The following is our preliminary letter of intent to Open Door program at Toronto Arts Council to implement a series of Phase Two Pilot Projects with up to twenty independent music, theatre, dance and intermedia artists in Toronto beginning in spring and summer of 2016.
The challenge or opportunity that is being addressed by this project
Across Toronto and the rest of Canada, artists, curators, educators, producers, managers and funders alike are all seeking genuine and constructive solutions to many of the same systemic issues, including:
- declining audiences
- aging and retiring leaders
- explosive growth in mid-career and new generation artists
- shortfalls in (and/or, over-reliance on) public funding
- dominance of old and inflexible models (including charitable governance and fundraising)
- demand for new and entrepreneurial models, tools and technologies to help cultivate a more responsive and resilient sector.
Increasingly, vital solutions to these and other challenges can be found both within and outside of the arts, including:
- New Models
The evolution of Charitable Venture Organizations (i.e., Tides Canada in the social and environmental sector) promotes viable alternatives addressing the needs of independent artists dissatisfied with traditional pathways to non-profit, charitable governance and development. In the arts, the recent or ongoing efforts of Jane Marsland, Daniel Bernhard, Metcalf Foundation, Ontario Nonprofit Network’s Shared Platform Constellation and many others have also contributed to the growing awareness of the relevance and feasibility of the Charitable Venture model.
- New Technologies
Across Canada, the legacy of established online portals and resources (i.e., TheCadac.ca) suggests there is now a sufficient critical mass to support the launch of new and increasingly robust and interactive, ‘second generation’ administrative tools and shared, collaborative platforms online.
- New Learnings
The growing popularity of open source and for-profit eLearning platforms (i.e., Moodle.org, Lynda.com, SkillsShare.com) suggests there are also readily scalable, quality tech-based alternatives available to traditional arts learning discussions that can engage younger audiences and train the next generation of arts leaders in all regions of the country in an interactive, flexible and economically sustainable manner.
The following proposal for ArtsPond is a direct, focused and timely response to this ‘perfect storm’ of vital challenges, new opportunities, models and technologies.
A summary of the proposed initiative and why it is important at this time
At ArtsPond, our long-term objectives are to develop a roster of innovative shared platforms and services that empower the full arch of Canadian artists’ and arts professionals’ careers, from skills acquisition, sustained creation and development, to health and retirement planning, and more.
While each generation requires its own unique family of investments, the vision of ArtsPond is to utilize the power of modern technology to facilitate a deeper collective dialogue and to scale a broad range of critical tools and resources nationally across all artistic disciplines. We seek to become positive incubators and agents for change by utilizing the versatility of interactive and secure web and mobile platforms to democratize access to dynamic support services in the arts regardless of age, language, ability, region, culture, ethnicity, or income. Reflecting the diversity of Toronto and the rest of Canada is a critical component of our vision and strategic plan, and from the outset we also endeavour to implement innovative new models, resources and platforms that are accessible to aboriginal and francophone communities, communities with disabilities, culturally diverse communities, new generation and geographically remote artists, and more.
As an emerging national, multidisciplinary Charitable Venture Organization (the first of its kind exclusively for the arts in Canada), ArtsPond strives to enable the creative and professional development goals of the entire arts sector through the launch of four robust web and ‘bricks & mortar’ platforms:
- Influx (afflux)
Charitable governance and fundraising without the need for independent arts entities to incorporate on their own
- Zip (élan)
Shared administrative tools and human resources, including project management, finance, marketing, publicity, group benefits (payroll, insurance, investing), and more
- Verge (bord)
Comprehensive arts learning for audiences, artists and arts professionals
- Fuse (fuseé)
Professional networking for artists and arts professionals (curators, educators, presenters, managers and producers)
We are requesting funding from Open Door to implement our planned Phase Two Pilot Projects in collaboration with selected independent Toronto artists and arts entities beginning in the late spring and summer of 2016 through to fall 2017. The proposed Pilot will allow us to implement and update the initial two support systems above (Influx & Zip) among a targeted subset of the Toronto arts community prior to an estimated full public launch nationally in summer 2018 (Phase Three).
The Pilot also builds upon planned Phase One activities including preliminary functional needs assessments and Ontario-wide community roundtables (summer 2015 to winter 2016), as well as additional Phase Two Pilot Projects in mid-sized communities outside Toronto with projected support from Ontario Arts Council; Ontario Trillium Foundation; Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Sport; and, Canada Council for the Arts.
How your project aligns with one or more of the funding categories
- New models and innovations
ArtsPond responds to emerging and longstanding, systemic issues in the sector by fostering new ways of thinking and launching new models, tools and platforms that foster innovations in the governance, development, dissemination and administration of art in all disciplines.
- Market development
Magic happens when artists, educators and producers come together. As an ‘umbrella’ entity, ArtsPond has the capacity to break down creative and administrative barriers and facilitate new partnerships, networks, and collaborative opportunities among our families of sponsored projects, audiences and internal human resources locally and nationally. Over the long-term, this should have a positive, constructive impact on the market development for Toronto artists across the country.
- Exceptional opportunities
There is a fundamental shift happening in the arts ecology now. The precedents for arts-based CVOs are currently unfounded and open to community feedback and interpretation. The evolution of ArtsPond represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address many of these unique circumstances and to elevate the arts sector as a whole with focused input from the community.
Your organizational track record and why your organization or collective should lead this project
A new, leading initiative in the community, ArtsPond currently lacks an established track record. Nevertheless, each of our founding core constituents are all well-respected leaders in their fields and collectively hold over 200 years of experience developing and leading successful initiatives in Canadian arts and culture.
The impact of the project and how it will be measured
The success of the project will be measured through online surveys and intensive one-on-one interviews with project participants, staff, advisors and advocates. Key measurements of success include:
- Increased efficiency
By eliminating redundancies and increasing the efficiency of their critical support systems, ArtsPond should allow artists to spend less time on administration and more on art.
- Increased collaboration
Through the sharing of ArtsPond’s robust administrative tools and platforms, artists from different disciplines will become more aware of another’s individual works and ways of working. By eliminating redundancies and reducing administrative loads, sponsored artists and producers will also have more time and resources available to explore new artistic and administrative collaborations within their own communities and, quite possibly, with new connections shared through the ArtsPond network.
- Increased revenues
It will take time for ArtsPond’s support systems to generate new sources of revenue for artists. Nevertheless, the Pilot should help redirect the participating artists’ plans and strategies to diversify their revenues into the future.
- Virtual vs. Bricks & Mortar
While new technology is expensive upfront, shared HR is costly over the long run. The Pilot will help confirm which needs of artists today are best supported through virtual tools, by on the ground, ‘bricks & mortar’ human resources, or a mixture of the two. Getting this balance right will have a fundamental impact on the future success of both ArtsPond and the arts sector.