Reflections on Arts Summit 2010

I’ve had the weekend to reflect, and have had several conversations about and received feedback on Arts Summit 2010, which was held June 24/25 at the Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre in Surrey, BC. 

Thanks again to all of you who participated as presenters, volunteers, and registrants.

Vanessa Richards guided us in her charismatic and gentle way through the two days, and for that, I am grateful.

I wasn’t able to attend all the sessions and I hope that this reflection of mine leads to further exchange of information and thoughts between those who were present. Arlene Goldbard opened the Summit with her call for rethinking the framework within which we develop cultural policy, do advocacy, and work with one another. She called for a “values-based” framework and suggested that the economic arguments that we’ve been making for the last decades be reconsidered, but not abandoned. 

Arlene’s afternoon workshop, which I attended, was very useful, allowing us to approach and think about our work in new ways. 

Both Arlene’s keynote address and workshop instructions will be made available on our website as soon as possible; both can be useful tools as we strategize in our own organizations and communities and together, going forward. It was interesting to see us “flail” when our ability to complain was shut down by Arlene, but I think it kept us focused and allowed some really useful ideas to emerge.

The Civic Leadership panel focused a bit too much, I think, on public art and art in public, but perhaps that is to be expected on a panel of civic leaders, as most municipalities focus their policy work on public art. I was hoping we would engage in more discussion about cultural spaces and facilities, but there was obvious interest in the issues raised during the panel. 

The lively discussion underscored the need for our organizations to be at the table with municipal authorities as they strive to support their arts and cultural development. We need to communicate what we do to our elected officials at all levels.

The Alliance for Arts and Culture’s AGM was well attended on June 24th, where we welcomed new board members, Linda Feil, Linday Sisson and Jon-Paul Walden. We also said goodbye to Ian Forsyth and Fernanda Vivieros, who have served on the board for many years and continue to volunteer on the Bridge Society board.

Nancy Noble is our new president and Minna Schendlinger continues on the board as past president.

Axel Conradi and Trudy Van Dop presented on Culture Days in BC. In 2010, British Columbian artists and arts and culture organizations may participate through the National Website – culturedays.ca. There was a lot of interest from many of the registrants in this exciting Canadian project. This opportunity is an important step in communicating to our communities and to the general public who we are and what we do.

The reception in the evening was well attended, allowing us to network and continue our conversations.

On day two, we heard from Martha Rans, director of the Artists' Legal Outreach, about the recent proposed changes to the copyright act. She raised many questions about the rights of creators and the usefulness of the act as it currently stands. Updates and details are on the artistlegaloutreach.ca site.

Ivan Habel then shared his thoughtful and provocative address to the plenary that asked us to consider the need to develop and engage in our own advocacy strategies and to include and consider the advocacy strategies of the greater arts and cultural sector. Ivan asked many difficult questions in his address, including whether or not we had consulted or are consulting amongst ourselves. He also called for a long-term strategy regarding advocacy as a sector. I couldn’t agree more. The text of Ivan’s courageous speech is available on our website and I urge you all to read it; I found it very useful.

The Making Creativity Count panel was very interesting and entertaining. Jessie Uppal reminded us that we are not alone in facing these recent government cuts and offered the opportunity to join other civil society organizations in the Coalition for a Better BC; the Alliance has endorsed this group and I continue to sit at the table with this growing coalition. Jessie invited other organizations to join this group. More information is available at betterbc.ca.

Catherine Murray challenged us to work together toward a provincial cultural policy. Gillian Wood, acting director of the BC Arts Council, is in an awkward position and deserves our support as we make a case for a sustained arms-length funding system for the arts and culture. The biggest surprise from Gillian was the existence of a cultural policy that sits hidden in the BCAC files; it doesn’t seem to have an official status but could be a starting point. The current policy stops short of committing the government to any specific action or level of funding. 

The Post and Host was not successful, so I guess the Summit covered most people’s “burning questions”. Instead, Mark Marissen and I made a presentation on the Day at the Legislature proposal, a long-term strategy of establishing a positive, on-going relationship with MLAs and the provincial government across the province. There seemed to be wide-spread support for this strategy, that relies on identifying champions in our communities to meet with MLA’s and establishing a relationship before the April 2011 Day at the Legislature. This is envisioned as an opportunity to share what we do and how we do it with the government. A toolkit is nearly complete, for use across the province.

Tanya Evanson ended Arts Summit 2010 with a powerful and soul-moving performance of spoken word. For those who stayed until the end, I’m sure you will agree that she was truly inspirational.

Over the two days, several opportunities for further involvement and dialogue emerged as having wide support from those gathered. Day at the Legislature, Culture Days, and a general refocusing on a “values-based” dialogue with community, business, and government are important “take-aways” from this Summit. 

I hope to hear from you about the sessions I didn’t attend and your thoughts and interpretations of the Summit.

Respectfully Yours
Amir Ali Alibhai
Executive Director, 
Alliance for Arts and Culture


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