Have you Upgraded your #ArtPresenting OS Yet?

July 7, 2016 – The 3.0 version is out, says Brian McCurdy, in his post entitled The Evolution of Presenting Practice. And in the 3.0 model, municipal performing arts centres fulfill the role of community cultural developer.

The Shell Theatre is one of many municipal presenters in Canada. It is operated by the City of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, within the Dow Centennial Centre.
Stage view from the Shell Theatre in Fort Saskatchewan.

According to Brian, community cultural developers perform two main tasks. First, they curate presenting seasons that bring cultural offerings not met by either commercial rentals or local performing groups. Second, they support the development of local performing arts organizations and artists. They also intervene in a range of other areas such as education, community engagement, downtown re-development and social equity.

This blog post offers much food for thought.

The presenting practice and the ecosystem in which it takes place have evolved significantly over the last 50 years. Over these years, the sector has had several opportunities for dialogue about the practice. In 2007, Cultural Human Resources Council, in partnership with RIDEAU, Fédération culturelle canadienne-française and CAPACOA, published two key documents: the Presenters Competency Profile, and the Presenters Training Gap Analysis. While both documents were the result of a rigorous consultative process, they ended up with divergent views on the role of the presenter vis-a-vis the artist: the Competency Profile considered 'contribution to artist development' a key competence for presenters; the Training Gap Analysis concluded that it was not an essential competence. The Value of Presenting delved a bit deeper in the topic and uncovered more nuanced views. Seven in ten arts presenting organizations (69%) felt that presenters have an important role in assisting local artists. Opinion was more divided over whether presenters currently play a very large role in supporting artists by providing professional and artistic development opportunities. While half of responding organizations (51%) felt this was true, 25% disagreed and 22% believed that presenters play a moderate role. Smaller organizations were less likely to feel they had a role in supporting artists, but presenters in urban areas were more likely. Brian’s post confirms what we’ve heard through The Value of Presenting and at round tables at Ontario Contact in 2010: municipal presenters and larger presenters do have a role in supporting local performing arts organizations and artists. In fact, this has become even more critical as many of the traditional performing arts organizations are declining, and are replaced by a more entrepreneurial generation of professional who are less inclined to incorporate as a non-profit (see Jane Marlsand’s Shared Platforms And Charitable Venture Organizations for more on this topic)

Brian’s post also speaks to the importance of aligning with municipal cultural plan. The same could also be said of national funding programs.

Let’s take the Canada Arts Presentation Fund (CAPF). Some of the activities described as pertaining to the role of community cultural developer are not eligible or do not fit the objectives for funding under CAPF.  For example, presentation of local artists is eligible and so are residencies with outreach purpose.  However, contribution to artistic development through commissions or co-productions is ineligible. The rationale for this exclusion is that creation and production activities are to be funded exclusively by the Canada Council for the Arts. As a corollary to this logic, the Canada Council’s New Funding Model introduced a component that provides core funding to arts festivals and presenters for “artistic programming and activities to support artists, strengthen artistic practice and build relationships.” However, the scope of this component is national and global – rather removed from the support to local artists described by Brian and captured in The Value of Presenting.

This raises a few of critical questions:

  • Support to local artists is a dead spot in arts funding programs, especially when it takes the form of co-productions and commissions. If multi-disciplinary presenters (municipal and non-profit) can’t receive funding to support local artists, who’s supposed to take the slack?
  • If the practice of supporting local artists and arts organizations is already well established in the sector, should funding programs align with the practice rather than the other way around?

We are thankful to Brian McCurdy and to Ontario Presents for taking on the Municipal Performing Arts Centre Project and for moving forward the dialogue on the state of performing arts presentation.


Author: Frédéric Julien


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