Sometimes change is slow. Sometimes it takes time for individual consciousness to become collective. Sometimes we need a jolt to take action and make things happen.
Those statements aren’t meant to justify a state of inertia we have found ourselves in when it comes to equity and diversity in the arts, but simply to say we recognize our own shortcomings of the past and we are now ready to take action for the future.
What was our jolt? Maybe it was the realization that despite talking about this issue for decades, nothing has really changed. Maybe it was bearing witness to the recommendations of Truth and Reconciliation commission and seeing the hope of some sparks of advancement in that arena. Or maybe it was a call we received from Michele Decottignies and Jenna Rodgers in the summer of 2015 inviting us to a meeting of a newly formed coalition—the Calgary Congress for Equity and Diversity in the Arts.
You wouldn’t find a person among us who doesn’t hold a conviction that equity and diversity in the arts is important. You wouldn’t find anyone on the Calgary Arts Development staff or board who doesn’t want to see greater equity and diversity in the arts. But believing isn’t enough—having a desire to be equitable doesn’t mean diddly-squat.
The proof is in the pudding—the practice—the process of ensuring there is equity and diversity in the arts. That funding, jobs, spaces, opportunities, recognition and artistic experiences are accessible to all artists, arts practitioners, and audiences, not just to some.
Canada’s professional arts sector is at an historic moment and there is an awakening to the notion that diversity is a primary driver of artistic, social and economic enrichment. We are on the cusp of some momentous changes to the Canadian cultural landscape as a result. The Canada Council for the Arts is taking action and will require reporting of equity measurements in future funding agreements.
Calgary Arts Development is doing the same.
We will start with our own organization. Calgary Arts Development is undertaking an intensive equity training workshop led by CCEDA in early February 2017. Over the next year, CCEDA and Calgary Arts Development will host a series of activities including community consultations and conversations to share information and solicit feedback. From that work we will develop a set of equity assessment measures and diversity reporting tools that will become a mandatory part of our granting streams. CCEDA will also offer opportunities for the community to participate in arts equity intervention training and cultural capacity development workshops.
We are excited about this work. We have no illusions that it will be easy. As a matter of fact, we expect it to be messy and hard and complex. It will require open minds, generous spirits and our best intentions. With the expertise in our community, we also believe that Calgary has a unique opportunity to pilot a local solution to a national arts equity problem.
So this is our invitation to anyone who is reading this post. Stay tuned for opportunities to participate and join us as we dig in.