Friday, October 30, 2009

Raising Awareness of the Arts (in Canada?)

There is interesting news out of Canada about a new arts awareness campaign that is being launched. I know many of the folks involved in this from my years running the national Arts & Business Council, followed by my years at Americans for the Arts after the merger of the two. I attended a few of the Canadian Arts Summit gatherings, of which this campaign is (indirectly) an outcome, and worked closely with the Canadian equivalent of the Arts & Business Council (CBAC, now known as "Business for the Arts"). I had always felt the Canadian Arts Summit is a great model to replicate in the US - there is frankly nothing like it here. Since 1998, the convening brings together every year the board chairs, executive director or managing directors, and artistic directors of the 50 largest Canadian arts organizations across all disciplines - museum, opera, symphony, theatre, dance, presenting, etc. This makes for fascinating conversations at the highest level about governance, cultural policy, audiences, and artistic trends. This is different from what Americans for the Arts' National Arts Policy Roundtable does, different from Aspen - NOTHING akin to this happens in this country that brings together artistic, managment and volunteer leadership from our most influential organizations representing a broad array of geography and artistic practice. It is not perfect - arts councils and service organizations are not represented, nor are small grassroots groups. But in terms of clout and high-level networking, this gathering is quite a powerhouse.

And this awareness campaign is an outgrowth of that. Again, this appears to be very different from "Art. Ask for More" - the Americans for the Arts PSA campaign. That campaign is about very specifically targeting parents to advocate for more arts education in their schools  a valuable message but a much narrower one. The Canadian effort is about raising broad public awareness of the importance of the arts in our lives and in our communities, and I think - like the Canadian Arts Summit - that is something we very much need in this country.

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