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National Art and Culture Summit: The Future of Arts, Culture, and Heritage in Canada

Updated: Jun 30


Introduction by Simon Mallett I will leave it to Elizabeth and the team at Global Public Affairs to report more on the happenings at the National Art and Culture Summit below, though I wanted to share a few of my personal reflections about the event. I was grateful to the Minister's Office for the invitation to attend and represent our work and what we're seeing regarding the state of arts and culture in Alberta as part of the in-person cohort. I was also happy to see several other Calgary and Alberta-based arts and culture organizations represented in-person, including those from outside of the province's two major cities, as those organizations are often underrepresented at such events. What was disappointing was the lack of representation on any of the plenary panels from anyone from the west, or even outside of Ontario and Quebec really, and the format only provided a couple of opportunities for attendees to collaborate and discuss the issues, rather than being presented with limited viewpoints via panel discussions. As Elizabeth mentions below, the Minister spoke to the need for regional voices to be heard, but those voices were not given a platform at the Summit itself. Added to that, the pre-Summit regional meetings that happened across the country did not take place in Alberta, with the minster opting to visit Regina and then Vancouver. While we hope there will be a follow-up visit, Alberta-based organizations continue to be often-overlooked as the government talks about 'national' plans in the arts. In a province with Canada's 4th and 5th largest cities (and a Liberal MP representing each of those cities), this is frustrating, to be sure, and will require continued advocacy from artists and arts organizations to have our voices heard. While it was heartening to see space on the agenda dedicated to discussions around equity, reconciliation and better conditions for arts workers, as they are some of the most critical conversations to be had right now, it felt as those each of the topics covered were deserving of their own Summit. In my observation, conversations only scratched the surface, and the depth of recommendations that came forward from the events were lacking. I'm not sure I have an answer, as there are many topics facing the arts & culture sector in need of significant discussion, except to say that I hope that conversations continue to be convened and that the right folks are invited to the table for those specialized discussion. It was clear that a lot of work had gone into an invitation list that reflected a diverse range of voices, although large organizations were far more prominently represented than smaller organizations, perhaps in part due to the financial costs of travelling to attend. All that being said, being physically present provided great opportunities for reconnection to colleagues from across the country, to speak to the incredible work being done by Alberta-based artists and arts organizations, and will hopefully reinvigorate all kinds of collaborative conversations between those who were present moving forward. Prime Minister Trudeau spoke at the opening reception about the critical role of the arts in building an inclusive, empathetic society, and those words resonated deeply with me. At the Rozsa Foundation, we believe deeply in the transformative power of the arts, and will continue to listen, learn, and advocate for the needs of those in our arts community whenever we can. ~ Simon


The following report was written by Elizabeth Seip, Global Public Affairs From May 2nd to 4th the Minister of Canadian Heritage hosted the National Art and Culture Summit in Ottawa at the National Art Centre. A broad range of organizations and artists from across the arts and culture sector were invited to share their thoughts and listen to leaders academics and innovators . The goal of the Summit was to create a space where key topics and issues in the sector could be discussed in a collaborative manner, while the Department of Canadian Heritage took note of the ideas coming out of the various sessions. The main topics that were discussed at the Summit include:

  • Supporting Workers in the Arts, Culture and Heritage Sectors

  • Innovation and Growth in the Digital Revolution

  • Inclusion, Diversity, Accessibility

  • Canada on the International Stage

  • Advancing Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples through Culture

  • Canada’s Evolving Audiences and Visitors

  • Greening the Sector

  • Arts, Culture and Heritage as Mirrors and Drivers of Social Change

  • Role of Digital Platforms and Technology in Arts, Culture and Heritage Landscapes

Throughout the three days a reoccurring topic was Bill C-11, the modernization of the Broadcasting Act and an emphasis on how the sector can incorporate digital into their work. Minister Rodriguez reiterated the idea that the sector relied on technology during the pandemic to share their work and must continue to adopt new technology. This theme of digital integration tied into the discussion on modernizing Canada’s Broadcasting Act to incorporate the digital era. In the different sessions there was a push to make the sector more inclusive. Undertaking a new “Massey Commission Report” and creating a living document that better represents Canada’s art and culture sector was a suggestion that was made numerous times by various stakeholders in the sector. Additionally, there was a call for the Government to create and share race based data with organizations and the Government. This collected data could be used to analyze the grant system to ensure government grants are being distributed with equity in mind. In the various sessions the overall consensus was the pandemic challenged artists’ and arts organizations role in society and highlighted the inequalities the sector has faced especially economically. Ideas were suggested to fix these inequalities such as introducing a Universal Basic Income. The “Truth and Reconciliation” breakout session had an emphasis on not only acknowledging the importance of Reconciliation but providing ways the sector as a whole can be creative with solutions and prioritizing equity, diversity and inclusion in the sector. In the “Inclusion, Diversity and Accessibility” breakout session, barriers to accessing funding programs were a main focus. There is a belief that the current system rewards organizations who have already navigated the system. There was a call for multi-year funding including support to build organizational capacity. When trying to build new audiences, diversity needs to be reflected in who is running the programs and who we are trying to attract as an audience. We need to review who are governing these organizations and ensure they represent the diverse audiences we want to attract to cultural events in Canada. In the breakout session on “greening the sector” there was a strong emphasis on looking to international examples such as the United Kingdom. Taking a green approach with funding especially with funding decisions is important for greening the sector. There needs to be a refocus on the “local” not just the “international” for production in the cultural sector. In the Minister’s closing fireside chat on the last day of the Summit, he discussed the importance of regional representation within the arts and culture sector. There was an emphasis on making sure all regions are given the opportunity to succeed. If you have any questions regarding the Summit, please feel free to reach out to the Cultural Industries Team at Global Public Affairs.

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