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Research + Pilots

Since June 2019 we have been spearheading a number of exciting research and on-the-ground projects. We started by asking a big question: what if we're an arts and culture powerhouse?  This question generated a lot of interest across our sector and throughout our super-region. So we put our heads down and worked to prove it. In October 2021, we complete the first-ever All Islands Arts Impact Study which gave us solid data to back up our 'powerhouse' assertion. Now we're asking a whole new set of questions, including: what if creative economic development is the right economic model for our super-region

some 2019 to 2023 projects

JULY 2019 - This virtual meeting kicked off our first BIG question. It was attended by 100 Indigenous + non-Indigenous arts orgs, artists and reps from tourism + economic development

AUGUST 2019 - This was our first experiment in imagining new kinds of supports for our arts ecosystem. Over 800 arts administrators and artists sign up in a matter of minutes for this free, virtual storytelling workshop by Terry O'Reilly!

IT-audit-Digital-Innovation-Group

APRIL 2021 - Now we're one year in to a two-year digital collaboration project made up of 6 arts councils from Vancouver Island and the Rural Islands. Together we are exploring digital capacity and digital collaboration. Soon all 30 arts councils will get engaged in these conversations. One surprising discovery: our IT audit found 6 councils underutilizing 118 different platforms!

OCTOBER 2021 - Our quest to prove our 'arts and culture powerhouse' status results in the completion of the First-ever All Islands Arts Impact Study. Key findings include 35,000 working artists, and another 20,000 working in the sector, plus an annual GDP contribution of close to $1 billion.

NOVEMBER 2021 - We started asking arts orgs + artists more questions, including the most popular one:what if the arts sector had a technology help desk like other sectors do?

MARCH 2022 - By now we have learned that rural and remote arts communities are under-served and lack basic supports and services. So we launch ArtCoach workshops in partnership with arts orgs to try to start filling these gaps.

JUNE 2022 - We have to get to know each other if we want to work effectively as an ecosystem. So we launch a podcast to capture the stories about the artists, arts administrators and rabble-rousers who make up our arts ecosystem.

AUGUST 2022 - We make the link between collaborating as an ecosystem, and coordinating as one. So we build the first-ever All Islands Event Calendar. This is the most popular page on our website now.

NOVEMBER 2022 - We translate what we learned from the spring workshops to pilot a Central Island digital creation hub in Qualicum Beach, staffed with an awesome coach. In March 2023, Comox opens a second hub.

SEPTEMBER 2022 - The more we talk to arts orgs and artists throughout the super-region, the more we understand how under-served some areas are. So we make a map to visualize what does and doesn't exist.

JANUARY 2023 - Now that we know quite a bit about the opportunities and gaps in our arts ecosystem, we embark on the next logical step: Creative Economic Development. The insights we are sharing on our blog page are read by hundreds of people each week.

The spark that launched this entire Creative Coast adventure was a June 2019 virtual meeting where we asked two BIG and GOOD questions.
 

  1. What if we’re an arts and culture powerhouse? 

  2. If we are, what do we want to do about it?

 

These questions were intended to explore the intersectionality of our super-region’s unique characteristics: a geographically boundaried ecosystem teeming with arts and culture and heritage, with enviable and under-leveraged strengths in tourism, cultural tourism and creative economic development. 

We are proud to report that, since June 2019, we have leveraged close to $1.5 million to build our knowledge base about the sector, identify structural and relational gaps, measure impact, and research and develop strategic paths forward.

Here is a brief summary of what we've been up to since we asked those two BIG and GOOD questions.

In September 2019, six arts councils decided to see they could start to answer these two big questions by working together in unprecedented ways. They obtained a Canada Council for the Arts grant and formed the Digital Innovation Group (DIG) - the mother of Creative Coast. By the end of this immersive two year project, (the members met weekly throughout the pandemic) - all 30 arts councils were connecting through DIG and benefitting from their insights and research.)

 

Being able to talk to arts councils in all corners of the super-region accelerated our ability to understand challenges, needs and opportunities. Each interaction led us to ask more and more questions

 

Remarkably, all questions pointed to a singular solution: a shared services model. This model would facilitate access to marketing, revenue diversification, data analytics, tech support and other services fundamental to business development.... supports sectors like tourism and technology have had in place for decades.

 

Endorsement of this model has been resounding since day one, and has grown exponential in the following years. Arts administrators and artists alike instantly jump on the idea, and tell us their ability to innovate and grow their businesses - and de facto our sector, cannot happen without this level of supports. Our sector's potential is constrained by the absence of these fundamental business supports.

By early 2021, we were gathering insights into another sectoral constraint: rural, remote, Indigenous and other equity-denied communities were fundamentally under-served by the arts sector. So we found funding for a new initiative we call ArtCoach to start to fill these gaps - the most pressing being digital and business supports and services. 

 

DIG's biggest accomplishment was to initiate and oversee the first ever All Islands Arts Impact Study in mid 2021. And DIG's biggest insight was that it is impossible to innovate off the side of one's desk. So we wrote another grant to create a Regional Coordinator position, the first time a sub-region in BC has had a coordinator.

In the fall of 2021, we presented our impact study's findings to the Vancouver Island Economic Summit. This was the first time the arts sector had ever presented to this annual summit, and our presentation was well received.

 

The data gathered during this study validated our curiousity about our potential as an arts and culture powerhouse, and opened doors to dozens of new collaborations and partnerships. 

 

Our network has now expanded to other segments of the sector, including dance, music and theatres organizations, and to local and national arts organizations such as the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, BC Museums Association, First Peoples Cultural Council (Canada Council recognized arts org), ArtsBC, CAPACOA, Creative Manitoba, Independent Media Arts Alliance and Mass Culture. 

 

Formal connections have now been established with academic institutions such as Simon Fraser University and Vancouver Island University, as well as the national non-profit research body Mass Culture. 

 

In addition, fundamental cross-sectoral alliances have been formed with Indigenous and non-Indigenous economic, business and tourism development organizations such as the Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation, Community Futures, the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance, Tourism Vancouver Island, and the Rural Islands Economic Partnership. 

 

These partnerships and mobilizations are slowly but surely shifting the internal and external narrative about the arts sector in the super-region from ‘drain’ to ‘driver’, and strengthening our sectoral transformation imperative.   

 

In early 2023, after hundreds and hundreds of one-on one engagements, thousands of survey responses, dozens of new collaborative partners, and a mailing list that grows effortlessly daily, we feel confident we are continuing to ask BIG and GOOD questions, and we know without a doubt that working together is the only way to find innovative solutions. 

This year's question is about integrated our super-region's strengths in arts and culture, tourism and economic development: what if a Creative Economic Development Strategy is the right path to achieving economic and social well-being and resilience?

 

Our just-announced $500k Government of Canada New Frontiers in Research Special Call grant is specifically designed to help our super-region gather precisely the data we need to start to answer this new question.

We have now been invited to present about an Inclusive Creative Economy at the fall 2023 Vancouver Island Economic Summit!

 

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Pol.is 'where is your digital pain?' survey taken by 250 arts sector workers and artists. Delivered in partnership with ArtsBC. Read final report (November 2021)

Nordicity - Vancouver Island Arts Impact Study full report and infographic (October 2021)

Nordicity - How-to-guide for using Impact Study results (November 2021)

Nordicity - Digital Organizational Change Research Report - assessment of six arts councils (January 2021)

Go to digarts.ca/resources to see full range of 2020-2021 research reports, workshops and audits. 

Orange lucky cat toy with a purple background.
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