Reflection: Canadian Arts Summit

Reflection: Canadian Arts Summit

This past April, CEO Jill Robinson attended the Canadian Arts Summit at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity for a weekend of arts leadership conversation and cultivation across Canada.  As an invited guest speaker and panelist, Jill shares her insight and perspective on the experience.

The Canadian Arts Summit is one of the most high-impact professional experiences I’ve had the pleasure of being included in.  Wonderful speakers, creative locations, and great dialogue that is operationalized in a way to help cultivate a set of intense experiences for arts leadership in Canada.  “How do you do it?” I asked Nichole Anderson Bergeron, President & CEO of Toronto-based Business for the Arts, the host and creator of the event.

She described to me that the Summit was founded in 1998 by Business for the Arts in collaboration with the Banff Centre to bring large arts and cultural institutions together to nurture more cooperation amongst arts and cultural leadership. “The Summit is predicated upon the belief that a trio of influential leaders — board volunteers, artists, and managers — can, by working together, develop the strengths required to support Canadian artistic aspirations”, she said. The convening has grown in scope to include mid-sized organizations along with the largest in the country. These leaders come together on shared initiatives, learn from one another, address trends and challenges in the sector, and get inspired from leaders all over the world.  

That’s where TRG Arts came in.  I was partnered on a panel with Geoffrey Crossick who is a co-author of the UK’s Arts & Humanities Research Council’s 2016 Cultural Value Project report. Geoff and I were charged with describing how data can help drive the narrative about arts and culture, at a macro and organizational level.  Geoff presented on macro-observations from the CVP report that reminded us all that our global understanding of the value of culture has everything to do with who’s asking the question and the methodology they’re actually using to get at the answers. In tandem to Geoff’s presentation, I was honored to have the opportunity to share the stories of two TRG clients (Arts Club Theatre Company and The Cultch)  who are using transactional and qualitative data to describe the value their patrons are deriving from culture in their specific community of Vancouver, BC.

Included on our panel was the duo from Primary Colours, Chris Creighton-Kelly and France Trépanier, who added their data-driven point of view about the sector’s relationship with Canada’s indigenous artists and arts organizations.  The combination of the three sometimes disparate, sometimes integrated storylines, made for robust conversation during our panel.

Today, through on-going focus and work, especially by Summit Program Director Shannon Litzenberger, the Summit is no longer just a weekend event in the spring. The Summit has evolved to be an ongoing network of arts leaders working together, guided by the Steering Committee, throughout the year.  My own observation? Other countries would benefit from this type of gathering that brings these three voices together so successfully—artistic, volunteer, and executive/management—in the same room, at the same time, listening to the same issues.  Bravo.


Posted May 23, 2018

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