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Arts Ahead 2024!

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The goal of Arts Ahead 2024 is to create a space for collaboration and creativity.

To further explore this, we connected with our partners Business / Arts, Vibe Arts, and Work in Culture,  to explore how their work embodies this year’s theme: ‘Interweaving Threads: Cultural Collaboration in the Arts.’

What drew you to partnering with Arts Ahead for our 2024 symposium? 

Business / Arts: A number of factors make this partnership a good fit. Firstly, many of our team members have ties to Centennial College and the Arts Management Program, either as alumni or as an instructor. We also recognize the immense value of providing aspiring arts managers with real-world experience, and this symposium presents a fantastic opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in coordinating a conference for arts leaders. We were particularly impressed by the students’ efforts in assembling a truly compelling program, and we look forward to participating on February 21st.

Vibe Arts: VIBE appreciates any efforts to support the next generation of leaders and platforms that provide community conversation, learning, and networking. Centennial College’s Arts Ahead symposium has a strong history of bringing our sector together and giving emerging arts administrators the opportunity to build new skill sets with event planning and programming. Plus, our Artistic Director, Onika Powell is one of the instructors of the Arts Management program at Centennial College. So we know first-hand of the hard work that each student has put into the development of this event.

Work in Culture: Arts Ahead’s 2024 mandate to explore intercultural collaborations in the arts aligns strongly with Work in Culture’s own organizational mission and values – to celebrate the artistry, creativity and diversity in the arts and culture sector; to practice collaboration, innovation and inclusion; and to support the vital contribution of arts and culture to society.  

Like Arts Ahead, our vision is a thriving, vibrant and equitable arts, culture and creative community. Similarly, we also serve this dynamic and wide-ranging community through skills development, particularly entrepreneurial, business skills, and career training. So there is a great deal of alignment between our two organizations and the communities that we serve!

We’ve also partnered with Arts Ahead on previous symposiums and the panels and workshops are always top-notch. We’re really looking forward to attending the 2024 event! 

How does your organization support cultural collaboration within the arts? 

Business / Arts: At Business / Arts, we are committed to facilitating collaboration among the arts, business, and government in Canada. Our mission centers on building strong partnerships that foster cultural growth and innovation. Through programs including our Speaker Series webinars, the Canadian Arts Summit, and the annual Business / Arts Awards Celebration, we offer various platforms for sharing best practices, conducting research, and celebrating impactful partnerships. We take pride in serving as a convener, bringing together voices with a shared interest in a thriving Canadian cultural sector.

Vibe Arts: Other than supporting events such as Arts Ahead, VIBE has a mission of working collaboratively with partners, particularly in under-resourced communities, to create a lasting impact on the lives of young people through arts education programming. We provide free high-end arts education programs and mentorship programs that are culturally curated with special attention to the needs of those that we serve. We work with communities towards the goal of having each participant artistically express themselves freely in their community and publicly.  

Work in Culture: We are here to help support and encourage artists, creatives and cultural workers to strive for success, whatever that may mean to each individual. And we believe that we can help one another to prosper and grow through knowledge sharing, collaboration, and partnership. In practice, this means that Work in Culture’s programming and services start from a place of curiosity and collaboration.  

For example, we work collaboratively and in partnership with other organizations to develop and deliver pretty much all of our programming. And before we develop programming, we listen to our community and ask what they need, through needs assessments and community roundtables, interviews and co-designs, etc. An evaluation component is also threaded into every project. We believe that our activity should be community-led and sustainable – as our executive director Diane Davy often says, partnership is a necessity and not a “nice to have.” By working together, we maximize our collective resources and build a stronger creative ecosystem. 

A recent example is our Working in the Arts for Newcomers pilot project. This project was based on recommendations from a 2021 needs assessment that explored the challenges and opportunities of navigating a career in the arts for newcomers through a series of interviews and community roundtables. Based on these findings, we were able to respond to several of the report’s recommendations with a pilot program in 2023, which brought together settlement and arts sector organizations to help streamline the pathway to careers in the arts for newcomer and immigrant artists and arts professionals. This program was developed and delivered in partnership with fellow arts organizations and led to the creation of a virtual resource hub where relevant information for newcomers could be centralized. 

How does your organization ensure underrepresented voices within the arts are supported/shared? 

Business / Arts: Our signature program, artsvest, demonstrates this commitment by offering mentorship and training to small to mid-sized arts, culture and heritage organizations. In collaboration with partners like the Department of Canadian Heritage, artsvest has grown into a national program prioritizing access for organizations serving rural and equity-seeking communities. Delivered in response to the sector’s evolving needs and priorities, the program offers professional development on a range of topics including marketing, sponsorship, board governance, fund development, strategic planning and equity, diversity, and inclusion. Through a combination of group webinars, peer-to-peer networking, and individualized mentorship, artsvest empowers organizations with the tools and knowledge they need to thrive.

Vibe Arts: We make a conscious effort to be aware of any barriers our artists, community members and partners face and work towards addressing and navigating them together. Our mentorship programs are great examples of how we create space for artists to develop new skills, network and create new artwork. Through these programs, artists can share their stories in public spaces and exhibitions. This year we are celebrating 5 years for two of our mentorship programs, NExT and Desire Lines. We will be hosting exhibitions around Toronto this spring for both programs – stay tuned!  

Work in Culture: We recognize that there are systems in place within our sector and beyond that have created complex barriers and inequitable experiences for underrepresented individuals and groups. We take an inclusive approach to our activities, operations and organizational relationships.  

Because our programming begins by listening to our community and asking what they need, we believe that our community roundtables, volunteer pools and employee workforce should be representative and reflective of the communities that we serve and in which our services are provided.  

Similarly, because we offer cultural career resources and training, we also believe that the creative workplace should be free of deliberate or unintentional (systemic) barriers so that no one is disadvantaged. Through our arts and culture Job Board and other career resources, we seek to model and support fellow arts and culture organizations in learning how to identify and remove these barriers, whether they be in workplace policy, procedure, or practice, so that every person who wishes to can live, work and thrive in arts and culture. 

Community best practices and self-reflection are also an important part of our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and an ongoing process of evaluation and change.

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