Posts Tagged ‘canadian arts coalition’

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


Read Full Post »


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

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

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

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

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

Read Full Post »

A year-end tribute to the fantastic individuals and organizations that fight the good fight for us all. Happy Holidays!


Who they are: The Beautiful City Alliance is a Toronto-based Coalition of mostly grassroots organizations working together to incur a tax on billboards to fund art in the public sphere.

What they did: Tired of hearing from City Hall that ‘there’s no new money to support the arts’, this group decided to create a new revenue source for the City, in order to fund art. Simply put, they were looking for a tax on billboards to fund art in the public sphere.

What happened: After 8 years of hard work, on December 8, 2009, City Council voted 29/12 in favour of a new bylaw that would require billboard companies to pay a fee for advertising in public spaces. Based on the approved fees, Council expects to generate $10.4 million in new revenues annually. After implementation costs, about $9 million new dollars are up for allocation in the city’s budget. During the 2010 budget process in early March, Beautiful City and its supporters made deputations at City Hall, calling on Council to allocate new funds to the arts. Because implementation of the new bylaw wouldn’t take full effect until 2011, Council did not allocate new revenues for 2010. However, on August 16th, City Council’s Executive Committee moved to increase per capita arts investment to $25 (from the current $18) by 2013, which would represent an increase of $17.5 million over today’s investment levels. Ten days later, the full Council adopted this recommendation 40/1. Since that time, a new Council has been elected. Thankfully, Toronto’s new mayor was among those that voted in favour of the increase. However, our new budget chief, Mike Del Grande, was the one who opposed it. Currently, billboard companies are suing the city, and the future of such funds remains uncertain.


Who they are: The Canadian Arts Coalition is a collaborative non-partisan movement spearheaded by a group of national arts service and membership organizations. They are united in the belief that the future of our citizens, their towns and cities and the nation itself depends on a rich, vibrant and diverse arts and heritage community. Since its inception, the CAC has successfully lobbied for increased support for the arts through the Canada Council for the Arts and the Department of Canadian Heritage.

What they did: The 6-member volunteer steering committee of the Canadian Arts Coalition organized and hosted a national Arts Day on Parliament Hill. On November 4th, members and supporters of the arts sector from communities across Canada gathered in Ottawa to participate in over 100 scheduled meetings with Members of Parliament to discuss the key role arts investment plays in the economic and social health of Canada. They collectively carried a unified message about how the government can strengthen the effectiveness of their role in the arts through new investment in the Canada Council for the Arts and by creating new market access and development initiatives. Their meetings included a one-hour tête-à-tête with Minister of Heritage James Moore and his lead policy advisor.

What happened: Members of Parliament across all parties were receptive to the messages and many also expressed interest in learning more about arts activities in their ridings. Some MP’s, including members of the Conservative caucus wrote letters to Minister Moore stressing the importance of increased support for the arts. Moore himself praised efforts to raise awareness about arts and culture sector priorities on the Hill and indicated that he would welcome a new, multi-faceted proposal on cultural diplomacy and international market development.


Who they are: Founded in Toronto, ArtsVote is a coalition of volunteers who work together during municipal election campaigns to increase awareness of arts issues, identify arts-friendly candidates and mobilize arts-interested citizens to vote. During the recent series of municipal elections, there were ArtsVote teams active in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and London.

What they did: In Toronto, ArtsVote was THE source of information for all things arts and culture during the election campaign. Using a savvy social media strategy, ArtsVote blogged, tweeted and Facebooked its way to cultivating over 10,000 citizens who plugged into the campaign. ArtsVote articulated election priorities for the sector, surveyed candidates about their arts views, graded their responses and then produced and distributed a report card. They also met with several of the leading mayoral candidates helping to advise on arts platform development. And, a public Mayoral Arts Debate was organized at the AGO with sector partners, as was an Election Day party in concert with popular local blogger site Torontoist.

What happened: Well, we all know what happened. But that’s not to say that ArtVote wasn’t a success and didn’t have a tremendous impact. All leading mayoral candidates but Ford had an arts platform that was front and centre in their campaign. The Mayoral Arts Debate attracted over 3000 attendees and viewers. Over 10,000 citizens connected to the ArtsVote website and while one never really knows, I’d like to think that voter turnout among arts-supportive citizens was strong.


(Thanks to Amir Ali Alibi of the Alliance for Arts and Culture for significant help putting together this segment!)

Who they Are: The BC arts community, including artists, arts workers and supporters have weathered a year of instability and confusion after they experienced a $10 million cut to the BC Arts Council (more than 50%) and a $7 million cut to the funds available through Gaming Revenues to the Arts, shaking the very foundation of their existence. Organizations and movements like Vancouver’s Alliance for Arts and Culture, Stop BC Arts Cuts and Arts Advocacy BC were working at maximum capacity to decode the issue and advocate for the restoration of government investment in the arts.

What They Did: Following announced cuts, the arts community in BC immediately responded, expressing concern over the deep cuts to an already inadequate level of arts spending by the province, compared with the rest of Canada. The arts community worked together to develop a unified message: they wanted affirmation of public spending in the arts, a restoration of funds to the BC Arts Council, a commitment to arms-length and transparent funding processes for the arts, and restoration of Gaming grants to the arts. The arts community and its supporters came together to meet with MLAs across the province to deliver this message, allies outside of the arts were invited to work with them and the arts community showed its support for other civil society sectors that had also been cut. One of their allies turned out to be Jane Danzo, the Chair of the BC Arts Council whose resignation and letter to Kevin Krueger, BC’s Minister of Tourism, Culture & the Arts, was the final straw that prompted a reaction from the Government.

Artist Ziyian Kwan Takes Action

What Happened: Following Danzo’s resignation, the Government restored $7 million to the BC Arts Council Budget (previously announced as a $10 million “Arts Legacy Fund”). Another $1.5 Million was later announced for an ill planned and politically motivated series of “Spirit Festivals” to take place in February across the province. The Assembly of BC Arts Councils was chosen as the distributor of these funds and made sure that they were easily accessed by needy arts organizations as quickly as possible. A further $750K was given to the BC Arts Council for festival support. The arts community is still engaged in advocacy to restore the Gaming funds. Their loss has had a profound impact on many organizations across BC.


Who They Are: Modeled after Quebec’s Journées de la culture, this year in it’s 14th iteration, Culture Days is a Canada-wide interactive celebration of arts and culture. It is a spectacular forum for citizens to inspire their inner creator and discover the world artists, historians, architects, curators and designers in their communities.

What They Did: Culture Days was perhaps more of a public awareness campaign than an advocacy initiative. However, wide-reaching public engagement in the arts goes a long way in supporting the cause and that’s just what Culture Days has aimed to do long term. By creating a national brand and coordinating free, interactive activities around a single weekend, Culture Days is creating the conditions for a shared Canadian cultural experience. September 24-26, 2010 was the inaugural weekend of Culture Days when there were literally thousands of events that took place in cities, communities and neighbourhoods from coast to coast to coast. The free events, activities and experiences that defined Culture Days took many forms including both professional and community-based offerings. It was an indiscriminate forum where the creators of cultural content were able mingled 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.

What Happened: In its inaugural year, over 4,500 free hands-on, participatory activities and events were held in some 700 cities and towns across Canada, attracting millions of Canadians to celebrate and become more familiar with the incredible diversity and creativity of artists and cultural groups in their communities. According to a review conducted by research firm, The Strategic Councel, one-third of Canadians reported being aware of Culture Days. Three quarters of people who participated in Culture Days activities were very satisfied, and 90% of those in participating communities say they are likely to participate in Culture Days next year. Over 67% believe that Culture Days has increased awareness of how artists and arts organizations make a positive contribution to the community. National and regional marketing efforts for Culture Days in 2010 delivered 112,299,192 impressions. Mark your calendars for Culture Days 2011 from Friday, September 30 to Sunday, October 2!

Read Full Post »

Where do governments obtain the information that fuels their policy and investment decisions? If you look too closely at this question, you might start to cry. Political decision-making is indeed a complex game with many motivations and agendas at play that are not always grounded in ethics and professional integrity. But after someone hands you a tissue, you might start to think about what information is available to decision-makers in the process of considering new investment and policy initiatives.

I would venture to say that most information that informs government decision-making remains a mystery to the average citizen. Meaning that when governments engage in decision-making process, citizens are not privy to most of the information that is considered. We don’t know who politicians are meeting with on any given issue (except registered lobbyists who must log their interactions with decision-makers), what research they’re consulting, how analysts and policy advisers are interpreting the information, what agendas are at play or what courses of action are being contemplated. This information is highly confidential, and governments do not have to disclose how they arrive at their decisions.

Flash back to August 2008 when the federal Conservatives cut funds to international touring and market development programs, ProMart and Trade Routes. These program cuts were the result of a government-wide strategic review process that deemed the programs to be ‘administratively ineffective’. The infamous report produced in the process of the strategic review – the one that no doubt explains in detail the alleged ineffectiveness of these programs – is not in the public domain. It was never released, nor does it have to be as the information it contains is protected.

While the average citizen is not privy to government intelligence, we do, in our fair democracy, have a right and duty to contribute to government decision-making by expressing our views. And we do. Well, some people do. Sometimes.

In the arts, we tend to participate by joining organizations like unions, coalitions, alliances, service organizations, assemblies or associations. These groups are at times industry-based and at times issue-based. Usually we belong to more than one of them…because we have a lot of them in the arts! Through these vehicles, we have a chance to engage with other members, express our views, debate relevant issues and (hopefully) arrive at a position that can be presented to decision-makers on our behalf.

Experience tells us that politicians are influenced when citizen groups have at least one of the following:
1. strong political capital (votes),
2. the ability to sway public opinion (influence votes), or
3. a compelling case that aligns with government agendas.

I would argue that the arts sector (broadly speaking) does have political capital based on the sheer size of our industry. But in a party-based system, we are generally predictable voters and let’s face it, a right-winged government or politician is not going to advance an arts agenda because they think they’re going to win the arts vote.

In the second case, the 2008 federal election proved that we have some ability to sway public opinion and influence other voters. This is perhaps most obvious in Quebec, where the cultural agenda is not sector-specific, but an expressly important issue to a broad base of citizens, for obvious reasons. The reaction in Quebec to Harper’s dismissive attitude toward the arts during that campaign is perhaps still the reason why today the arts have not seen further cuts by his government.

But in the third case, the arts sector is struggling to deliver the goods. While we have made many arguments and presented many cases, some more compelling than others, we are lacking in several ways. The first is that we don’t always align our positions with the goals of Government. In our current environment federally, this can be a considerable challenge. But, without mutual benefit for the sector and Government, there’s no way to move forward.

The second is that we’re more divided than united. We’re improving in this regard (the recent Arts Day on Parliament Hill organized by the Canadian Arts Coalition was a big step) but we have a long way to go to really find common cause. When we don’t unite around a position, we leave it to politicians to decide (ahem, copyright bill, anyone?).

The final challenge for us is that we are lacking solid, objective and credible research to really support our case. And here I return to my title question – does Canada need an arts research think tank?

One of the gems of information that I hear politicians cite often is that the arts and culture sector contributes over $46 billion to Canada’s GDP. With the airtime it’s had, you’d think that this golden statistic came from a study initiated by the arts sector. But no, it came from a report produced by the Conference Board of Canada. An independent source not connected to the arts sector or to Government. Sort of like the kind of report that might be produced by an arts policy research centre perhaps?

The kind of centre that I’m contemplating is one that exists independently from government or citizen-based interest group agendas. A place where the best and brightest thinkers would take stock of the ecology of the arts in Canada and assess whether the public and market-based systems that help to keep it healthy and vital are working optimally. Where are the weak links? What policy initiatives could strengthen us? Are current policies reflective of current practice? Where could new investment be best placed? What are other countries doing?

I am curious about such centres that exist outside of Canada. There are many of them. In the United States the Aspen Institute, Princeton’s Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies and Bill Ivey’s Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy, at Vanderbilt University are among the most popular. The UK has several university-based research centres as well as Demos – a political think tank driven by international thought-leader John Holden. In Germany there is ERICARTS – European Research Institute for Comparative Cultural Policy and the Arts and Australia has the Cultural Development Network and the Centre for Cultural Research at the University of Western Sydney. I could go on.

These centres are adding high quality research to the information pool that, I imagine, contributes greatly to the understanding of the arts sector in those countries, for the benefit of the public, government and for the sector itself. Credible studies, free of political and even industry motives are integral to good decision making for all potential stakeholders.

Over the next year, I hope to investigate this question more deeply, researching models of such thinking centres, understanding their impact and the role they play in public policy discourse. Stay tuned to hear about what I discover.

Read Full Post »

While the Canadian Arts Coalition’s Arts Day on Parliament Hill was no doubt a highlight of last week’s activities, there were also several other arts and culture sector happenings in the nation’s capital over the past week. On November 1st, directors of Canada’s national arts service organizations gathered at the invitation of the Canada Council for the Arts to discuss how they can effectively collaborate for the betterment of the sector. This initiative is in its fifth year and over time the partnership between representative associations and the Council is strengthening.

As the Metcalf Arts Policy Fellow, I had the opportunity to be in the room as an observer. The conversations were meant to be candid and informal, and so I won’t venture to give a full account of the day. However, it is worth noting some key points made by Canada Council Director Robert Sirman in his opening address. He offered context about the current economic and political environment as it relates to the Council and its work through a more global lens, comparing our situation with other similar nations around the world.

Two years after the economic recession hit, countries are now taking economic recovery and starting to make public their decisions on how to address deficits. Nearly every developed nation is taking a small ‘c’ conservative approach to budgeting. Spending is being restrained and governments are starting to reveal more detail about which sectors will be most affected. Sirman noted that the Council’s sister organizations in other countries are both anticipating and experiencing budget cuts – in some cases minimal, and in other cases, game changing. In particular, Arts Council England is currently engaged in an exercise to cut nearly 30% of its budget. It has been directed by government to cut 15% of its direct services to the public (grants) as well as 50% of its administration costs (over and above the 21% staff cut it made the year prior). Of the 30 European countries associated with the International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies – IFACCA (of which Council is a founding member), none are expecting status quo and most have already experienced cuts.

Canada’s healthier economic position (relatively speaking) seems to have staved off major budget slashes, protecting the budget of the Canada Council and other arts and culture appropriations. However, Sirman advises that it is necessary to understand the global environment in order to put into perspective Canada’s position on cultural investment. And, moving forward, we need to start building a case for increased investment, so that when governments are ready to spend again, our sector is strongly positioned.

with Paul Gross and Claire Hopkinson

Fast forward to November 2. The Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA), who this year is celebrating their 65th anniversary, hosted its national policy conference ‘Artists Powering the Creative Economy’ at the National Arts Centre. The evening prior to the conference kick off, three important figures in the cultural sector, Joyce Zemans (my first professor of cultural policy!), Françoise Sullivan, Robert Jekyll and Maurice Forget were honoured at the CCA’s awards gala. Acclaimed actor and director Paul Gross offered a keynote address at the event, which was hosted by CCA National Director Alain Pineau and Board President Kathleen Sharpe. Congratulations to the deserving honourees!

Jian Ghomeshi, Gaétan Morency and Kevin Stolarik with moderator Analee Adair

The conference launched with a panel discussion about the role of the artist in the creative economy. We heard perspectives from Jian Ghomeshi, Gaétan Morency and Kevin Stolarick and had a chance to discuss amongst ourselves the ideas that they put forward for our consideration. This topic itself seemed to be a challenge for the room, as it frames the artist primarily as an economic contributor or catalyst for economic return – an argument that has had considerable air time in recent political debate – though among members of the sector, doesn’t sufficiently capture the contribution or even the raison d’être of the artist in society.

After lunch I had the distinct pleasure of moderating the ‘Emerging Thinkers Speed Talks’ session. I was joined by four up-and-coming talents in the sector, Kwende Kefentse, Alex Rogalski, Janet Naclia and Devon Ostrom, who spoke on topics that ranged from YouTube filmmakers to rural arts engagement. They were each given exactly 5 minutes to present their ideas with an auto-advance slide show presentation format modeled after the well-known online TED talks. (TED.com). The ensuing discussion was lively and touched on areas such as the role and relevance of the institution, cultivating individual professional value and keeping pace with an ever-changing consumer environment.

Admittedly, I did not attend day 2 of the CCA conference, but rather partook in the keynote address and opening activities at the joint board meeting of the Performing Arts Alliance – PAA (Opera.ca, Canadian Dance Assembly, Canadian Arts Presenters Association, Professional Association of Canadian Theatres and Orchestras Canada). The Performing Arts Alliance has been actively collaborating on advocacy activities over the last two years and has continued to seek ways in which to improve the effectiveness of their individual organizations by working together. As an effort to cultivate collaboration among the volunteer leadership within their organizations, the PAA brought together members of their respective boards of directors to engage in a day of professional development and collaborative planning.

Ben Cameron keynote address

Performing arts leader Ben Cameron of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation in New York gave the keynote address. (You can find his TED talk here.) Ben is a notable speaker who has contributed significantly to the thinking of arts organizations and their pursuit to navigate change. His presentation focused on where our contemporary challenges lie and how arts organizations adapt to the new ‘now’. He noted four key challenges that were not challenges 10, 20 or 30 years ago (like chronic issues of under funding and impoverished artists). They are: A broken business model (the traditional non-profit charity), an impending generational transfer of leadership, the erosion of audiences in every field and the impact of technology on the live performing arts.

He wisely noted that in times of change, our instinct is to compete, not collaborate, and he offered helpful examples and suggestions on how we can adapt by working together. I enjoyed a quote he referenced by the late US President Abraham Lincoln “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. As our case is new, so must we think anew and act anew.”

A recording of his presentation is being edited and will be available online shortly along with the full text of his speech.

After a week of stimulating activities and idea-provoking conversations, I’m charged up with thoughts of collaboration. Given our circumstances, the increasing pace of change, the environmental factors beyond our control, our survival and vitality depends on our ability to find common cause and look forward together.

In the spirit of exchange, I’d love to hear about interesting ideas for collaboration or effective collaborations that are already happening out there in the field. Please comment!

Read Full Post »

Pierre Brault and David Leighton off to meet Patrick Brown.

On Thursday November 4th, members and supporters of the Canadian arts sector came together in Ottawa to participate in over 100 scheduled meetings with MP’s across all parties. The Canadian Arts Coalition – the largest-ever consortium of artists, arts workers, supporters and volunteers in the country – coordinated Arts Day as a part of a larger strategy to galvanize the sector and advance two key policy and investment priorities. They are: to increase investment to the Canada Council for the Arts by $30M annually over 4 years and to invest $25M in new market access and development initiatives. The Coalition’s full position is outlined in our brief to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Will Stewart and Jackie Laroque from Ensight Canada

Participants of Arts Day came from all parts of the country and met bright and early the morning of to hear a briefing session by Will Stuart and colleagues of the public relations firm Ensight Canada. The Coalition engaged Ensight to help us ground our strategy and messages in sound government relations expertise, in order to ensure a successful day with maximum impact. Ensight walked us all through our key messages, positioning, strategies and protocols for the meetings, equipping participants with the information they needed to navigate their day.

Samantha Fox, Lucy White, Christina Loewen and Caroline Miller in front of the Confederation Building.

By 8:30am, participants were off to the Hill. Scheduled meetings included MP’s from ridings in every province, as well as several Cabinet Ministers including Minister of Heritage James Moore. As the day unfolded, many participants were reporting positive exchanges with MP’s from every party. There seemed to be a buzz on the Hill about the arts meetings and after the fact, many MP’s made positive mention of their interactions with the arts sector to Minister Moore.

The Canadian Arts Coalition Steering Committee, Shannon Litzenberger, Melissa Gruber, Katherine Carleton, Eric Dubeau, Bastien Gilbert (missing: Sarah Iley)

I, along with my Steering Committee colleagues Eric Dubeau and Bastien Gilbert had the opportunity to spend over an hour with Moore to discuss our two priorities. In my assessment, the meeting was very productive. Moore praised our efforts to unify our message and take action by building support across the House for our issues. He noted that these kinds of efforts go a long way in building support for the cases he will need to make internally, within government process. In the course of our discussion, he was receptive and open to new ideas. He reiterated that there’s no money to spend given the country’s deficit position, though advancing ideas and building support for future investment as well as broader policy goals were welcome. In particular, he was keen to consider a revitalized, multi-faceted strategy on cultural diplomacy – an issue that is of great concern to the sector and an area where future investment in market access and development initiatives might be considered.

Rowena House and Justin Ford from the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association with April Britski from CARFAC meeting with Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

As November 4th was the final day of the recent parliamentary session, most meetings concluded by 4pm as many MP’s were heading back to their ridings. However, the Coalition’s work doesn’t end here. While there will be a fuller report on the learnings of Arts Day that take into consideration the feedback from each meeting, what I can glean at this stage is the following:

Daniel Roy et Gilles Savary en route pour leur reunion avec Bernard Genereux.

Arts Day was an important launch to the Coalition’s renewed effort to rally the sector around key priorities. We had impact because we offered a unified message on two key consensus issues affecting the sector. We were thoughtful in our approach, which was strategic, constructive, non-partisan and a positive attempt to unite support across all parties. Though, where there is work to be done is at the local level. Several MP’s were not very aware of the arts activity in their ridings and noted that arts groups don’t often meet with them at home, or engage them in their events and activities. It’s clear that advocacy in the ridings needs to be a high priority going forward.

Taking notes!

Organizing a day of this kind is no small feat and there were many volunteers who contributed to the logistical planning beyond the core Steering Committee. It’s fair to say that going forward the Coalition will need more financial support and volunteer help from the sector in order to build on our positive momentum. It’s likely that we could be facing an election as early as the spring, and so our election strategy planning must start now.

If you or your organization would like to get involved, contact us at info@canadianartscoalition.ca. When we do a little for each other, a lot happens for all of us.

Coalition Co-Chairs Katherine Carleton and Eric Dubeau

Read Full Post »

The latest news from the Canadian Arts Coalition. Check out their new website! www.canadianartscoalition.com Membership is open to ANY individual (like you!) or organization (like yours!) who wishes to support the arts and participate in realizing the Coalition’s goals.

La version française suit la version anglaise

Canadian Arts Coalition Summer Update

1. Web Launch
2. Finance Committee Submissions Due August 13th
3. Day on the Hill and Pre-Election Plan

1. Web launch

The new Canadian Arts Coalition website has now been launched. Visit the new Action Centre to find resources designed to help artists, arts organizations and the community at large make our case to decision makers.

2. Finance Committee Submissions Due August 13th

The Canadian Arts Coalition has drafted a submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. Full details about the submission process are available online. Feel free to use the Coalition’s recommendations as a starting point for your submissions. Other tools you may find useful can be found in the Action Centre on our website.

Recommendation 1: That the Government of Canada invest in Canadian creativity and Canadian communities by increasing the base budget of the Canada Council for the Arts by an additional $30 million per year in each of the next four years, bringing the Council’s funding base to $300 million per annum by 2015.

Recommendation 2: That the Government of Canada acknowledge the role that arts and culture plays in enhancing Canada’s reputation internationally and put Canadian artists on the world stage by investing $25 million in strategic international market access and development initiatives.

3. Day on the Hill and Pre-Election Plan

To support our shared goals of increased investment in the Canada Council and new support for market access and development initiatives, the Canadian Arts Coalition Steering Committee has developed a pre-election plan. The plan includes a series of strategic actions that we wish to take over the next 3-4 months with the support and participation of the full Coalition membership.

In particular, the Canadian Arts Coalition has begun preparations for an Arts Day on Parliament Hill on November 4th 2010. This is designed to coincide with a National Arts Service Organization Meeting that will be hosted by the Canada Council for the Arts on November 1st and the Canadian Conference of the Arts Policy Conference November 1st–3rd. Your participation in this and other advocacy actions is key. More details will follow in the coming weeks. Please contact any member of the Steering Committee to let us know how you and your organization would like to participate.



Mise à jour de la Coalition canadienne des arts

1. Mis en ligne du nouveau site Web de la Coalition
2. Soumissions de mémoires prébudgétaires : date limite est le 13 août
3. Journée sur la Colline parlementaire et planification préélectorale

1. Mise en ligne du nouveau site Web de la Coalition

Le nouveau site Web de la coalition canadienne des arts est en ligne depuis peu. Visitez la nouvelle section, Centre d’action, dédiée aux actions à entreprendre et vous trouverez plusieurs ressources conçues pour aider les artistes, les organismes artistiques et le public à faire avancer nos objectifs.

2. Soumissions de mémoires prébudgétaires : date limite est le 13 août

Le Comité permanent des finances de la Chambre des communes invite la population à prendre part à ses consultations prébudgétaires annuelles. La Coalition canadienne des arts a préparé un mémoire qui sera déposé au Comité permanent des finances ce vendredi 13 août. Tous les détails concernant la marche à suivre est disponible en ligne.

Si vous le souhaitez, vous pouvez vous inspirer des recommandations de la Coalition reproduites ci-dessous comme point de départ pour la rédaction de votre mémoire. D’autres ressources utiles sont affichées dans la section Centre d’action du site Web de la Coalition.

Recommandation 1 : Que le gouvernement du Canada investit dans la créativité canadienne et les communautés canadiennes en augmentant le budget récurrent annuel du Conseil des Arts du Canada de 30 M$ par année pour les quatre prochaines années jusqu’à ce que afin le budget annuel récurrent du Conseil des Arts du Canada atteigne la somme de 300 M$ par année en 2015.

Recommandation 2 : Que le gouvernement du Canada reconnaisse le rôle que joue les arts et la culture dans la mise en valeur de la réputation internationale du Canada et assure la présence des artistes canadiens sur la scène internationale en investissant la somme de 25 M$ dans des initiatives stratégiques d’accès aux marchés et de développement des marchés.

3. Journée sur la Colline parlementaire et planification préélectorale

Afin de faire progresser nos objectifs d’accroissement des crédits annuels alloués au Conseil des Arts du Canada et d’investissement dans un nouveau fonds dédié aux initiatives stratégiques de mise en marché et au développement des marchés, le comité de la Coalition canadienne des arts a développé un plan d’action préélectorale. Ce plan comprend une série d’actions que nous engagerons dans les mois à venir en comptant sur l’appui et la participation de tous les membres de la Coalition.

En particulier, la Coalition canadienne des arts planifie actuellement la Journée des arts sur la Colline parlementaire qui aura lieu le 4 novembre prochain. Cette journée a été choisie parce qu’elle voisine les dates de la rencontre annuelle des organismes nationaux de service aux arts du Conseil des Arts du Canada le 1er novembre et la Conférence sur les politiques culturelles de la Conférence canadienne des arts qui se tiendra du 1er au 3 novembre. Votre participation dans notre Journée sur la Colline et dans d’autres actions en faveur d’un meilleur financement des arts est indispensable à l’atteinte de nos objectifs. Au fur et à mesure de la progression de la planification de cette journée, nous vous informerons des détails au cours des semaines à venir.

Mais n’hésitez pas à contacter les membres du comité de la Coalition dès maintenant pour nous informer sur comment vous et votre organisme entendez collaborer à faire de cette journée une réussite.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »