Innovation and resilience in the arts, culture, and heritage
A project for the Creative City Network of Canada and its partners
Innovation and resilience in the arts, culture, and heritage is a multi-year project of The Creative City Network of Canada in partnership with the Cultural Human Resources Council, Les Arts et la Ville, and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. Thanks go out to the Department of Canadian Heritage for funding this important work.
Hill Strategies led the research for the first phase of this project, while its second phase involves professional development to transmit key learnings to other cultural organizations and artists, with the goal of building resilience within the arts and heritage sector.
The research highlights innovative practices and sources of resilience among artists and cultural organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many artists and organizations in the arts, culture, and heritage have responded and adapted to pandemic-induced challenges by doing new things or doing things in new ways. A dedicated website offers 29 in-depth stories as well as a much longer (but still limited) list of innovations and pivots.
For the research phase, Kelly Hill (Hamilton, ON) worked with a talented and diverse team of Story Seekers who identified and wrote stories of innovation during the pandemic: Anju Singh (Vancouver, BC), Blanche Israël (Halifax, NS), JP Longboat (Ottawa, ON), Margaret Lam (Kitchener, ON), Melanie Fernandez (Toronto, ON), and Myriam Benzakour-Durand (Montreal, QC).
12 key themes
- Innovation works best when customized: Though innovation often involves technology, many of the stories involved changes in organizational processes. Some innovations were both technology and process based.
- Needed: flexibility and adaptability: Flexibility and adaptability of mindset, objectives, and resource allocation were key ingredients for innovation and resilience.
- Support is varied but crucial: Whether through financial or in-kind support, every innovation relied on staff, collaborators, and a range of funders to pitch in.
- Digital, organizational, and financial challenges: All innovations faced incredible challenges during the pandemic. Artists, arts managers, and heritage workers overcame key digital, organizational, and financial barriers in implementing changes.
- Small can be mighty: Many innovative ideas got off the ground with very few resources, and some of the smallest organizations were able to be very nimble.
- Partnerships can extend capacity and reach: For many innovators, partnerships were essential to their resilience.
- Equity bolsters resilience, and resilience enhances equity: The hard work of creating equity can contribute to resilience, which, in turn, influences equity.
- Sometimes, just jump: The organizations and artists who responded particularly well identified opportunities and, in many cases, took a big leap of faith.
- Prioritizing and connecting with artists: A common theme among organizations and artists who had success during the pandemic was that they prioritized the community’s artists and developed new projects according to artists’ ideas and needs.
- Short-term innovations can lead to longer-term changes: Most pandemic-related innovations were focused on short-term goals such as creating works and employing artists, but a number of artists and organizations also turned their attention to long-term applications of their innovations.
- Important places of exchange: Artists and cultural organizations are often at the forefront of engaging in dialogues about the compelling histories, stories, issues, and ideas that exist in every community.
- Redefining the arts and heritage: Some pandemic innovations have pushed the boundaries of artforms or of the presentation of gallery and museum collections.
The full report (downloadable below) contains the synthesis report and all 29 stories (151 pages, 10MB).