Posts Tagged ‘claire hopkinson’

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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A couple of weeks ago I attended ISPA’s 63rd conference The Art of Collaboration in New York City. This was my first ISPA conference and, somewhat shamefully, my first time in New York City! For those not in the know, ISPA is the International Society for the Performing Arts and their mandate is to “develop, nurture, energize and educate an international network of arts leaders and professionals who are dedicated to advancing the field of the performing arts.” It was quickly apparent that ISPA members are like a family and it was a pleasure to be welcomed into this community of very accomplished performing arts leaders.

ISPA’s current CEO David Baile is among those accomplished leaders and one of Canada’s own. He was formerly the General Manager of Opera Atelier and before that the Managing Director of Factory Theatre. Other Canadians were also up front and centre at the event, including ISPA board members Janice Price (CEO of Luminato) and Marie-Catherine LaPointe (CEO of Boulev’Art Inc.). Chris Lorway (outgoing Artistic Director of Luminato), Ross Manson (Artistic Director of Volcano Theatre) and Weyni Mengesha (director/dramaturg) were the invited Canadian speakers and Natasha Mytnowich was among 14 international ISPA conference fellows. Upcoming conference co-chairs Claire Hopkinson (Executive Director of the Toronto Arts Council), Jennifer Gordon (National Director of Search Light Canada) and Mervon Mehta (Director of Performing Arts Programs at the Royal Conservatory of Music) were also in attendance. They will host ISPA members in Toronto at the next convention June 15-18, 2011.

The theme of this conference – collaboration – seems to be the hot topic of the day, particularly post-recession as organizations re-imagine how they work in an attempt to adapt to a changed environment. But collaboration itself is not a new trend. In fact, it’s quite apparent that collaboration has been intrinsic to the work of many performing artists and arts organizations for some time. It is essential among artists, between artist and producer, producer and audience, artist and funder, etc… But despite its somewhat obvious necessity, the deconstruction of collaboration and the collaborative process, as well as the identification and analysis of its essential components are interesting and relevant topics for the contemporary environment.

The Art of Collaboration addressed the notion of working together from a number of angles. Akram Khan, a London-based contemporary and classical Kathak dancer/choreographer offered some anecdotes for collaboration in his keynote address. He noted that clarity of vision, strong creative chemistry, the necessity of trust, and an understanding of oneself in relationship
to the creative process were all essential ingredients for success. Though he also confessed that at certain moment, someone needs to take the lead.

I’ve questioned this notion in my own artistic work. Is it possible to truly create collaboratively? In practice I find the process of creating content to be fruitful when collaborative, as it seems natural for innovative ideas to evolve as thoughts and concepts bump up against other thoughts, perspectives, and experiences. However, where collaboration comes into question for me is when it’s time to shape and refine content into art. Whether a dance, a play, an essay or a film, I struggle with the notion that the final work can be achieved in a fully collaborative way. It is the decision-making process that I find challenging in collaboration. For it to work, it seems that a democratic system need be devised in order to address the possibility of conflicting desires. I’m not convinced that, at least when it comes to art-making, democratic decision-making results in the highest quality outcome. Though it’s fair to say that I’m still thinking and experimenting…

On day two of the conference, Dr. Cees Langeveld (Chassé Theater,
Netherlands) gave a compelling presentation on the economics of collaboration, speaking primarily from the organizational perspective. Notably, he illustrated how economic efficiency tends to chart on a bell curve where at first collaboration is increasingly efficient until it reaches a point of maximum efficiency, after which the cost begins to rise. He also suggested that collaboration between organizations are often more effective when the two parties are of comparable size.

Another idea that was explored at the conference was that of the collaborative pair. Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of Lincoln’s Melancholy presented his current research on the chemistry of pairs. He analyses the relationship of pairs in a creative sense, examining examples of working partners who thrive creatively inside the dynamic of two. Balanchine and Stravinsky, Sonny and Cher, Fred and Ginger, Lennon and McCartney. The list is long. While it may be easy to identify these couples, one could argue that it’s equally easy to identify the lone genius. Albert Einstein, Emily Dickenson and Mahatma Ghandi were examples that Shenk gave, and then illustrated that even they had a creative other in their lives that was arguably essential to their working process.

In addition to panels and presentations, delegates were treated to a number of short performances including a sneak preview of The James Brown project: The Anatomy of Funk – a collaboration (still in progress) between a number of companies and artists creating work in celebration of Brown’s life and music. It was a treat to see this performance at the iconic Apollo Theater in Harlem, where James Brown and other famous artists launched their careers. Congratulations to conference organizers for an inspiring and thought-provoking three days! Stay tuned for more musing on my discoveries in NYC…

For now, here’s a final thought on collaboration from George Bernard Shaw. “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea
and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” – George Bernard Shaw

And, a favourite video clip by Steven Johnson on ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’:

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It’s 6pm as I’m writing this from the NYCC – that would be the North York Civic Centre – former home of the North York City Hall at 5100 Yonge Street. Tonight is the first of two evenings of city budget deputations – an opportunity for citizens to present their views and ideas on how city tax dollars should be spent over the coming year. A first budget proposal was released by the Budget Committee on January 10th and this document has formed the basis for consultation and debate. After public deputations, the full city council will have the opportunity to debate and propose amendments before the budget is ultimately approved.

New this year, deputations are not taking place at City Hall – no doubt a symbolic gesture on the part of Mayor Ford, who has split the Budget Committee into two sub-committees and scheduled two pairs of concurrent public hearings outside of the downtown core. The first of these sessions are today in both North and East York. Tomorrow’s deputations will take place in Scarborough and York (near Etobicoke).

Budget Committee members in attendance at North York include Doug Ford (Chair of the deputations process), Frank Di Giorgio, Peter Milczyn, Chin Lee and John Parker. Other Councillors are also able to sit in on the deputations and even ask questions of the deputants. Several were present here including former Budget Chair Shelly Carroll, Doug Holyday, Jay Robinson, David Shiner, Karen Stintz, Anthony Perruzza, and John Fillion, among others.

Toronto Arts Council President Karen Tisch and Executive Director Claire Hopkinson were first up. They began by positioning their message as one that represents the entire Toronto arts sector, having collaboratively designed recommendations together with the Majors* and Local Arts Service Organizations**. These recommendations are as follows:

That the City’s Budget Committee:
1 – Commit to reaching the per capita funding target of $25 by 2013
2 – Commit to ensuring that billboard tax revenue is fully directed towards arts programming

Given the nature of the new administration, Claire and Karen’s defending arguments brought to life the ways in which Toronto artists and arts organizations contribute to every aspect of the city. They spoke about the importance of a vibrant cultural sector to Toronto’s economy, in particular in terms of tourism and international competitiveness. They outlined how new investment would increase access to arts and culture in all of Toronto’s neighbourhoods and reminded Councillors of the City’s commitment (made first in 2003 under Mel Lastman) to increase investment to $25 per capita. They presented employment data and statistics on audiences, ticket sales and volunteerism.

They also illustrated how government investment leverages private sector revenues as well as earned income. For every dollar the city invests, $6 is leveraged in private revenues and $8 in earned income. They pointed to Toronto’s low per capita investment in the arts relative to other major Canadian and North American centres. Toronto’s $18 per citizen pales in comparison to Montreal’s $32 and Vancouver’s $26, and is less than 1/3 the investment that is made by most major American centres. In fact, in New York City, local arts investment is the highest among all levels of government, superseding the sum total of the federal arts allocation.

Finally Karen and Claire reminded Councillors of the efforts of the youth-led alliance, BeautifulCity.ca, who worked together with City Council over the past five years to secure new city revenues intended to boost arts investment.

Councillor John Parker asked about NYC investment comparisons and requested further detail be forwarded to the Committee. Doug Ford wanted to see a breakdown of which of the 100,000 arts jobs cited were in the downtown core vs. the boroughs…

Other arts deputants included Christine Harris and Aisha Farah of the Scarborough Arts Council and Laurie-Shawn Borzovoy, Chair of Urban Arts Toronto. The collaborative effort of Toronto’s arts community has also coordinated arts sector speakers at the other three deputation sessions, the last two of which will take place January 20th, from 6-9pm.

And a final word to all you Torontonians out there… don’t forget to talk to your Councillor about those two recommendations mentioned above. Click HERE to find their contact info.


*The ‘Majors’ refers to arts organizations who receive direct funding from the city, outside of the Toronto Arts Council’s budget. These organizations include the Art Gallery of Ontario, Canadian Opera Company, Caribana, Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Luminato, National Ballet School, National Ballet of Canada, Pride Toronto, Toronto International Film Festival and Toronto Symphony Orchestra

**Local Arts Service Organizations include Arts Etobicoke, Lakeshore Arts, Scarborough Arts Council, UrbanArts Community Arts Council and the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts.

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The Toronto Arts Foundation’s Annual Mayoral Arts Awards Lunch was held at Arcadian Court earlier today. It was a lively crowd full of notable artists, politicians, and arts supporters from all corners of the city. Special guests included Provincial Minister Kathleen Wynn, MPs Carolyn Bennett and Gerard Kennedy, City Budget Chief Shelley Carroll, Pan Am Games Chair Roger Garland, United Way President Susan McIsaac, Toronto City Summit Alliance Chair John Tory, architects A. J. Diamond and Bruce Kuwabara, Thomas Payne, and Mitchell Cohen from Daniels Corporation, Randy Dalton from the Dalton Company and Minto’s Chris Sheriff-Scott ; arts luminaries Martha Burns, Eric Peterson, Paul Gross, Alexander Neef, Lata Pada, Veronica Tennant, TIFF’s Cameron Bailey and community artsnotables Che Kothari, Liz Forsberg and Ruth Howard; and noted arts supporters Michael M. Koerner, Jim Fleck and Avie Bennett, among others.

The crowd and Arcadian Court

Award recipients were:
Arts for Youth Award: Manifesto
TorontoArts & Business Award: BMO Financial Group
RBCEmerging Artist Award: filmmaker Jamie Travis (shout out to finalists composer Constantine Caravassilis and director, actor and producer Michael Wheeler!)
Roy Thomson Hall Award of Recognition: Jose Ortega, Artistic Director of Lula Music and Arts Centre and the live music Lula Lounge.
William Kilbourn Award for the Celebration of Toronto’s Cultural Life: Mallory Gilbert, former General Manager of Tarragon Theatre

Eric Peterson

This was outgoing Mayor David Miller’s final arts awards and he was also honoured with a commissioned poem read by Eric Peterson. The ceremony featured a special performance by Juno Award-winning jazz singer/songwriter Molly Johnson and a performance by the youth ensemble Samba Kidz.

Congratulations to the Toronto Arts Foundation and all of the deserving winners and finalists!

Host Jian Ghomeshi

TAC's fabulous Executive Director Claire Hopkinson

Mayor David Miller with Eric Peterson

Mayor Miller's address

Molly Johnson

Mayor Miller et moi

CBC's Matt Galloway

In the taxi, returning Jian to the CBC

The exceptional team at the Toronto Arts Council

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This just in from Claire Hopkinson at the TAC:

Toronto’s Budget Committee has made its recommendations for the 2010 Municipal budget: if approved at City Council on April 15, all community grants including Toronto Arts Council will be receiving a 2% increase. From TAC’s perspective this Budget Committee recommendation represents a modest advance in a very complex budget year, and an excellent indication that the City Budget Chief and Councillors are working hard on behalf of the city’s artists. Viewed in the context of the entire 2010 operating budget, the arts funding increase is an accomplishment given that most city agencies and departments had to absorb funding cuts of 5%.

Indeed this is an accomplishment, though just the first step in realizing a more substantive investment in the Toronto arts sector. Claire also notes in her communiqué that a motion will be brought before Executive Committee in early April recommending that beginning in 2011 the city’s arts funding match the growth in the community as called for in the recent Martin Prosperity Institute report. This is good news and reflective of two key recommendations that were made by arts advocates during budget deputations earlier this month. In case you need a refresher, these were:

1) That Budget Committee honour its commitment to provide an annual 2% cost of living increase for the Community Partnership and Investment Program – CPIP (including TAC) that was first instated in 2009; (check!)

2) That Budget Committee find a mechanism to ensure that billboard tax revenue be fully directed towards arts programming as soon as possible and no later than 2011.

So, if this matters to you, then let’s thank those city councillors who helped make this happen, in particular Budget Chief Shelley Carroll (councillor_carroll@toronto.ca) and Mayor David Miller (mayor_miller@toronto.ca). Going forward, it will be important for the sector and its supporters to keep the issue on the table, ensuring that revenue gains from the billboard tax are directed to the arts as soon as possible, and no later than 2011. The surprise announcement made recently by Mayor Miller that the city is sliding into year end with an extra $100M bucks (softening proposed property tax increases and eliminating TTC fare hikes) should certainly make next year’s budget exercise a little less painful.

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