CHRC on the road – Edmonton

Woke up to a massive snow storm today. I thought we’d finished with winter :-(

As I watched cars crawl along the wide Edmonton streets with snow “pouring down’ and snowplows snarling traffic - clearing the way almost as quickly as drifts were forming - I feared our meeting today would be in an empty room.

However, Edmontonians know about snow and don’t seem much phased by it, I’m really happy to say.  By the 10 o’clock start we had a very good crowd – in fact one of the biggest yet. We were in the historic, beautifully restored Prince of Wales Armouries. A building like no other I’ve ever seen. An old drill hall full of military regalia, stories, and apparently ghosts – now the home of the City of Edmonton Archives and the Edmonton Arts Council (John Mahon and his terrific staff person, Jana, were our co-hosts for today). It is also the proud exhibitor of the famous Gun Sculpture created as a protest for peace - a far more interesting picture to include with this blog than that of another meeting!

With news that Career Focus is not being renewed there was considerable discussion about mentorships – how can we encourage those essential learning experiences to happen for both emerging and mid-career artists and managers? One helpful suggestion was to think of mentorships outside the sector. The Business Centres which are set up in every major Canadian city might be good organizations to explore when looking for mentors in business.  Edmonton has a Chamber for Voluntary Organizations that offers very good emerging leader workshops – another example of reaching outside the sector to access resources. It was pointed out too that these connections can lead to finding good Board members for cultural organizations.

When the discussion turned to export marketing, Hendrik Slegenhorst, who has delivered several of CHRC’s Going Global workshops across the country, emphasised the growth potential of audiences in far east Asia. Closer to home there is the big untapped but well-heeled market of Fort McMurray! I know from my trip to that oil boom town last year that there is a hunger for cultural activity – and what better artists to bring to northern Alberta than Albertans!

As a majority of those present were from the live performing arts there was talk too of co-productions. We heard a suggestion that a document on “co-production tips and pitfalls” would be a good addition to CHRC’s offerings. We haven’t heard that before, but it makes a lot of sense….

Edmonton’s cultural life is rich and vibrant. It was a real pleasure to end on that note as I headed back to the airport past stranded cars and major pile ups. My thoughts of Edmonton are actually not of snow but of the warm welcome I received and a strong arts-friendly city.

Much to reflect on after these cross-country visits. I see the challenges, but am optimistic about the cultural sector’s ability to respond to them - and CHRC’s place in that picture going forward.