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Choreographing Our Future: Strategies for Supporting Next Generation Arts Practice

February 26, 201426 February 2014

Arts management and funding

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Based on the author’s research and personal immersion “over the past three years in the complexities of arts support systems and their relationship to contemporary practice”, this report argues that “we need to realign our arts policy mindset and funding practices to support a new generation of arts development in Canada. To do this will require collaborative action on the part of the arts community and its funders.”

Furthermore, the author argues that “major shifts in arts practice are necessitating a reconsideration of even the most fundamental aspects of our arts funding model”. The focus should be placed “on collaboration, new working models, sustainable financial practices, and the health of the individual artist”.

The paper outlines three core abilities for artists: 1) creating and innovating; 2) relating and connecting; and 3) developing an effective arts enterprise. Related to these three themes, the author argues that: 1) the discipline-based funding model of the arts should be challenged; 2) there must be new opportunities for public engagement in the arts; and 3) emerging business strategies and structural models should be explored.

The “major systemic transformation” advocated in the report would involve:

  1. Providing change capital (“a unique one-time investment to assist organizations in undertaking [a] systematic process of innovative organizational transformation”).
  2. Encouraging and rewarding sustainable financial practices, including “right-sizing”, promoting reserves, rewarding surpluses, and better recognizing the nature of risk.
  3. Supporting “organizational decline and legacy preservation”.
  4. Reorienting “capacity development programs to support diverse structural and administrative working models” (i.e., diverse types of organizations, partnerships, and collaborative groups).
  5. Providing “new, more substantive means of support to individual artists at key career stages”, including “periodic investments in the form of fellowships, awards, career accelerator grants, sabbaticals, or capacity development funds”.
  6. Prioritizing support for shared administrative platforms and new working models in the arts.

The author also recommends that additional research be undertaken in order to better understand “the nature of arts engagement or how people ascribe value to their experiences”.

If the arts sector moves in the directions proposed with regard to arts engagement, the author asserts that there should be “unprecedented opportunities for the arts sector to reassert its role as essential to the social fabric of the communities of which they are a part”.

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