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!

CHRC on the road – Halifax

We held our first “meeting with members” and others in the sector in Halifax today at the historic Pier 21 Canadian Immigration Museum. What a landmark that building is! New on the Canadian museum scene, it is rich with the history and stories of immigrants from around the world who have shaped our country since pioneer days.

A fitting location for a cultural sector meeting.

Over “breakfast” of muffins, coffee, fruit and yoghurt, Richard and I welcomed friendly familiar faces of CHRC’s extended family on the east coast: Bernie Burton, Alastair Jarvis, Joel Duggan, Andrew Terris, Helen Ferguson, Waye Mason, Keith McPhail, Briony Carros, Mary Elisabeth Luka, Susan Hanrahan - all have collaborated with us in various capacities over the years. Staunch supporters of CHRC’s mission to “strengthen the cultural workforce”. There were new faces too, and we were glad to pull them into the circle.

Richard HornsbyThe group was engaged and engaging. After a run through of CHRC’s structure, products and offerings as it transitions away from HRSDC’s sector council program (which close down on March 31, 2013), we explored future directions for the Council.

Very much on people’s minds were diversity issues: what are we doing to support our First Nations artists and cultural workers? Where do we see on our Board and in our committees the multicultural reality of the Canadian demographic?

Exporting was a preoccupation: how do we provide our artists and cultural workers with the savvy and skills they need to export their goods and services internationally?

And we could count on it as surely as the night follows day: how can we better support and nurture mentorships across the sector and across the country, and even internationally. This comes up in just about every conversation CHRC is a part of!

The lively and constructive discussion left us with a clearer sense of the priorities of our members and of the broader sector. A better sense of direction for CHRC as it transitions into a new business model without losing its values and essence.

We closed the gathering down at 11:00 am because we had to have a conference call with the Executive – it made me smile to see the animated conversations still going on as we whisked people out the door to get on with the next part of our day!

A safe and uneventful flight to St. John’s this afternoon. Arrived in full-on sun! No fog today :-)

Validation session for our DM Team Competency Chart in Halifax

Held the last of our validation sessions for our DM Team Competency Chart in Halifax today. A foggy rainy/snowy Maritime day. But the warmth of the group which gathered at The Hub to give us their comments on the chart eclipsed the dreary weather!

As it turned out, this session included only creators. At every other stop we have had more producers, managers and educators in the mix. At our Halifax session we had, among others, Joel Duggan, a cartoonist, illustrator and podcaster who released his first published work today! (We bought signed copies :-))

The creator perspective on how a DM Team works is essential and integral to the whole. Our Haligonian creators offered up several adjustments to the chart that ensured that perspective. For example, the skill to “Write a proposal” which both creators and business people need on a DM Team should be described more broadly as “Create a proposal”. This change in verb will better reflect the approach to proposals that a creative person might take, while still applying to a business person.  A nuance – but one that enriches the DM Chart to apply to all three “functions” in DM content creation: creation, project management, and business.

Our task now is to compile the comments and critiques from DM workers across the country in a final DM Competency Chart. We have faithfully recorded what we heard and will review all suggested changes with our Expert Advisory Group. They will make the decisions on what gets incorporated into the final chart.

For example, we heard in several sessions that creators, along with project managers and the business people, should be able to “Determine technology needs”. All three functions need this skill. The draft chart associated this skill with the project management and business functions. The final chart will associate it with all three functions. 

What does that all mean? Well…. for example… an educator developing a curriculum for visual artists who want to pursue a career in the DM industry will want to ensure that their students have the ability to “determine technology needs”.

As our focus now shifts to the release of the DM Team Competency Chart and its uses, our CHRC staff are exploring ways to make this valuable tool easy-to-use. Given its complexity, we are looking at an interactive version rather than a print version. Seems to make sense not only in terms of the content, but also in terms of the target users!

We are also developing other related products – more on that in upcoming e-newsletters and future blogs!