major shifts in the environment that are redefining our working reality. New technologies, global interconnectedness and the changing nature of public engagement in the arts are all at the root. Art is created everywhere, by anyone. It is broader, more innovative and boundary-less. The culture of participation and personal creative expression is growing rapidly, defining a more multi-modal form of engagement in the arts that goes beyond simple consumption. Equally, the gap between government investment and industry growth is widening. Public dollars alone can no longer support professional arts practice as it once did. Our system of public investment has catalyzed significant organizational infrastructure growth for over 50 years and today, the industry is prolific and now expanding at an accelerating rate. Consequently, the relationship between governments and the arts has become more and more challenging as growth in the sector has far outpaced the growth of investment. A recent report by the Martin Prosperity Institute From the Ground Up: Growing Toronto’s Cultural Sector shows that between 1991 and 2009, the creative industries grew in Toronto at a rate of 2.9% per year, now exceeding the growth rate of financial services, the medical and biotechnology industries, and the food and beverage industry.

And so, we in the professional arts sector have found ourselves in a difficult situation, asking questions about how to adapt to this new environment. Inevitably, new partnerships, new systems, new structural models and new ways of working must emerge. The resourcing model that succeeded in past phases of industry growth makes less sense today when existing organizations are struggling to find stability and so many new high potential ideas and innovations are left unsupported by the long relied-upon government sources. The new generations of artists that are attempting to replicate an existing business model focused heavily on public investment and unlimited organizational infrastructure growth are not succeeding at effectively supporting their artistic pursuits. So while we are waiting for the economic storm to pass, with our attention fixated on sustaining our current assets within the current limitations of public support, irreversible and long-term changes in the operating environment for the arts are taking hold.

Given this new reality, it’s clear that the need to re-define our working practices and reconsider our structures is imminent. We need to re-imagine how we articulate our public value and pursue new supporting partners to help us fulfill our mandates. Policy makers in the cultural sector must work to realign critical support structures with current practice. Current and future generations of artists and arts organizations will need to move from a culture of growth and independence to a culture of adaptability and collaboration. In his 2010 article Entering Upon Novelty: Policy and Funding Issues for a New Era in the Arts, U.S.-based arts consultant Richard Evans tells us that we need to develop our adaptive capacity – our ability to remain relevant and sustainable in a changing environment. He encourages arts organizations to innovate by questioning old assumptions, discontinuing outdated practices and forging new pathways to mission fulfillment.

Key to the future success of arts enterprises is building new relationships with the private sector based on shared values and mutual goals. How to expand such relationships is an active topic of discussion in the communities and countries I visited throughout my fellowship.

In particular, the need to build the capacity for small- and mid-scale arts enterprises to cultivate private sector partnerships is essential to the future economy of the arts as a whole. Large institutions have exceptional competencies in fundraising and corporate engagement, and traditionally seek private sector support in a competitive way. That is to say, they pursue individual relationships focused on growing the commitment of a private sector partner or philanthropist in support of the work and mandate of their organization. However, if we want to grow private support overall as an industry sector, it’s important to acknowledge that major institutions as a group are ultimately limited in how many new partners they can interest in their particular product. Furthermore, building support exclusively by cultivating one-to-one relationships between arts and business may not be appropriate for the kind of growth that is needed.

Collectively, small- and mid-scale arts enterprises represent the vast majority of Canada’s professional cultural infrastructure. According to Imagine Canada, over half (54%) of arts and cultural organizations report annual revenues of less than $30,000. An additional 39% of arts and culture organizations are mid-sized, with annual revenues of $30,000 to $499,999 . This segment – 93% of arts and culture organizations – is diverse and present in every community across the country. It could, if properly leveraged, connect to a different and widely diverse set of business and philanthropic interests, tapping into new segments of potential arts supporters. But without the capacity to cultivate this support, and without new collaborative strategies, the sector as a whole will be unable to significantly expand its resource base.

Finding ways to build both the fundraising and friend-raising capacity of small- and mid-scale arts enterprises is a challenge that requires new thinking, new tools and a lot of courage. To do things differently, we have to take risks, build new skills, and learn from our failures along the way. But of course, here in Canada, we are not the first to tackle this issue and we can certainly learn from successful models and initiatives beyond our borders. New initiatives and tools for support are being developed and there are already successful examples we can look to for inspiration, including some right here at home. A new generation of arts development calls for new conversations, including new conversations about connecting arts and business. Here are five examples of innovative initiatives that are leading the way.

1 – Focus on Capacity Building: Artsupport Australia
Launched in 2003, Australia’s Artsupport program focuses on growing philanthropic support primarily for small- to mid-sized arts enterprises with annual budgets of under $1 million. Led by National Director Louise Walsh and housed at the Australia Council for the Arts, Artsupport has facilitated over $50 million in philanthropic income for over 200 artists and 600 arts organizations in Australia over its seven-year existence, all for a government investment of just over $5 million. To achieve such exceptional results, Artsupport works with both arts and philanthropic sector players including individual artists and arts organizations, as well as individual philanthropists, and private and corporate foundations.

Louise Walsh, Artsupport Australia

For arts organizations, Artsupport provides access to expert advisors and mentors, in six regions across the country, who work one-on-one with program clients to build their fundraising capacity. For most of the organizations Artssupport works with, fundraising is not a core activity and many lack the staff and resources for development. For these organizations, Artsupport provides coaching and strategic advice on developing philanthropic funding sources, helps to engage board leadership, and provides advice on trusts and foundations relative to an organization’s activities. Beyond the tailored guidance it provides to individual arts companies, Artsupport also hosts annual lectures and master classes and takes on special projects, such as the publication of An arts guide to philanthropic gifts and tax: the dry stuff.

Programs and services for philanthropists, trusts and foundations include the active encouragement of high net worth Australians to become more strategic and structured with their philanthropy. Artsupport introduces them to the arts and demonstrates how the arts can also address a vast number of social and community needs. Partnerships with private banks and wealth management arms of investment banks, financial advisors and planners, trustee companies and tax lawyers have all been essential networks that help to build new philanthropic prospects for the arts. Artsupport connects them to arts giving opportunities, provides seminars promoting the tax benefits of philanthropic trusts, and hosts networking events in order to forge a community of arts philanthropists.


2 – Focus on Arts and Business Partnerships: Americans for the Arts – The pARTnership movement

“When arts and business partner, everyone profits.” That’s what Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, said at the January 2012 launch of the pARTnership movement – an initiative to enhance business and arts partnerships. The pARTnership movement is a national campaign to demonstrate how the arts can help business achieve their goals by “enhancing the critical thinking, team building and creative skills of the corporate workforce, while also helping communities to attract and retain talent.”

The campaign is placing ads directed at corporate America within major newspapers, magazines and other publications that demonstrate how partnering with the arts is good for business. In Times Square, a video ad played four times an hour for a week, capturing the artists, business people, NYC tourists and residents that make up the over 1.5 million people, 56,000 cars and 15 bus lines that pass through Times Square daily.

The pARTnership movement also provides a series of tools that help arts organizations advocate for greater engagement from business and better equip them to propose new collaborations. Through their website http://www.thepartnershipmovement.com, online resources (including a publication dedicated to small- and mid-sized organizations) help prepare arts partners to connect with business in innovative ways. For businesses, they provide the necessary information they need to engage in a rewarding partnership with an arts organization, including case studies that showcase innovative ideas and program concepts, and a zip code finder that will help interested businesses locate potential local partners.

Since its launch, the movement has been growing rapidly, spreading the word that partnering with the arts can give business a competitive advantage. New arts and business partnership success stories are posted online regularly. Ongoing research conducted by the Americans for the Arts research team provides compelling and supportive data on the Arts and Economic Prosperity. Robert L. Lynch will be launching a book bearing the campaign’s namesake in the coming months.

3 – Focus on Collaborative Models: America’s Creative Capital
Creative Capital is a national nonprofit organization in the U.S. that provides integrated financial and advisory support to artists pursuing adventurous projects in all disciplines. Founded in 1999, in response to the defunding of individual artists by America’s National Endowment for the Arts, it is the only national grant-making organization with an open application process that supports individual artists on a multi-year basis. Their approach to grant-making integrates financial and advisory support to help artists realize their projects while building individual capacity to sustain their careers beyond the grant term.

In its pioneering model of support, Creative Capital confronts the realities that working artists face in increasingly challenging times by offering career-, community- and confidence-building tools to enhance capacity for creative and professional success .

They work in a long-term partnership with their grantees, providing the time and advisory services that are crucial to artistic and financial success. Over the course of a funded project, they work with each artist to establish a range of external partnerships, as well as partners(?) with them directly to determine how funding and services can best help them achieve their goals. Creative Capital’s grants include up to $50,000 in direct funding, and career development services valued at $40,000, a total commitment of up to $90,000 for each project. Funding for Creative Capital comes from over 500 individuals and institutions, including a quarter of past grantees. Leading donors include The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Toby Devan Lewis, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and The Theo Westenberger Estate. Creative Capital has reached over 4,000 artists in 50 communities across the U.S. and has been the subject of two Harvard Business School case studies.

4 – Focus on Corporate Leadership: Boeing
When I visited Chicago in early 2011, I came across a great example of forward-thinking corporate arts philanthropy and engagement. Boeing – the airplane maker – is a company interested in arts and culture and positions itself as a partner interested in supporting participation and innovation, including “performances and exhibitions that introduce new voices and perspectives to our community; collaborative efforts developed to create a more sustainable arts and cultural environment; and programs that engage people to become lifelong arts and cultural participants, patrons or practitioners.”

Its Chicago office houses about 450 employees who are deeply engaged in the company’s local charitable mandate. Boeing contributes to the arts through business sponsorships, cash grants, in-kind support, as well as through their employee volunteering initiatives and Employee Contribution Program, where employees direct regular paycheque deductions to causes of their choosing. Their charitable focus on innovation means that, in addition to supporting large organizations and events through sponsorships, they also support small- and mid-scale arts organizations through their granting programs. They recognize the inverse relationship between organizational size and innovation, with the largest organizations acting as anchors with established reputations that attract tourism to the city, and smaller organizations as innovative risk-takers that not only play a role in enriching the local cultural scene, but also tend to be more mobile, frequently exporting Chicago’s cultural products and reputation internationally.


5 – Focus on Investment Incentives: artsVest™

Business for the Arts’ artsVest™ program is one of Canada’s homegrown solutions to cultivating new partnerships between arts and business. The national initiative is a sponsorship training and matching incentive program that aims to “spark innovative business sponsorship opportunities, offering the local private sector the potential to double the impact of their investment” . Arts and culture organizations with annual budgets under $1 million are invited to apply to the program. Those selected benefit from matching funds, free sponsorship training workshops, as well as community-building and networking events that catalyze cross-sector partnerships.

This May, I had the opportunity to attend the launch of artsVest Ottawa and witnessed first hand the enthusiasm of local arts, civic and business leaders including Mayor Jim Watson, Chamber of Commerce Chair Dave Donaldson and Jean-Claude Des Rosiers, Président du Conseil d’administration, Le regroupement des gens d’affaires de la Capitale Nationale, as well as government funding agencies, local businesses and over 80 cultural organization representatives. It’s clear that the program is rooted in a spirit of collaboration and mutual benefit for arts, business and community, with all three sectors wholeheartedly engaging in the program.

artsvest Launch Ottawa

artsVest is currently active in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver thanks to over $3.5 million in investment from Canadian Heritage; the Government of Ontario; the Saskatchewan Ministry of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport; the Winnipeg Foundation; the Ontario Trillium Foundation; the Calgary Arts Development Authority; the B.C. Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development; and the City of Vancouver. Since the inception of the program in Ontario in 2002, 502 businesses have partnered with 180 cultural organizations through artsVest – 282 of these businesses were first-time sponsors of the arts, according to Business for the Arts. The program continues to expand. National Program Manager Laura Adlers estimates that from 2011–2013, artsVest will generate approximately $3.9 million in private sector sponsorship and result in an influx of approximately $6 million to the cultural economy. It will provide 40 free, full-day sponsorship training workshops to approximately 1,000 arts and culture organizations and will create synergistic new partnerships between an estimated 750 local businesses and 280 arts groups across the country.

These initiatives and others are the bright spots that we can look to for guidance as we devise our own solutions to expanding and creating new relationships between arts and business – strengthening our current cultural assets and fostering the next generation of arts development. Arts institutions that are experienced in engaging private sector interests could act as valuable resources as could governments, civic leaders, businesses, and business leaders with deep knowledge about the benefits of supporting and partnering with the arts.

It’s clearer now than ever before that the current and future vitality of the arts in Canada relies on our collective ability to embrace change, to innovate and to challenge old assumptions. Firmly rooted in the value of the arts as defined by contemporary society, we must focus on new forms of engagement with a diverse set of partners. While we may not yet know what approaches and strategies will succeed, we must employ new thinking, new partners, new initiatives, new models and new structures. Hungarian psychiatrist Thomas S. Szasz said: “Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence.” With this in mind, our task is to embrace change, engage our creativity to find innovative solutions, be prepared to learn from our experiments, and remain determined not to fall prey to the comforts of the status quo.

TAPA Advocacy Chair Chris Lorway orienting Arts Day participants

On Monday, November 14, Councillors from all corners of Toronto participated in the 2nd Annual Arts Day at the City. Led by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) along with Friends of the Arts, arts sector workers, patrons and supporters gathered at City Hall to meet with 25 City Councillors individually to discuss the importance of the arts for Torontonians.

Participants presented a strategic message about the economic and social impact of culture on our city, and reminded Councillors of the commitment they made to increase investment by 30% over time through the adoption of the Creative Capital Gains report in May. There were three consensus priorities conveyed: invest competitively in the sector, lead the way in championing our rich cultural assets, and make affordable cultural spaces available across the City.

To the credit of participants, Councillors of all persuasions expressed support for a strengthened cultural agenda at City Hall. For the most part they even agreed that cuts to the sector are not warranted. Though despite their affirmations, some were shy to fully commit their vote until the budget is presented and negotiations begin. It seems apparent that the highly politicized environment at City Hall is leaving Councillors feeling restless and unsure about the fate of many city services and culture is no exception.

Given the circumstances, Arts Day was a very timely effort by TAPA and Friends of the Arts who worked hard to rally voices around a unified message and secure meetings with key Councillors. On the heels of a contentious core city service review, City Council is on the precipice of the sure-to-be equally controversial budgeting process. On November 28th, City Manager Joe Pennachetti will present the budget, reflecting the overall 10% cut to spending mandated by Mayor Ford. It is expected that not all divisions will be treated the same, though many programs and services will loose the baseline 10%. Others will absorb either more or less. Sound familiar? Like Stephen Harper’s Deficit Reduction Action Plan, Ford’s budget goals force all departments to face cuts.

We are operating in an environment where the question is no longer IF there will be spending cuts, but how much and to what. It’s possible that the City will not see culture as a target, and tread softly on this already fragile portfolio. One could imagine that there may indeed be some efficiency savings to be found, though one could also imagine reinvesting these savings into the sector… a step that Ford won’t support if he is to achieve his bottom line.

But unlike Harper, Ford isn’t guaranteed the favour of his government and he must convince a majority of Councillors to support his agenda. And so begins the highly politicized bargaining process that will dominate discussions in Council Chambers come November 28th. Motion after motion will cause the budget to shift and change as each proposition is debated and voted on. The budget process also allows for public consultation. Budget deputations are slated for December 8th and this day is sure to be another overnight circus similar to the consultations surrounding the service review.

Despite whatever news we may receive November 28th from Pennachetti, until the process plays itself out fully, the outcome will remain anyone’s guess. An important window exists starting now until the budget is passed early in the New Year to engage in the debate. Councillors want to hear from their constituents and in the coming weeks it will be critical that the arts sector organize its efforts so culture priorities are heard across all wards from local constituents.

Here are some things you can do:
1 – Show Councillors that Torontonians love the arts and sign the Friends of the Arts petition. This petition has nearly 20,000 signatures and will be presented to City Council on November 29th. Already signed it? Send it to 10 of your favourite arts supporters and ask them to sign too! Posting on your Facebook page works too.

2 – Might as well join the circus and sign up to make a budget deputation on December 8th. Or, if your routine is a little rusty, simply make an appearance at City Hall that day to show your support for the other arts and culture acts. Mike Layton offers a user-friendly blog post that explains the process.

3 – Re-live Grade 7 all over again and make a trip to City Hall to visit your Councillor! Bring an arts supportive friend from your ward who doesn’t work in the arts. If Grade 7 was a bad year for you and you’d rather stay home, a phone call is the next best thing. Or an email. An email is ok too. Find your Councillor here.

Don’t forget to review key messages and priorities endorsed by Friends of the Arts (including the Toronto Arts Foundation, ArtsVote Toronto, Arts Etobicoke, TAPA, Creative Trust, Lakeshore Arts, Scarborough Arts, BeautifulCity.ca, Business for the Arts and Urban Arts).
KEY MESSAGES
FACTS and FIGURES

Once the city’s draft budget is announced November 28th, Friends of the Arts will prepare and distribute a new message reflecting new information. Stay tuned…!

Meanwhile enjoy these snaps from Arts Day at the City.

TAPA Executive Director Jacoba Knappen speaking at Arts Day orientation


Our fabulous volunteers!


Andrea Vagianos and TAPA Board Chair Meredith Potter


Chris Lorway and TAPA Advocacy Committee member Jenny Ginder


Chris Lorway and Jacoba Knappen


Councillors Kristen Wong-Tam, Josh Matlow, Michael Thompson, Mayor Rob Ford, Karen Kain, Councillors Gary Crawford and Mary Fragedakis at the declaration of National Ballet Week

My attempts at live blogging at yesterday’s Arts Day meetings was a challenge given my slightly frenetic meeting schedule. However, I’ve updated yesterday’s blog with play-by-play updates and photos so please take a look!

Perhaps the highlight of the event was a couple of heartfelt speeches given by both Heritage Minister James Moore and Canadian actress Cynthia Dale at the closing reception. The energy in the room was electric and by all accounts a wonderfully successful ending to a wonderfully successful day.





A special shout out to my colleagues on the the Steering Committee, Eric Dubeau, Melissa Gruber, Sarah Iley, Bastien Gilbert and especially to Katherine Carleton who, as always, does more than her fair share. It’s been a pleasure and privilege to work with such great people who are so committed to advancing the cause of the arts in Canada. Hats off to you!


10:00am

It’s a beautiful sunny day in Ottawa today – perfect for a little arts advocacy activity on Parliament Hill. Just over an hour ago, 100+ members of the Canadian Arts Coalition from across the country headed out to meet with 120 MP’s, Senators, political officials, and Cabinet Ministers. We gathered before dawn this morning at the National Arts Centre for a breakfast briefing on the task at hand. Will Stuart and Jaqueline Larocque of Ensight Canada, the Coalition’s contracted government relations firm, walked us through our key messages and gave us some helpful tips and instructions for how to approach our meetings. Find our case online at www.canadianartscoalition.ca. We were organized into trios, with each team scheduled to attend 3-4 meetings throughout today. I still haven’t figured out how, exactly, this complicated meeting-organizing algorithm is applied but somehow it all works out. Some meetings began as early as 9am. As for me, I’m having a leisurely coffee before my first meeting at 12:15 with Heritage Minister James Moore. Wish me luck! I am energized and hopeful that these meetings will help the arts sector strengthen our relationships across all political parties and advance our common goals. More to come…

National Arts Centre


Canadian Arts Coalition Co-Chairs Katherine Carleton and Eric Dubeau


Arts Day participants


Heading to the Hill


Katherine Carleton et moi


Off to more meetings

1:00pm
The Coalition Steering Committee, consisting of Co-Chairs Katherine Carleton and Eric Dubeau, Sarah Iley, Melissa Gruber, Bastien Gilbert and I just met with Heritage Minister James Moore and his policy staff. We were thrilled at his positive reaction to our efforts to coordinate the sector from all parts of the country around key messages and he commended us for the way in which we created the conditions for a constructive dialogue between the sector and government, moving past the tensions that surrounded the 2008 election. On the list of discussion topics was how to sustain key investments in the arts, given the Government’s ‘DRAP’ – the Deficit Reduction Action Plan, intended to eliminate the deficit by 2014 through a strategic and operating review that would ask all departments and government agencies to offer up both 5 and 10% spending reduction scenarios for consideration by Treasury Board. In order to eliminate the deficit by 2014, a 5% savings must be found across Government, though some Departments will have to offer up more than 5% and equally, others may contribute less. The Minister assured us that the intention of this exercise was not to ‘cut’ unnecessarily, but to find savings that will have the least direct impact on artists and the stability of the arts ecology. The $2.9 billion budget of the Department of Canadian Heritage and its agencies (including Canada Council, the CBC, and others) will not be exempt from this process, though Moore reassured us that they are approaching this exercise, as he put it “with stilettos rather than hatchets”. He recognized the importance of the consensus issues we brought forward and reaffirmed the ways in which he has championed the culture file to his caucus. Then we took a group photo.

Melissa Gruber, Katherine Carleton, me, Bastien Gilbert, Minister James Moore, Sarah Iley and Eric Dubeau

3:30pm
My last meeting with Deputy Heritage Minister Daniel Jean took much of the same tone as the meeting with Moore, though Jean was even more straightforward about the need for all departments to contribute to reducing the deficit. He stressed that culture, overall, won’t be an exception though he encouraged us to measure our success by the degree to which our priority areas are affected. Less than a 5% reduction to the budget of the Canada Council, for example, would mean that the Council fared better than average and was seen by Government as a priority area. Spending reductions of any kind are hard to absorb in the cultural sector as it seems we’re known for doing more with less all the time. But understanding the bigger picture is indeed key to assessing the Government’s attitude toward cultural investment. I am now en route to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s office to meet with his Policy Advisor Andrew Rankin (not related to the Rankin Family or in any way connected to the east coast).

Signing in at the offices of the Department of Canadian Heritage in Gatineau

5:00pm
The meeting with Andrew Rankin at the Department of Finance was insightful. He himself was deeply involved in the arts growing up and seemed to inherently understand the importance of the arts to people’s lives and communities. He spoke openly of Minister Flaherty’s support of arts and culture issues and reported that he, alongside Minister Moore, is a major champion for us in the Conservative Caucus and in Cabinet. As we discussed our priorities and objectives, he encouraged us to respond more, as a sector, to positive policy initiatives that the government undertakes as this helps them gauge policy effectiveness. He commented that the sector is very vocal when we aren’t supportive of policy decisions, though much less vocal when we are. Now off to the ‘cinq a sept’ in the Speaker’s Chambers.

Micheline McKay and Erica Beatty



9:00pm
At the Ottawa airport now, waiting for Porter to whisk me home. The closing Arts Day reception, hosted by Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie, was a spirited event full of happy Coalition members and MP’s from all parties including Parliamentary Secretary for Heritage, Paul Calandra; Minister of National Revenue, Gail Shea; NDP Heritage Critic, Tyrone Benskin; Liberal Heritage Critic, Scott Simms and other art supporting MPs such as Charlie Angus and Justin Trudeau. Minister Moore made a surprise appearance and addressed the group with sincere support and gratitude for our efforts today. He encouraged us to continue working together and saluted MP’s from all parties who participated. “Supporting culture isn’t a left wing issue or a right wing issue, it’s the right thing to do”. Canadian actress Cynthia Dale also spoke, reminding us of the amazing work that artists do for Canada at home and abroad. She said, “We are an arts nation who create, perform and bring Canada to the world”. By all accounts, Arts Day 2011 was a great success and I’m so proud of all of the work done by the Coalition Steering Committee and its members. And most of all, I’m encouraged by the connections we made, and the relationships we built because it is the strength of this work that will help the sector move forward with strong support from our elected officials.

Signing off from Gate 26.

Reception in the Speaker's Lounge, Centre Block


Nathalie Fave and Stephanie Ballard


Justin Trudeau et moi


Minister Moore, Eric Coates and Micheline McKay


moi et monsieur le Ministre


Katherine Carleton, Eric Dubeau and Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie


Minister Moore and Cynthia Dale


NDP Heritage Critic Tyrone Benskin et moi


Leaving Centre Block



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