Posts Tagged ‘business for the arts’

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.


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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).

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

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Last Friday, Councillor Michael Thompson (Ward 37, Scarborough Centre), Chair of Toronto’s Economic Development Committee announced the Creative Capitals Initiative – a plan to design the next generation of Toronto’s Culture Plan. The existing plan was launched in 2003 and contains 63 recommendations, one of which was to increase Toronto’s per capita arts investment to $25 by 2008. At the current $18 per Torontonian, progress has been lagging on this front and on many other targets, though according to the City, 87% of the original recommendations have been addressed. Today, 10 years after the first plan began taking shape, it’s clearly time to reflect on how Toronto will take its next steps in fostering an active and healthy cultural scene, raising its profile as one of the world’s foremost creative capitals.

The Creative Capital Initiative will be headed by several heavy hitters from both the arts and business sectors. Co-Chairs include Robert Foster (CEO Capital Canada), Karen Kain (Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Canada), and former federal Cabinet Minister Jim Prentice (Vice-Chairman, CIBC). They will be joined by an Advisory Council which includes: Nichole Anderson (President and CEO, Business for the Arts), Cameron Bailey (Co-Director, Toronto International Film Festival Group), Claire Hopkinson (Executive Director, Toronto Arts Council), Che Kothari (Executive Director, Manifesto Community Projects) and Gail Lord (Co-President, Lord Cultural Resources). The Committee will also be advised by Richard Florida (author and Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute) and Jeff Melanson (Special Advisor to the Mayor – Arts & Culture).

Invited focus groups and public consultations will be taking place throughout February with plans to present recommendations at the May 2011 meeting of the Economic Development Committee. Consultations will include a wide scope of issues such as cultural infrastructure, direct investment in artists and arts organizations, digital media, sustainable spaces and cultural attractions, among others.

Given the absence of an arts platform in Ford’s mayoral campaign, this initiative is a welcome invitation to participate in the shaping of a new future for the sector. Developing the next generation of the culture plan was a recommendation made by ArtsVote and other factions of the arts sector during the election campaign, and we are wise to take full advantage of the opportunity to participate in this process. Renewal within the ranks of City Council also affords us an opportunity to reinforce other key recommendations (such as new investment in direct grants to artists and arts organizations) as well as bring to the table new ideas, offer new solutions and consider new initiatives that will help make Toronto’s arts and culture scene more vibrant and sustainable. Strategically positioning arts and culture as a key economic driver and social asset will help us assert our value in wider city-building agendas, ensuring that arts and culture are an essential investment in Toronto’s success.

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The Candidates

It’s T minus 21 days until Torontonians elect a new collection of civic leaders to run our city, including a new Mayor. Civic election campaigns are the longest among governments – a whopping 10 months (as compared to a legal minimum of 36 days federally and 28 days provincially in Ontario). By Election Day on October 25th, mayoral hopefuls will have participated in a bazillion or so debates on issues ranging from TTC to taxation, the environment and immigration.

But not all debates are created equal. On September 29th, thousands turned up and tuned into the Mayoral Arts Debate at the Art Gallery of Ontario, hosted by Business for the Arts, in partnership with ArtsVote, the Toronto Arts Council and Manifesto. Organizers were already turning people away 10 minutes after the doors opened, sending Toronto voters home to watch the debate online. The level of interest and participation from Toronto’s electorate sent a clear message to hopeful candidates that Torontonians value public support for the arts and want to know that their civic leaders will deliver.

The Voters

Perhaps another reason for the lively and curious crowd is that arts-voters remain largely undecided about who’s name they will put their X beside on Election Day. On October 4th, ArtsVote released a final set of grades for leading Mayoral candidates, completing their Report Card that provides an arts-focused assessment for every registered candidate running for election across all 44 Wards. What the Report Card revealed is that when it comes to electing an arts-friendly Mayor, the only thing that remains clear is that Rob Ford is not our guy. However, when it comes to the other front-runners, little divides them in terms of the quality of their plans, commitments and vision for the arts in our city.

So, you care about the arts, but you don’t know how to vote on October 25th? Read on for some help in untangling the Smither-ross-alone dilemma…

George Smitherman

Option 1: Vote for Smitherman.
If you’re inclined to vote with your head, an X beside George Smitherman’s name will be a strategic and intelligent decision. At this stage of the game, he’s the most likely candidate to beat Rob Ford – the candidate promoting more fundraising dinners instead of more public arts investment (need I say more). Smitherman is an experienced politician and has a strong, comprehensive and realistic arts platform. In fact, he was the only mayoral candidate to receive an ‘A’ grade from ArtsVote. The downside? His arts commitments, while realistic and deliverable, lack a longer-term vision. Plus, who wants a mayor who’s known for his temper tantrums? Favourite Arts Debate Quote: “I don’t just know where the bathroom is at city hall, I’ve used it!”

Joe Pantalone

Option 2: Vote for Pantalone.
If you want to vote with your heart, an X beside Joe Pantalone’s name is a vote for the city you know and love. He’s a 29-year city council veteran with a long and proven track record of supporting the arts. He’s the only candidate not advocating for tax freezes or cuts – a policy stance that will undoubtedly impact the potential for new public investment in any area. The downside? Progress on arts issues at city hall has been painfully slow and Pantalone didn’t impress at the Arts Debate with a new and improved vision. And, if Pantalone doesn’t gain more support before October 25th, a vote for anyone other than Ford’s closest contender will be less than strategic. Favourite Arts Debate Quote: “Toronto is said to be the 4th best city in the world to experience culture – I think we’re better than that.”

Rocco Rossi

Option 3: Vote for Rossi.
If you’re the bold and risk-taking type – vote with your cojones (in the non-gender-specific kind of way) and put your X beside Rocco Rossi’s name. Rossi burst out of the gate sprinting in July with a bold and forward-thinking arts platform. He’s the candidate willing to go the extra mile and commit to making Toronto Canada’s leader in per capita arts investment, promising to reach $25 in the first year, and match Montreal’s current level of $33 by the end of 4 years. The downside? While he outlines how he will achieve the first $25, it’s unclear how he will make further progress. His lack of political experience makes voting for him a potentially risky prospect. Favourite Arts Debate Quote: “Arts and culture decisions are made in a ghetto. Until we build and understand its links to economic development, we’re missing the boat.”

Rob Ford

For the record, Rob Ford received a D- from ArtsVote, which is actually a better score than the F he received from racial justice group the Colour of Change Network for his position on social policy issues… He was booed several times during the debate. Favourite quote: (stated in his closing remarks) “I know you won’t miss me.”

A final word of advice: If you’re among Toronto’s undecided voters, don’t let that stop you from getting out to the polls. Stay informed and choose the Toronto you want. Whether you vote with your brain or your heart, your inner rebel or your inner strategist, on October 25th NOT voting is the only choice that you don’t want to make.

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The summer has come and gone. Fall activities are in full swing, including Toronto’s election campaign! This year, the Mayor’s job is up for grabs and candidates are on the ground and in the news in full force auditioning for the part. Have you been paying attention?

On Wednesday, September 29th, Business for the Arts, in partnership with ArtsVote, the Toronto Arts Council, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Manifesto, will be hosting the Toronto Mayoral Arts Debate. It’s FREE and if you are a voting Torontonian who cares about the arts, you MUST be there! (It’s going to be fun, I promise.)

Here are the details:

Toronto Mayoral Arts Debate
With Toronto’s major mayoral candidates
John Tory, Moderator
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Doors Open: 6pm
Debate: 7:00-8:30pm
Walker Court, AGO, 317 Dundas Street

And, here are a couple of other things you can do in the spirit of raising the profile of the arts this election.

Send your photo to info@artsvotetoronto.ca with the message ‘I am an artist/arts worker/arts supporter and I vote!’. Here’s mine:

Here are some others for inspiration.

Lastly, have your say in who will be the wild card candidate at the Mayoral Arts Debate. Currently, the four candidates who are confirmed are: Joe Pantalone, Rocco Rossi, George Smitherman and Sarah Thomson. Rob Ford is also anticipated to participate. ArtsVote is hosting a poll to choose an additional Mayoral candidate to participate in the Debate. Click here for details on how to vote.

See you at the polls on October 25th!

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Having been on a mini hiatus from writing about arts policy happenings over the last month, some catching up is in order! An initiative I’ve wanted to write about for some time is the upcoming national Culture Days event. Launched on April 20th, Culture Days weekend will debut in cities, towns and communities across the country over the last weekend in September 2010. Described most succinctly as ‘ParticipACTION’ for the arts, Culture Days is a movement to raise awareness and encourage participation in arts and culture. Modeled after Montreal’s successful ‘Journées de la culture’, Culture Days events and activities will be interactive and gratis to the public with cultural offerings designed and delivered by local artists and arts, culture and heritage organizations.

Check out their promo video here:

Culture Days | Fête de la culture from CultureDays Fetedelaculture on Vimeo.

In an earlier post, I wrote about Simon Brault’s new book ‘Le Facteur C: L’avenir passe par la culture’, now available in English (‘No Culture, No Future’). Brault is an accomplished arts policy thinker, the vice-chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, president of Culture Montreal, and the general director of the National Theatre School. His book is a compelling case to citizens and government for culture as a right and necessity, requiring adequate public investment. I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the English edition just last week, hosted with finesse by Jim Fleck and Business for the Arts. At the event, my favourite Globe and Mail arts reporter James Bradshaw interviewed Brault live. The essence of the conversation revolved around the idea of cultural participation and the importance of democratizing access to culture for all citizens. Brault commented that because culture is so fundamental, we don’t even recognize how entrenched it is in our daily lives. He referenced Quebecois writer Dany Lafrenière, who said “when everything is gone, culture remains”.

Culture Days is perhaps an antidote to Brault’s lament about the need for citizens to become more conscious of the art and culture that both surrounds and permeates their lives. Participating in cultural experiences of any form, from ‘elite’ to recreational, can help us feel connected to each other within our communities, cities or within society. In the context of a national, participation-based celebration of culture, the free events, activities and experiences will take many forms including both professional and community-based offerings. It is an indiscriminate forum where the creators of cultural content will mingle with their counterparts – the cultural consumers – in an attempt to deepen this engagement and remind us that we are surrounded by rich and diverse creative expressions at home in our own neighbourhoods and communities.

I’m encouraged by the potential of Brault’s book and the Culture Days initiative. Both are bright, shining opportunities to be reminded of the important and valued role culture plays in our lives. As cultural citizens, we must remember that culture is our right. We must protect it, nurture it, engage with it, and give it space to express itself. Otherwise we might find ourselves standing in a paved parking lot someday trying to remember the words to that Joni Mitchell song… you know the one.

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Introduction and Disclaimer…

With much gratitude to the Metcalf Foundation, the Toronto Arts Foundation, the John McKellar Foundation, and Business for the Arts, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to spend some time over the next two years thinking and writing about arts policy. [check out the press release here] This time will be exploratory in nature, allowing me to ask questions, follow hunches, make assumptions, and test ideas. Via the ‘Arts Policy Diaries’ blog, I intend to share with you my thinking in real time, as it evolves.

While I hope to bring forward compelling ideas, interesting perspectives and good questions, I equally wish to swim around in murky waters, exploring ideas that may or may not have merit or be ultimately substantiated. So, it is a public experiment where I will share with you my (mostly) uncensored train of thought. And I welcome your comments and responses to my missives, especially those that challenge, reinforce or add to my thinking. Please feel free to use this blog to comment directly, or send me your thoughts at shannon@torontoarts.org.

You can subscribe to the blog by clicking on the ‘Sign Me Up!’ button on the right tool bar. To view only posts about arts policy, click on ‘Categories’ and select ‘Arts Policy Diaries’.

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