Export Marketing

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.

CHRC on the road – Toronto

We met today in the venerable halls of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto. Thank you CCCO for co-hosting with us and choosing such a fitting location! I checked out the web site to get some of the history of that historic and cultural landmark:

“For more than a century the Club has been an important presence in Canada's cultural scene. Today it is a dynamic community of men and women of all ages for whom the arts are an essential part of life – a place to pursue creative expression, engage in the free and vigorous interchange of ideas and opinions, and enjoy good conversation and the companionship of kindred spirits.”

What a treat!

Cultural leaders and workers from across the sector joined us in an animated conversation that bounced from ideas on how to support CHRC’s ongoing funding, to passionate interventions around the [sometimes uncomfortable] relationship between creators and IT coders. (A relationship, BTW, that CHRC is tackling in a number of different ways, including working with the ICTC sector council.)

We heard strong support for continuing our networking role through events like the national HR Forum. We registered the suggestion of bringing x-gens on to our Board. We nodded in agreement about the undeniable move to “on line” products, teaching , communications.

And we tried to quickly write down Diane Davy’s eloquent intervention about CHRC’s role in the sector – one of those moments when everyone seemed to nod in agreement as she was speaking. Let me try to articulate it:

“CHRC should bring together partners in the cultural sector around topics that have a broad interest, such as export marketing and mentoring, being careful not to step on the toes of these partners (with either a sub-sector or provincial focus) as they pursue their own goals.”

It makes perfect sense and reflects the spirit behind these meetings with members and the sector.

A truly rich, far-reaching discussion from savvy cultural leaders and seasoned sector veterans. We’re grateful for the frank comments, praise and constructive criticism – but mostly for the support for CHRC.

We’re in this together – and we feel like we’re on the right track!

CHRC on the road – Winnipeg

We were in Winnipeg today. I am always in awe of the cultural energy of that city. There was a buzz because the Jets beat the Leafs, but that aside, the strong presence of the arts and cultural industries is undeniable. Solid industry associations like OnScreen Manitoba and the NSI , New Media Manitoba and Music Manitoba are economic players – and the provincial government understands that. The Live Performing Arts are thriving in theatre and dance. Heritage treasures - wonderful old banks, churches and office buildings - are sprinkled throughout the Exchange District and the city, and valued for their architectural beauty as well as their historical significance. Aboriginal culture is integrated into the landscape and life of the community.

With leaders and advocates like Thom Sparling at ACI Manitoba (our co-hosts today), the cultural sector is at the tables of both provincial and municipal governments – an active partner in shaping Manitoba’s identity and economy.

At our meeting we covered a wide range of issues. People were solicitous of CHRC’s transition to a funding model without HRSDC operational support, and encouraged us to move aggressively into our new funding model with a focus on revenues from products, memberships, and industry sponsorships and partnerships. Good ideas emerged about new partners.

As in other provinces, mentorship featured high among the priorities of our Manitoba confreres. ACI is a leader in building and running mentorship programs, but the need for more resources to support their programs is clear – particularly to help mid level / mid career cultural workers to acquire management skills, and to help senior cultural managers to hone their leadership skills. A web “portal” to collect mentorship best practices and resources from across the country could serve the sector well, and CHRC would be a natural partner to build and maintain it…..

Export marketing is another priority area. ACI is a leader here too, active in organizing and promoting export marketing workshops based on CHRC’s Going Global resource. Their training provider par excellence is Nikki Dewar (former Trade Routes official and now CITP certified i.e. Canadian International Trade Professional) who knows Going Global as well as anyone and has the added benefit, from our point of view, of being an expert in the cultural sector. Her work with ACI could potentially spread across the country. We are anxious to follow up on this one! Export Marketing has been a key focus for CHRC since the late 90s.

More good ideas to ponder.

Now on to Toronto…..

CHRC on the road – St. John’s

Newfoundland Resource Centre for the Arts

The stop in St. John’s just wasn’t long enough! A short stay at the wonderfully renovated award winning Murray Premises (fish factory on the harbour turned boutique hotel), a walk along Water Street past the galleries and crafts stores (and clothing stores with winter sales!), a big climb up the many sets of stairs to Duckworth Street and then to the LSPU Hall – that very special, very Newfoundland Resource Centre for the Arts – to the warm welcome of Reg Winsor (ED of the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council – our co-host) and our Newfoundland members: what a way to start your day!

It didn’t take long though to move into conversation about the challenges the cultural sector is facing in Newfoundland. Richard and I spoke first about CHRC’s strengths and optimism in our transition to life-without Sector Council Program (and core funding).

Then we broadened the discussion to consider directions CHRC should/could go in, and the discussion became lively. The purportedly hefty oil revenues that are supposed to be filling the provincial coffers are not making their way to the cultural sector. Just keeping the doors of theatres, festivals, dance companies and music organisations open is a day to day challenge. That means the nurturing of any sense of continuity and stability, much less HR management that takes succession into account, is not on people’s radar.

A priority off the top was support for the development of exporting and export marketing skills where “there is a void”. It is essential for Newfoundland’s artists and cultural workers to reach international markets. Even convincing bureaucrats of the need to return to international events more than once to fertilize national and international marketing opportunities is a tough sell. With the demise of Trade Routes and support for exporting of cultural goods and services at DFAIT, CHRC has noted the need for leadership and collaboration among a variety of partners to rebuild Canada’s strength in this area.

Another area where CHRC might offer support is Board development. Connected, active, hands-on Boards of arts and cultural organisations are vital – particularly when the ability to maintain staff with experience and “corporate memory” is so difficult. Board tools are needed that go beyond reciting “fiduciary responsibilities” to actually showing how to fundraise and apply skills and expertise in the process of governance. We will continue to tap this theme as we visit other provinces and see where it places on our list of priorities.

We were also pleased to hear support for our planned efforts to respond more specifically to the needs of First Nations artists and cultural workers. This struck a chord. It was inspiring to hear about New World Theatre’s production of The Tempest with an aboriginal cast, in Cupids! And plans among the Atlantic Public Arts Funders to shine a light on First Nations artists in an aboriginal arts festival. We will look for ways to collaborate with this spirit and these efforts.

While we shared the challenges, as always in Newfoundland, the spirit is strong, and we ended the meeting on an optimistic note:  news of an initiative among Newfoundland business people to step into the fray and provide support for cultural activity in the province.

We look forward to hearing more of that!