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Power of the People: Yukon Arts Summit Makes Change

Power of the People: Yukon Arts Summit Makes Change

Breakout sessions brought people together to reflect and to pollinate new thinking.

 

By Inga Petri 

Article originally published on Strategic Moves Blog December 4, 2014 and reproduced with permission of the author. 

 

Over 100 performing and visual arts presenters from across Yukon gathered during four days in November to develop concrete action plans for a strong, unified arts sector. The summit was designed to create a space where all participants would shape the outcomes – at once encouraging collaboration and inviting each person’s leadership. It was remarkable to be a witness – and contributor – to this process.

The energy in the room was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  The work that got done, the plans that were committed to, will transform the way the Yukon arts and cultural communities work with each other, and present themselves to their stakeholders, the rest of Canada and beyond. People here not only dream big, they make big things happen. It seems they can’t help it; it is in their nature.

The summit outcomes will prove their transformative power over the next weeks, months and years.

Several key elements came together to create a summit like no other I have ever seen:

  • An attitude that set out to “Help the Best get Better” and that delivered. Indeed the best had gathered together at this summit: 100% of First Nations Cultural Centres attended, as well as 86% of the First Nations in the Yukon, and the same proportion of all the communities across the territory. All participants had a voice and used it, shared experiences, told stories and offered new thinking that could create significant change. Both performing and visual arts were actively included, and many artistic disciplines within these were well-represented. Presenters, producers, practicing artists, funders, board members and consultants all worked together throughout. Just imagine such a truly inclusive gathering of active, ready-to-work participants in BC, Ontario or the Maritimes!
  • Action-oriented summit design. There were only 5 presentations/ workshops during the summit: place-based cultural tourism, collaboration, network development, marketing and funding. Each was followed by three local responders, rather than the often used Q&A format, who reflected briefly on each presentation (what resonated, what didn’t and action items) , followed by professionally facilitated breakout sessions designed to connect, reflect and plan.
  • Deliberate creation of spaces for reflection, and spaces for action planning. This was ingenious. The summit organizers invited participants along this journey, always stretching themselves along the way, and by day 4, the work had been done to achieve agreement on several major community-led initiatives: to establish a collaborative network of presenters, create a touring network, establish a network for First Nations Cultural Centres; and to put the arts and cultural sector into the driver seat in terms of their contribution to Yukon tourism.

As an outside expert I was asked to participate in the whole conference. For me that meant there was a great deal of casual, hallway type conversation about anything that was on participants’ minds, mixed with formal opportunities to meet whether in a MatchUp program or over dinner. As a result I formed much deeper, richer connections with carefully thinking, smart people from all parts of Yukon, who were exploring how to use their understanding, new information and leadership for their communities’ benefit and the greater good. Listening and asking good questions can be much more powerful than speaking or telling.

My hope is that this new kind of close-knit, yet open network, grounded in shared leadership and personal commitments for specific actions, will become a beacon for established and new networks elsewhere.

 

Inga's work is nationally recognized for the landmark study on The Value of Presenting:  A Study of Performing Arts Presentation in Canada (©2013) commissioned by Canadian Arts Presenting Association (CAPACOA) and for providing strategic insight, championing contemporary marketing practices, and delivering practical training in the arts sector.

To view the original article written December 4, 2014  please follow this link.

We Look For Fire

We Look For Fire

 

We are compelled to gather around fires.  Ever since the dawn of mankind, people have been gathering wherever they see a fire—it signified community, food, warmth, survival.  In the wilderness, a fire was the difference between life and death.  But it was also a place where we shared our community, our culture—and shared stories that lit our imaginations. 

We are compelled to gather in the dark around these fires.  Going to the theatre has become a way for us to sit back in the dark, anonymous, not on stage, but still receive something personal and intimate from the lights and the performance, still feel the community in the flickering stage lights.  It’s primal, this gathering—and we will do it in high school gymnasiums, in living rooms, at bonfires, at summer camps, at bars—and yes, when we kindle the desire to create a permanent space for the Arts, we gather there—in those halls, galleries, black boxes, stages and cinemas. 

And there, we still look for fire. 

We look for something to inspire us.   To make us excited.  To make us smile.  Or cringe, or jump, or dance, or remember, or change.  We look for a mirror and we look for a portal and we look to travel there and back again.  What happens on a stage transforms us because it’s in our cultural and historical DNA---we are ready to receive story, ready to recognize ourselves, ready to meet new ideas, ready to open our hearts to change, ready to rally in support of a future we couldn’t imagine as perfectly as when someone, lit by fire, tells us about their visions of what could be.  Or sings of what they feel.  Or dances what they’ve discovered.  Or paints what they have dreamed.

The Arts are a bonfire of remembrance and reckoning and resurrection, celebration and community, and by that heat and light we survive.  We pass down to the next generation all that is important in our culture when we gather around these fires, wherever they are. 

We invite you to celebrate our fireplace.  The Yukon Arts Centre was created 20 years ago.  Come hear the story again for the first time…first in these blogposts, and then on our special March 23rd 20th Anniversary show. 

Come share our fire with us.  It was always yours to begin with.
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(photo by Tristan Schmurr)