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Vancouver Islander leads nation-wide project showcasing innovation

Project highlights resilience in the arts and culture sector during pandemic
Kathleen Darby is leading a nation-wide project called Cultural Resilience: Using Innovation to Stabilize in Times of Crisis, which showcases the arts and culture sector’s innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Kathleen Darby)

A Ladysmith local is the leader of a nation-wide project which showcases resilience and innovation in the arts sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cultural Resilience: Using Innovation to Stabilize in Times of Crisis project is led by the Creative City Networks of Canada (CCNC), in partnership with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO), Les Arts et la Ville and the Cultural Human Resources Council.

Phase one of the two phase research initiative saw the release of a special report, which features 29 stories of resillience in the art sector during the pandemic.

“It’s really interesting to go through a process like this and give voice to people who are experiencing this pandemic and particularly the arts sector and in large part the live performing arts sector that has suffered so immensely,” said Kathleen Darby, CCNC executive director and Ladysmith local. “I feel really grateful that we have been able to give voice to some of the people who still tried to keep us all sane throughout this pandemic.”

The CCNC is an organization that represents municipal culture workers. Those who are employed by municipalities and who are working on arts and culture. After the pandemic forced the organization to cancel its annual summit two years in a row, Darby decided to seek funding for a new project “that would get really right into the grassroots of what people on the ground — whether they are artists or arts organizations [or] historical organizations like museums — what are they doing in order to weather the pandemic and how are they doing it,” she said.

The project used storytelling to highlight 200 artists and arts organizations across Canada.

“The idea was to look for stories of innovation, whether that be digital or analogue innovation and there was a focus point for those stories, so they would either have to be stories where the organization maintained its audience or even if they weren’t able to maintain their audience, they grew their audience in some way,” Darby said.

The CCNC hired Hill Strategies Research to put together the phase one report, highlighting 29 of the stories. It aimed to show how Canadian organizations re-imagined what they offer when faced with the pandemic’s limiting influence and found their reach could be more than they expected, geographically and demographically.

“Amidst multiple crises and challenges that society continues to face, the report showcases the innovative ways that artists and arts, culture and heritage organizations have found to not only survive but thrive through their creativity and resilience,” said Roda Muse, secretary general of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. “This fills me with hope and inspiration. This work reminds us that the arts nourish our communities and help us confront difficult times together with courage and open hearts.”

Ten Vancouver Island stories were told as part of the project and one was highlighted in the report. The Carving on the Edge festival in Tofino was one of the 29 highlighted stories.

Stories were chosen through a nomination process, according to Darby — she noted the project does not reflect all innovation that happened in the sector during the pandemic.

Phase two of the project will a professional development program, with tool-based training. The third phase will be using the findings from the project to create policy recommendations for different levels of government to help support arts and culture.

The project was funded partly through a strategic initiatives grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Canada Cultural Investment Fund. It was estimated to be a $350,000 project, according to Darby. She said half came from the federal grant and the rest was from project partners.



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