Guest blog post by: Jillian Kennedy
On January 25th 2022, CAPACOA welcomed 99 members of the performing arts community to share their stories, concerns, and hopes for the future. The pandemic sparked a shift in our way of working and connecting with audiences. The challenges and successes our members shared in this meeting proved invaluable to our preparation for the upcoming Arts, Culture and Heritage Sector National Summit to be hosted by The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage.
Our discussion began with two presentations from artistic leaders who discovered new ways to connect with artists and audiences during the pandemic. Victoria Perron, Artistic Director of Alianait Arts Festival spoke to us from Iqaluit, Nunavut. Alianait began streaming concerts on Facebook Live early in the pandemic. These intimate and community-driven concerts quickly grew to reach more than 100,000 homes across the Arctic region and in the South. Kat McCormack, Artistic Director of Eastern Front Theatre offered her perspective from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. With venues closed, Kat directed her attention to a series of micro digital commissions which were shaped, in part, by newly introduced accessibility practices. Twenty artists were asked to create digital experiences that captured the spirit of live theatre in 60 seconds. You can read more about these inspiring stories on the Cultural Resilience Project website.
Our members have been responding to the unique challenges of the pandemic with remarkable composure and resilience. An increased focus on the digital space has proved an exciting and boundary-pushing experience for many, but arts leaders are left wondering how to balance the cost of creating high-quality digital performances with models that are financially unsustainable.
With live performance on pause, many of our members committed to addressing social inequity and the climate crisis. Members took tangible steps toward creating more inclusive and equitable organizational cultures and curatorial models. Discussions about the climate crisis grappled with how to limit the environmental impact of performance, in particular touring, and underscored the power of collective action.
The performing arts sector has remained resolute in its commitment to support Canadian artists and arts workers through difficult times. They have found paths to innovate old models time and time again, but audiences have been slow to return and COVID remains a serious consideration in day-to-day operations. Additionally, there is widespread concern about administrative burnout and staff retention.
We conducted a one-word poll to gauge the mood of our membership before and after the Town Hall meeting. Many participants started the session with the feelings of enthusiasm and curiosity that characterize our sector, but many felt overwhelmed or exhausted. Results from the end of our session showed a positive shift in reported mood, which underscores the crux of our sector’s strength, that collaboration makes us stronger.
We invite you to learn more in the Town Hall full report.