Canada Council Calls for Public Engagement in the Arts

In a dis­cus­sion paper released on Octo­ber 16, the Canada Coun­cil for the Arts called for pub­lic engage­ment in the Arts. The pub­li­ca­tion was made at the Council’s Annual Pub­lic Meet­ing and accom­pa­nies the release of its Annual Report. The 29-page doc­u­ment, titled Pub­lic Engage­ment in the Arts, is an overview of cur­rent approaches in Canada and inter­na­tion­ally to pub­lic engage­ment in arts and cul­ture and a frame­work for dis­cus­sion of this topic and its impor­tance to every­day Cana­dian life and society.

Coun­cil Direc­tor and CEO Robert Sir­man said, “As artists move into new realms of cre­ativ­ity, so must the Coun­cil. With sta­ble fund­ing for the next three years, Coun­cil has embarked on a sig­nif­i­cant change agenda, review­ing its pro­grams and processes to ensure that it remains rel­e­vant.” The dis­cus­sion paper rep­re­sents the launch of the con­sul­ta­tion phase, the sec­ond phase, laid out in the change agenda from the Council’s Strength­en­ing Con­nec­tions 2011–2016: Strate­gic Plan, pub­lished last year. The process launched by the Coun­cil is “meant to open new avenues of inves­ti­ga­tion, raise aware­ness of the oppor­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges and high­light pos­si­ble areas of inter­ven­tion by the Council.”

Simul­ta­ne­ously the Council’s Vice Pres­i­dent Simon Brault pub­lished a blog sum­ma­riz­ing the prin­ci­pal themes of the paper in rela­tion to engage­ment in the arts in an era of abun­dance of artis­tic choices. In this vein, Mr. Brault sug­gests that arts fund­ing bod­ies must focus on demand (and the pub­lic) moreso than sup­ply (the art and the artist) when mak­ing pol­icy deci­sions, and fund the arts accord­ingly. He also writes about the increas­ing role of tech­nol­ogy in expe­ri­enc­ing arts and cul­ture and the impor­tant role that the arts play in a healthy demo­c­ra­tic society.

Tell Me More

The dis­cus­sion paper presents an overview of the research done by the Coun­cil in phase one of their change agenda, which was focused on research and analy­sis. It points out the recur­ring theme of “pub­lic engage­ment and cul­tural democ­ra­ti­za­tion” at cul­tural agen­cies inter­na­tion­ally and includes sum­maries of cur­rent prac­tices of a num­ber of fun­ders around the world, stat­ing, “Com­mon approaches include sup­port to com­mu­nity arts, focus on youth engage­ment and arts edu­ca­tion and tar­geted fund­ing for audi­ence enrich­ment pro­grams.” It also gives an overview of Cana­dian pol­icy and pub­lic engage­ment through the last few decades.

Included in the paper are a num­ber of sta­tis­tics on par­tic­i­pa­tion in cul­tural activ­i­ties in Canada from Hill Strate­gies and other sources but the paper stresses the need to know more about the qual­i­ta­tive impacts of these expe­ri­ences. As Mr. Brault says in his blog post, “The days of tal­ly­ing num­bers of spec­ta­tors, tick­ets or pub­li­ca­tions are now mak­ing way for an era of focus­ing on the rela­tion­ship between artists, cul­tural insti­tu­tions and cit­i­zens.”  The paper points to a num­ber of stud­ies inter­na­tion­ally for com­par­i­son, not­ing trends in “terms of demo­graph­ics and the shift towards elec­tronic engagement.”

The paper also exam­ines a num­ber of emerg­ing trends that the Coun­cil says are “chal­leng­ing the arts ecosys­tem as it cur­rently stands but should also be seen as oppor­tu­ni­ties to change how the arts and the pub­lic inter­act.” These chal­lenges include aging audi­ences and chang­ing demo­graph­ics, sub­ur­ban­iza­tion, equity, tech­nol­ogy, and the blur­ring of lines between ama­teur and pro­fes­sional prac­tices. Mr. Brault points out in his post that, “In appear­ance, art is every­where; in real­ity, you still have to seek it out.” He says that the Coun­cil is aim­ing to help peo­ple “dis­cover, appre­ci­ate and assim­i­late” the pow­ers of art.

Though no for­mal con­sul­ta­tion process was iden­ti­fied for this phase of the change agenda, Mr. Brault con­cluded his post with a rally for Cana­di­ans to join the Council’s dis­cus­sion regard­ing arts engage­ment in the social media sphere.

What can I do?

Read the dis­cus­sion paper, read the post from Vice Pres­i­dent Simon Brault and leave a com­ment, and join the dis­cus­sion on Face­book and Twit­ter.

The Canada Council for the Arts supports, promotes and celebrates the work of Canadian artists and arts organizations.


©2019 BC Alliance for Arts + Culture. All rights reserved | Privacy Policy