Dialogue Sessions: Final Notes and Next Steps

Well that was a fun week!  Calgary Arts Development staff and board members welcomed close to 100 artists, administrators and board members in our Current State of the Arts Dialogue Sessions that wrapped up yesterday. Below are observations from Calgary Arts Development staff about the last few sessions. These conversations are phase one of a three-phase process that will include a public consultation and vision-setting process this summer, leading to the development of a long-term strategic plan for the development of the arts in Calgary. This process is described in our most recent Strategic Plan

Our next immediate step is to incorporate your feedback from these Dialogue Sessions into our Current State of the Arts report to City Council in May. And we are looking forward to sharing a summary with you in our Report to the Community on May 28, so stay tuned for those details shortly. Thank you to everyone who took the time to talk with us, it is an exciting time to refresh our vision for the future of the arts in Calgary.

Finally, if you haven't had a chance to be in the room, there is still time to have your say. We are keeping our online questions open until Friday April 20 and you can respond to the discussion questions online.

An outstanding bright spot from our small to mid-size Board Dialogue Session was the transition of small to mid-size arts organization boards away from operational work towards boards who take on more of a governance role. The organizations have also experienced a number of successes when it comes to increased access to space. A few examples include the approval of land towards an International Avenue Arts & Culture Centre, Morpheus Theatre's new office and rehearsal space in the Parkdale Community Centre and Evergreen Theatre's Community Studios. -Emiko Muraki

The outlook of the Arts Marketing Dialogue Session was on the whole optimistic, and while it's recognized that we may not have fully realized the vision of the Civic Arts Policy, incremental steps are being taken towards that vision. There is a budding recognition by Calgary citizens that the arts sector is producing great, new, innovative work and the "no rules" entrepreneurial spirit that Calgary has always operated under is a large contributor to an environment that allows this kind of work to thrive. We have seen not only the creation of several new arts organizations, but have seen them evolve rapidly over the past 8 years. Established institution such as Theatre Calgary are posting record numbers of audience engagement in both subscription sales and single ticket buyers. Calgarians are finding avenues to involve themselves in the sector through other avenues as well, most notably by volunteering. Finally, arts organizations are benefiting from increased accessibility to grant writing guidance from organizations such as CADA and The Calgary Foundation and programs such as artsVest and the Executive in Residence. -Emiko Muraki

A Bright Spot from the Festival Dialogue Session was the fact that Calgary has gained a reputation for being a fantastic host when national and international artists come here to perform in our festivals. The artists we employ in our festivals talk about how great Calgary is to work in and by extension are able to infuse their performances or presentations with more passion. Our festivals have been able to remove the hassles out of touring for these artists and in turn they are able to deliver to Calgary audiences what they do best: world class performance or art! -Emiko Muraki 

During our dialogue with board members from small to mid-size companies the bright spots that illuminated our conversation were the strength of collaboration among small companies; the increased bench strength and capacity of boards to govern; the untiring efforts of our volunteers who handle EVERYTHING as we try to raise the funds to hire staff; the huge "groundswell" of cultural groups and activities that have surfaced in the last 8 years. -Patti Pon

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