Terry Rock's blog
- Posted by Terry Rock on April 18th, 2012
Here's another reason why cities matter in Canada, at least to the arts and culture sector: they disproportionately fund our work.
Stats Can recently published data on government expenditures in culture. I've long had a thesis that cultural planning/strategy and investment is more important and perhaps more relevant at the local level, because of how it relates to identity: people and places linked together. I wonder if the graph below supports my thesis:
At 29.1% of the total spending on culture (which, by the way, is a VERY wide bucket, including libraries, broadcasting, etc.), municipalities way outspend the other orders of government relative to their revenue generation capacity. Take a look at this graph, adapted from A Case of Fiscal Imbalance: The Calgary Experience, which breaks down the tax revenue generated by the 3 orders of government in our city in 2007:
Yes, that's right... of all the taxes paid in Calgary in 2007, The City of Calgary received only 6.6%. Though I haven't seen the data, my understanding is that the revenue picture isn't much different in other Canadian cities.
What are we to make of this?
First, when Mayor Nenshi says that, in this provincial election "Cities Matter," the graphs above illustrate just how much cities matter for culture. I think this is logical: civic leaders are increasingly realizing that a thriving arts scene is critical for both economic development (see this report from Calgary Economic Development) AND for quality of life: people want to live in neighborhoods with character and visit downtowns that buzz with activity. They want arts education opportunities for themselves and their children. Because our local council members hear about these local issues every day, it is no wonder that they find ways, with their limited means, to ensure that culture thrives in their city.
Second, Provincial and Federal governments should perhaps take a lead from their municipal colleagues. Culture matters to citizens, and municipal councils across the country are leaders in ensuring their citizens have access to these experiences.
Finally, and most importantly: imagine what would happen if that little orange slice of pie in the second graph was able to expand? What if cities in Alberta had the opportunity to control their own destiny? To fund their priorities with no strings attached? I'm confident that Calgary's Council will continue to invest in the arts if we have a strong vision and clear plans for how this sector will grow and contribute to the quality of life and economic growth of our city.
I can't tell you who to vote for in this or any election, but based on this quick and dirty analysis, it is clear that a better deal for cities in Alberta would amount to a better deal for the arts.
- Posted by Terry Rock on March 2nd, 2012
- Posted by Terry Rock on November 10th, 2011
As our City Council embarks on a few weeks of budget deliberations, confronting tough choices on how to spend limited public dollars to continue building Calgary as "a great place to make a living, a great place to make a life," (from Imagine Calgary) I'm reminded of one of my favorite exchanges in literature:
I bought you some books in Lutsk, he told her, shutting the door on the early evening and the rest of the world.
We can't afford these, she said, taking the heavy bag. I'll have to return them tomorrow.
But we can't afford not to have them. Which can we not afford more, having them or not having them? As I see it, we lose either way. My way, we lose with the books.
- A conversation between Yankel and Brod in Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated
- Posted by Terry Rock on November 3rd, 2011
It has been just over a month since Calgary’s first Arts Champions Congress. We were thrilled with the turnout, the enthusiasm and the sheer quality of the conversation. We were overwhelmed (really!) with the great ideas that came forward. In the few weeks since the event, our team has worked together to deliver on our promise to act quickly on high impact ideas that we are able to execute. I’m really pleased that we’re doing that through today’s announcement.
Our motivation for the congress was pretty straightforward: we want to expand the circle of arts champions in Calgary. The first step? Let's increase the level of connection within the community of those who are already champions of Calgary's dynamic arts sector. The arts are an ecosystem: there are big and small players, individuals and organizations, artists, administrators, marketers, board members, and many disciplines with increasingly blurred edges. Rarely do people from these various parts of the system find each other in the same room, even though they have a common interest to see the arts thrive in our city. The ability to convene this wide group is a unique feature of Calgary Arts Development, and it is one we intend to use more in the months and years ahead.
We observed many things during the day that were inspiring and motivating. Most interesting was the tremendous desire to continue the learning that happens when peers get together. Much of our response to the congress is framed by this observation. We also saw a need and desire to make inter-generational connections for the purpose of mentorship. There's a lot of wisdom in our community, and we hope to facilitate the transmission of wisdom onto the next generation.
Speaking of the next generation... we were pleasantly surprised by the number of attendees who are starting new ventures in Calgary's arts scene. This group is hungry for knowledge and to get connected into the sector. The initiatives we're undertaking are intended to play a role in facilitating the development of this exciting next generation.
Finally, it really makes us smile when we hear of groups that were inspired by Ben Cameron's talk and his subsequent interaction with us. Ben's generosity of time and ideas has stuck with our team as well. We were able to have him speak to a smaller group at a breakfast the next day to work more specifically on plans to expand the circle of arts champions. It is safe to say that that group was inspired to go even further than they were the day before.
Plans are already forming up for the 2012 version of the Arts Champions Congress. Today, we're providing more opportunities for you to connect and learn as a community. Regardless of how you choose to engage, we are listening! Please stay in touch.
- Posted by Terry Rock on September 14th, 2011
In my weekly Grantmakers in the Arts newsletter, there is a link to "The Arts Need New Advocates" by Elizabeth Kramer in the Courier-Journal (which I gather is located in Kentucky). We're two weeks away from Calgary's first annual Arts Champions Congress, finalizing the agenda, watching registrations roll in, calling everyone we can think of and asking them to join us for some or all of what we intend to be a solid day of inspiration, new connections, ideas and, quickly soon after, action. The article was timely.
I was particularly struck by Kramer's discussion of how difficult it is to bring a strong arts voice to public dialogue:
To be effective, advocates and groups have to unite to make their case for the arts. As it stands now, very few arts organizations have the resources and connections to successfully get their messages across to lawmakers or the general public.
Those that do are often very large groups that are lobbying primarily for themselves, which is completely understandable. But for the arts to truly reach people of all walks and for the public to understand the reach of art — in all its colors and shapes — they need to be able to recognize it in their communities and in their own lives. Reaching that level of understanding often requires someone with passion who can help them see where art shapes their lives.
Over the years, Calgary Arts Development's connection to the community has grown in size and scope. We now fund 162 organizations through our operating grant program (up from 119 when we took on the granting function for Calgary). Our clients work in all corners of the city, are increasingly diverse (in ethnicity, age, and artistic practice), and range in size from small collectives to large institutions. In addition to this existing client group, we expect the number of organizations that we could or should fund to grow by an additional 50% over the next 3 years (most of those new organizations have already been in touch with us). Finally, we are keenly aware that we do not currently have any programs to support the thousands of individual artists studying and working in Calgary. In short: Calgary Arts Development is a hub in the large and growing circle that is the arts in Calgary.
Kramer's observation that "to be effective, advocates and groups have to unite to make their case" couldn't be more true. Since we published our first white paper on the organizations we fund, our eyes have been opened to the power of that collective story. When you dig just a little bit deeper, you realize that these organizations each has a detailed story of artistic and public impact, has dedicated board members (at least 5 per organization), employs artists, has volunteers, works with children, advocates, etc.
Back of the envelope calculations tell us that at least 10,000 people could be considered "champions" of the arts sector through their active support of the organizations we fund. The Arts Champions Congress is an opportunity for these people to get together in the same room. Lets put a visual on this abstract notion of "champions." Let's talk to each other about what we're doing and figure out if there are things we can do together that strengthen our organizations and enhance our impact. Let's challenge ourselves to sharpen our message and expand the number of people who really understand the multiple dimensions of value of a thriving arts sector brings to their lives.
- Posted by Terry Rock on February 25th, 2011
We all want a great city, and research the world over confirms what those of us working in the arts know from experience: a great city needs a thriving arts sector. This means artists stay in Calgary and build careers here. It means there are spaces for artists to live and work. It means strong and growing investments in the arts, with government and the private sector confident that an investment in culture is an investment with multiple returns, part of the infrastructure of great cities.
I won't belabour the point here, but if you haven't already checked out my recent blog posts, have a look (here’s the latest) and let us know what you think. CADA's new strategic direction has set some ambitious targets, and to reach those targets, resources are going to be required.
To that end, The City of Calgary has just begun the public engagement portion of their 2012-2014 budget planning process. This is an impressively comprehensive effort to provide a voice for Calgarians throughout the budget process. Over the past 5 years, we have heard over and over (including our own opinion polling) that the majority of Calgarians support the goal of investing to create a thriving arts scene. This new budget process is the time to be vocal about your support.
Please look at the linked information about the process. There are multiple ways for you to have your voice heard. Make an appearance. State your case. Show your support. If you can't make it out, go online and give your feedback that way. Send this message far and wide to your contacts and connections not only in the arts community, but reach out to business owners and other Calgarians that share our goal of building a great city.
Let me close by making one thing clear. This process isn’t about lobbying for more money. More money might be an outcome. In my view, the process is about setting priorities. It is about sharing your views with City Council about what makes a great city, and having policy and resources aligned to get there. It is time for a thriving arts and culture scene to rise up that list of priorities.
- Terry Rock
President and CEO, Calgary Arts Development
- Posted by Terry Rock on February 18th, 2011
Part V: Long Term Goals - Accelerate
A funny thing happened on the way to my regular blog posting schedule… I took a pause to help finalize Calgary's bid to be the 2012 Cultural Capital of Canada. I couldn't be happier with our bid, and I couldn't be more proud of our city and the people who rolled up their sleeves to make this bid a reality. Included in that long list (our best guess is that over 5000 people were involved in some way, either through the web, or in person) is City Council. They made a strong commitment to our bid very early in the process. Their commitment allowed us to spend a lot of time in the community learning about the ambitions for culture in Calgary.
Through this extensive discussion with the community, we heard loud and clear that Calgarians want to be active participants in their cultural scene. This desire aligns strongly with our third area of focus, engagement. In reality, engagement has always been a driving force for Calgary Arts Development. Through our planning process, we reaffirmed the strategic importance of this goal, and further defined what it means, as described below:
Goal 3: Engage
Our Aspiration: Ensure a critical mass of opportunities for Calgarians to become enthusiastic arts participants.
Calgarians from all walks of life are increasingly showing interest in engaging with culture and the arts. They’re engaging in new ways, every day, on demand. There is a desire for Read more »
- Posted by Terry Rock on February 10th, 2011
Yesterday, I talked about our first arts development goal, "Incubate," in which we aspire to make Calgary a preferred location for artists in the first 10 years of their career.
Today, I bring you our second arts development goal, "Accelerate."
Before I dig into it, I have to say... this has been one of our biggest challenges. What is the relevance of our work to those that are already showing signs of, or on many measures, achieving great success? It is a lot easier to see how we matter to those who are just starting their careers, or in helping to introduce new people to the arts. For those already well on their way? We're pretty sure that there is no lack of frustration, that if not addressed, will result in Calgary losing these people to other cities that clearly demonstrate their support for high potential artists and arts organizations. Hence:
Goal 2: Accelerate
Our Aspiration: Enable excellence and innovation in high potential established artists and arts organizations.
Calgary is home to a fast-expanding number of excellent and innovative artists, arts organizations and festivals. Unfortunately, many of these artists and organizations continue to struggle to find presentation and creation venues, to find financial support for risk taking, and to build audiences. These high potential artists and organizations work in a system with severe limitations on available resources. The system does not adequately recognize or incent their potential and capacity for excellence. Those that do consistently excel put our city on the map artistically, build strong connections to the citizens of Calgary and build our reputation as a city. These individuals and organizations deliver the highest return on the investments we make because it is increasingly clear that the cultural dimension of our city’s reputation plays a crucial role in economic development, especially for the attraction of a skilled workforce and development of the tourism industry.
What’s missing? The prioritization of excellence and innovation within resource allocation decisions and program development is critical to ensuring that, within a competitive and limited system, investments and programs are directed to those with the highest potential. Risk capital to think big, develop audience, access to export channels, and partner with agencies working in tourism and city building will provide the support necessary to enable and accelerate the career path of high potential artists and organizations. Part of the identity of Calgary for its citizens and visitors should be a city of excellent and innovative artists and artistic experiences.
Accelerating individual artists is aimed at taking them from a stage of a having a working career as an artist (although this may not be self-sustaining) to a point where they have a fully self-sustained, growing career as an artist with the potential to export their artistic talent outside of Calgary.
Accelerating arts organizations is aimed at taking them from a stage of having a full year/season of self-sustaining activity to a point where they have a strong support network and organizational resiliency that allows them to take creative risks and build a strong reputation within the city and beyond.
Important elements for acceleration include: high quality space to create and present work, network of supportive arts administrators and related creative industry professionals, programs for life long learning and professional development, exposure to knowledgeable audiences, supporters, sponsors, and critics/media, and access to investments that support significant creative (and financial) risk taking.
Our ability to transparently select the artists and organizations to accerlate is one of our biggest challenges as we look to the future. We do not want to be in the position of "picking winners," but on the other hand, to ignore the fact that these artists and organizations have different needs, challenges and opportunities is also a mistake. I'm pretty sure that the keys will be a) transparency, b) fairness (don't put all of our eggs in this basket), and c) clearly demonstrating the overall benefits to the city and to the arts community of the work we do under this goal area.
That's what I think... what do you think? The comments are open!
Next up: Long Term Goals - Engage
- Posted by Terry Rock on February 9th, 2011
In my previous 3 blog posts, I've covered some philosophical ground about the kind of organization we are and aspire to be. I've also talked about our past activities and achievements. Now the fun stuff. Where to next? In this and the following four blog posts, I'll talk about our latest strategic thinking. Though we have already taken steps to change our organization to be able to deliver on this new direction, we will be forming working groups with members of the community who are interested in helping to refine and further build them. Consider this the first draft of the strategy, with the next drafts to be written in conjunction with the community.
(Note: I'm really interested in what you think about all of this! If you'd like to get involved in further refining and shaping this work, please get in touch, either in the comments, or by e-mailing email@example.com. And, if you really really like this, and would like to be part of our team, we're hiring!)
Long Term Goals for Arts Development: A System Capacity Approach
Starting in 2011, Calgary Arts Development is shifting our strategic focus from improving base arts system infrastructure (funding, space, awareness/participation) to goals that relate to the capacity of the arts & culture system. We obviously still need more base infrastructure, but our new focus helps us prioritize investments and sharpen our program objectives.
Through our research and past experience, we've determined that the arts system requires five capacities to function at a high level. Those capacities are:
- SEEDING interest in the arts at a young age
- INCUBATING the next generation of professionals
- ACCELERATING those with proven potential
- ENGAGING citizens in meaningful experiences
- EXPORTING work to and attract interest from other markets
- Posted by Terry Rock on February 3rd, 2011
Here's a little retrospective to set the stage for my next posts that show where we're headed in the next 5 years. Our first 5 years of work has built a base that we're now able to build upon.
When we started in 2005, Calgary’s arts operating granting programs had been in place for over 35 years with little change, were funding 119 organizations but at the lowest per capita rate in the country (at about $2.3M), and were not clearly connected to any sense of return on investment or strategic aim. This is not surprising: the body in charge of distributing the funds was not resourced or really mandated to do anything other than fairly distribute the funds they received on behalf of Calgarians. That had to change. Our first priority was to review and reposition our granting programs. Now, we fund over 160 organizations with nearly $3.8M ($4.3M if Event Stimulus grants are counted). We can show, with confidence, through statistical, financial and qualitative measures, the public and artistic impact of our investments. Though we are still at or near the bottom in terms of per capita grants to artists and arts organizations, we have closed the gap (well, except for our friends in Edmonton, who recently, ahem, shot ahead of us again).
We continue to make changes to our granting programs, but we can see that we are on the right track towards providing a stable base of resources that allows the organizations we support to flourish.
Calgary’s desperate need for new spaces to support the arts had been known for years prior to the existence of Calgary Arts Development. New spaces started to get investment (such as Vertigo Theatre and Theatre Junction Grand), but there were two problems that weren’t going away: first, each case had its own justification, but it was difficult to understand whether the space was actually addressing the top priorities of the broad community. That is, each decision was a “one off,” and there was little sense of whether or not we were actually making progress. Second, each decision to provide municipal funding to a capital project required a search for funds. A plan was needed, and it needed to be fundable to be successful.
With $50,000 in additional funding ($25,000 from The Calgary Foundation and $25,000 from The University of Calgary) and a huge amount of community support through steering committees, engagement sessions, and filling-out-of-yet-another-survey, we were able to produce and publish in early 2007 our Art Spaces Strategy and Capital Plan. About one year later, the Province created the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI), and City Council was able to confidently agree to allocate 5% of that $3.3B flow of funds towards realizing the objectives of the Art Spaces Plan.
Since that time, we have seen City Council authorize several major infrastructure investments (National Music Centre, Folk Festival Hall, Nickle Arts Museum, Mount Royal Conservatory, Lunchbox Theatre). And there are more projects in the pipeline, with a new round of projects in the prioritization process right now. As far as we are aware, we remain the only city in Canada with a long-term vision, plan, and core funding in place to deliver new infrastructure.
We’ve also just completed a survey of demand and preferences for art spaces (thanks to Le Germain for the survey incentive prize pack!). We got a great response, and have learned a lot. We’ll start sharing those results soon.
Building awareness and encouraging participation in Calgary’s art scene was the third focus area for our first 5 years. The biggest thing on everyone’s wish list? Some kind of web portal that provided an aggregated view of everything happening in Calgary. We started by working with Pam Lang to bring in ArtsMart, a weekly e-newsletter that had been started by some of Calgary’s largest arts organizations in the early 2000’s. From there, the NAC’s LiveRush program was incorporated into our growing suite of awareness initiatives. And in 2009, we launched CalgaryCulture.com, your free, one-stop-shop for arts & culture listings. Big or small, we list ‘em all. Complete with an awesome weekly e-newsletter that we keep hearing is “great” from our thousands of subscribers. The best thing about this? Our intrepid Information and Communications Technology Officer, Mike “My Job Title Has As Many Syllables as a Haiku” Scullen created this site using the open-source Drupal CMS. He did it basically by himself, with the help of the online Drupal community and graphic designers at Flume Studios.
One of my favourite things about CalgaryCulture.com is the fact that we now have an active database that tracks arts activity in Calgary. In 2010, we know that over 1400 unique events were listed on CalgaryCulture.com. And now, our database provides a feed to Tourism Calgary’s spanky new site VisitCalgary.com. Enter the data once, serve it out multiple times. Efficient. Effective.
Speaking of visiting Calgary, much of our awareness building work was done in partnership with our colleagues at Tourism Calgary and Travel Alberta. We conducted joint research on cultural tourism, worked together to promote our summer festival season and all of the cool things happening during the Christmas season in Calgary, and helped with some big cultural events (Juno Awards and Gemini Awards) that brought the attention of the country to showcase Calgary’s dynamic arts and culture scene.
And now? Tourism Calgary is rocketing forward with really cool marketing initiatives that will showcase Calgary for all that it is: an energetic urban centre with a unique cultural scene. I’m really excited to be able to enthusiastically support their work to bring people to Calgary to see and experience what we have to offer.
And before I forget... we've been facilitating Calgary's PechaKucha Nights for about 18 months... these events bring together between 250 and 300 people 4 or 5 times a year to hear talks about art, architecture, design and other topics of general interest. Acting as a facilitator of these events has been a great way for us to extend our network. The next event is February 14th, and the topic, of course, is Love. Check it out! Free!
I don’t have room to cover everything we’ve done at CADA over the years. There were numerous workshops, seminars, speaker events and community sessions. This past summer, our Board held a series of lunchtime discussions with working artists, learning a lot about their needs and desires in the process. We're a learning organization, and I'm really excited to share what we've learned in the form of our strategic plan... in my next post! Stay tuned!
(If you like what you're reading, why not consider applying for one of our 2 open job calls)