“All of us are engaged in a fundamental realignment in culture and communications”
— Ben Cameron, on performing arts
Thursday was the first annual Calgary Arts Congress. It was a gathering of people who are in any way stakeholders in the arts. Administrators, artists, politicians, enablers. It was organized by Calgary Arts Development. The keynote speaker was Ben Cameron, and you can see his Ted Talk here.
I missed the entirety of his speech. But I caught his Q and A, which was worth it.
The day was divided into different sessions and you chose which ones you wanted to go to. First off, for me was the budget under $500,00 session. Probably the most engaging and well organized session for me. The group wasn’t super huge so that conversation was impossible. People deviated into different branches of discussion and it was all very interesting. I’m keen to hear what CADA puts together and what comes our of this discussion. We brushed on sharing and collaborations and partnerships. Going beyond the reach of the usual audience. Artistic autonomy.
Interestingly, I had a great chat with Ellen Close of Downstage Theatre about one of the ideas that came out of the discussion. Someone brought up that it would be great to have a pool of professionals that could be ‘shared’ so to speak in the arts world. So like, contracting publicists and marketers and stage managers and so on. It’s a novel idea, but I was thinking about the concern of the professionals who are contracting. I work two jobs currently and they are both semi part time and they both create a security for me, that allows me to pick up contracts when available. The thing is, that’s all well and good, but I still have these ambitions to be able to buy a house and pay for retirement and the arts, and especially contracting in that style would not provide for those benefits. I’m all for collaboration, but it’s difficult because the industry simply doesn’t pay well. Which just means we need to get creative.
After lunch I skipped out on Ben Cameron’s follow up to go to the Arts Marketing Lab.
This session was disappointing to me. Mostly because I went in with expectations of discussion of how to tap into the market of people in the City interested in the arts but who aren’t participating. Is that market particularly large? Is there a way to access it that we can discuss? Are there options for cross marketing and publicity that we can do as an industry?
The panel discussion were composed of interesting people. Nicole Mion is the director of the Fluid Festival, a dance festival in Calgary. Bradley Walker is the vice president of Bottom Line Productions, the publicity and marketing company for the arts in the city. Jessica Dollard is the programmer for Fairy Tales Presentation Society.
But the setup and the number of people in the room made the session a little chaotic. Marketing is a really broad topic and it was difficult to cater to what everyone wanted to discuss.
Someone asked to a talk about what marketing is. In my opinion, CADA isn’t here to educate. If you require that, go take some courses. There are plenty available. Brad was talking about media relations and potentially partnerships within marketing. I’d be interested in that. Even a arts marketing support group!
There was a LOT going in the session, so we’ll see what CADA comes away with.
Overall, I think the beginning of discussion and strategy is a good idea and there is a need for it. Just as long we move forward and create something from it to enable culture and the arts to thrive in this city.