Each year, the Canada Council invites national arts service organization leaders to Ottawa for an annual face-to-face meeting; and this year, the meeting took place October 20 and 21, with well over 50 executive directors from media arts, writing and publishing, performing arts and visual arts service organizations meeting in the nation’s capital. Arts service organizations in music (including Orchestras Canada) had the opportunity for a focused meeting with Aimé Dontigny, the head of the Music section. And the entire group had the chance to discuss the current environment, receive updates on the Canada Council’s activities and plans, and share our own organizations’ initiatives, collaborations, failures, and successes.
Aimé Dontigny provided some thoughts on the cross-country consultation sessions that Music section staff have undertaken since September, and outlined the next steps in the review of operating programs. These include:
End of October: Conclude the face to face consultations with a session in Calgary
November: Undertake Webex consultations with stakeholders in communities not included in the tour
February: Issue a report on the geographic consultations (which will be made available to the community)
Fall 2014: Start “subdiscipline” consultations, including one with representatives from the orchestral community
Jan 2015: Issue draft program guidelines for new programs, with a generous allocation of time for feedback
June 2015: Announce new programs of support in music
Robert Sirman, Director and CEO of the Canada Council provided updates on Council’s activities in program review, public engagement, building internal capacity, and the upcoming leadership transition. (Mr. Sirman will be stepping down in June 2014; a search for his successor is now underway.) New Head of Arts Disciplines, Roger Gaudet, and Writing and Publishing officer Carole Boucher (who steered the consultation process and the development of the new program), presented a high-level overview of the results of the Flying Squad program review and the new Leadership for Change program, publicly announced on October 23. You can find details on the new program, here.
Currently, 80% of Council’s programs are undergoing review—and of that 80%, 2/3 are operating programs, including the operating programs in Music.
The Council has also launched a new International Market Access page with resources, grant
information and policy framework documents. You can find the portal here.
Public engagement continues to be a central concern for the Canada Council. CEO Robert Sirman explained that for many years, both Council and the community have expressed Council’s mandate as “support to artists.” With the new focus on public engagement, Sirman suggests that the mandate is, in fact, “to support artists because the public needs art.” At the same time, he was quick to clarify that this clarified message is intended to situate the Council as providing public value through funding the arts: it does not signal a shift away from a focus on professional arts practice.
Sirman also highlighted plans for additional research, review and analysis about current arts practice in Canada, as well as “foresighting” future arts practice. As part of this focus on research, attendees heard the results of a survey done by CADAC staff during the summer months. We learned that, while most respondents were “satisfied or very satisfied”
with the financial forms, the statistical forms were deemed far less satisfactory. And, an overwhelming number of organizations responded that they were unaware of the report function or had found it unsatisfactory as a research tool. It was good to hear that the survey results are being taken very seriously, and changes are already in the works.
Finally, we were reminded that Canada Council will have a new Ottawa home in December. Located at 150 Elgin Street, the design of the new space is intended to better reflect the Canada Council’s relationship with the arts community and the broader public, while reducing the organization’s operating costs and carbon footprint, and encouraging collaborative working practices. The building will have an official housewarming during the Council’s Annual Public Meeting, this year scheduled for January 28, 2014.