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Vancouver Island regional arts coordinator *update

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

We’re pleased to report that our Sectoral Innovation grant has been approved by the Canada Council for the Arts. We now have one year of funding for a part-time coordinator for the Vancouver Island/Gulf Islands super-region. From March through September 2022, Laura-Beth Keane, creative mind behind the Esquimalt Community Arts Hub, assumed the role of the first-ever* regional arts sector coordinator! Unfortunately Laura-Beth had to step down to attend to ECAH duties, so as of October 2022, Jenny Farkas has stepped into this position (pictured].

And, speaking of firsts, to our knowledge, this is the first time* a regional coordination approach has been explored in the arts in BC. Arts BC is considering moving to a regional model, so what we are doing and learning here will be so valuable and useful on numerous levels.

From the Digital Innovation Group to Creative Coast

As mentioned in this post about building an arts ecosystem, for the past few years we’ve been exploring what’s possible when we collaborate and innovate together more. We started this work as the Digital Innovation Group in late 2019, and you can see all the fun we got up to on DIG’s archived website:

In the spring of 2022, DIG morphed into Creative Coast and we’re so excited about new/emerging partnerships and opportunities.

For example, we just submitted a grant application last week - together with Tourism Vancouver Island (TVI) and the Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation. The purpose is to customize TVI’s highly successful (and award-winning!) Tourism Resilience Program so that the arts sector can access incredible business development supports. It turns out that many artists and arts organizations are actually tourism businesses, in that they receive over 50% of their revenues from tourists. This collaboration represents the first time* these organizations have worked together, and we have our fingers and toes crossed this application will be well-received by the Canada Council for the Arts.

We learned so much during the DIG project, but the four biggest takeaways are:

  • our sector over-relies on volunteers (to the tune of $115 million annually - see our first-ever* Arts Impact Study and also Key Recommendations below)

  • it is almost impossible to innovate off the side of one’s desk

  • our sector is seriously siloed, which leave out many creatives - importantly equity-seeking groups

  • collaboration and innovation can be transformative with the right resourcing!

Speaking of an unsustainable over-reliance of volunteers, DIG could not have achieved all that it did without relying on several full-time volunteers, and another handful of part-time volunteers in the form of Arts Council Executive Directors doing this work off the side of their desks.

These factors sparked the idea/need for a paid regional coordinator.

Laura-Beth’s main job is to connect every single one of us in our arts ecosystem, so we can realize the substantial benefits of collaboration (see list below). Ha! No small task! But she’s up for the challenge, and well-supported by our wonderful Steering Committee.

Please join us in welcoming Laura-Beth, and make sure to join her May 25 webinar about NFTs, delivered with her collaborative partner Juan Ramirez.

Benefits of working together

In our funding proposal, we itemized the benefits we hope to see coming out of this regional coordination experiment:

  • Local Artists benefit through access to stronger, more connected arts and cultural organizations.

  • Arts Council staff and members benefit from networking with other arts organizations, using compatible technologies and

  • complementary approaches, to facilitate collaborative projects and resource sharing.

  • Regionally, arts and cultural groups benefit as an alliance working together to build shared audiences and capacities.

  • Communities benefit from an enhanced well being and sense of identity.

  • Local Governments benefit by a vibrant and effective digitally networked cultural sector opening opportunities with other

  • socio-economic development activities.

  • The not-for-profit community benefits (e.g. Heritage and Social Services) from greater knowledge about the possibilities of

  • supported collaboration and networking to enhance outreach and strengthen alliances.

  • The Tourism sector will benefit by strengthening connections with arts serving organizations and helping shape their delivery

  • of cultural experiences for visitors.

  • Local businesses will benefit from increased economic activity, a stronger creative economy and opportunities created

  • through connected and vibrant arts and cultural experiences.

  • All levels of governments benefit from the capture of up-to-date, meaningful, and compatible data to inform policy.

Key recommendations from the Arts Impact Study:

  • Break down silos within and between sectors

  • Address the over-reliance on volunteers

  • Develop more sustainable funding sources

  • Bolster focus on equity, diversity and inclusion

  • Share more and grow discoverability

  • Include arts and culture in tourism recovery strategies

  • Grow digital capacity and digital integration

*Pardon the seemingly overuse of the word ‘first’’ in this blog! But it can’t be helped. We are breaking new ground here!


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