Posts Tagged ‘jian ghomeshi’

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!


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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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Jian Ghomeshi and George Strombolopoulis launching Culture Days at Yonge and Dundas Square, Toronto

September 24-26, 2010 marks the inaugural weekend of Culture Days, a nation-wide celebration of all things arts and culture. Thousands of events are taking place in cities, communities and neighbourhoods from coast to coast to coast. They are all free to the public and participation is not optional!

In Ontario, Culture Days follows on the heels of a major announcement by the Ontario Government. Michael Chan, Minister of Tourism and Culture, has committed $27 million over three years in new arts investment, augmenting the budget of the Ontario Arts Council. “The new Arts Investment Fund will help our arts organizations continue the invaluable work they do to enrich our communities and strengthen our economy.” Chan said at the announcement on September 23rd at the new TIFF Bell Lightbox. New funds will be distributed to organizations already receiving ongoing operating support.

While Ontario has taken the lead among governments across the country and committed new investment at a critical time in our society’s economic and social development, other provinces have not been so insightful. In particular, BC’s arts sector is reeling still after significant budgetary cuts imposed by the province that have caused many arts organizations to cancel programming, lay off staff and in some cases, close their doors altogether. Alberta is using BC’s decision to cut culture to justify their own spending reductions to an already under resourced arts and culture portfolio, though are phasing in reductions over time.

At present, most other provincial governments have flat-lined arts investment and going forward, I only hope that these governments will follow Ontario’s lead, and not BC’s. At the federal level, Conservative Heritage Minister James Moore agrees that culture is key to economic recovery. He was quoted recently by a Victoria Times-Colonist saying: “Any government which says it has a plan for economic recovery and doesn’t have a plan in place for arts and culture doesn’t have a plan for economic recovery.”

In addition to new investment, what remains critical is the process of highlighting the value of arts and culture to Canadians and their quality of life, so that when public arts investment comes into question, Canadians know what they have to lose.

Cue Culture Days.

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.

Coincidentally, I had the pleasure of attending a keynote address by Director of the National Theatre School and author of Le Facteur C (No Culture, No Future) Simon Brault at the national conference of the Canadian Dance Assembly – the national association for professional dance. In his book, he argues that citizen engagement in the arts is the key to the future health and survival of the subsidized cultural sector.

He began by stating so eloquently that the cultural community has something to offer citizens, and that we must find a way to re-frame the discussion about what arts and culture brings to individuals and to a society. He stresses that this public conversation is as important as conversations about global warming and sustainable food production. These are conversations about what is good for us as human beings. Not only about what’s good for our economy. When people are concerned about their quality of life – like during a global economic recession, for example – it gives the cultural sector grounds to engage in the discussion about how we contribute to that.

He cautions that government support for culture is being marginalized. Furthermore, in the public sphere, the subsidized arts sector is competing with an abundance of mainstream cultural proposals. It is in this context that we try to present something else.

Brault tells us that there are over 5000 studies in English alone, on the impact of arts and culture. However, most of these studies focus on supplying more arts and culture to society. Few studies focus on the benefit of engaging in the arts from the perspective of the citizen.

Culture Days provides a timely platform in which to reorganize the conversation and cultivate the cultural citizen. If Brault is right, our future depends on it.

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