A Coalition is [re] Born

Dear Arts Service Organization Colleagues,

During the 2008 federal election campaign, advocacy efforts of the Canadian Arts Coalition – Canada’s largest consortium of arts, culture and heritage supporters – and others resulted in unprecedented media attention and public debate about the value of and need for public investment in the cultural sector. Since that time, many artists, organizations and supporters have continued to advocate for increased investment. However, post-election, the collective effort of the coalition has faded. Without central coordination, the sector is potentially advancing conflicting messages, leaving the government confused about our collective priorities at a time when money is tight and choices must be made.

An early fall election was narrowly avoided in September. Had it been triggered, we would have been sorely unprepared to launch a national arts and culture lobby, let alone one with the same reach and impact as in 2008. The question is not if there will be an election, but when.

In the absence of the CAC, alliances such as the Mouvement pour les arts et les lettres, Performing Arts Alliance (PAA) and Visual Arts Alliance have continued to coordinate messages and keep lines of communication open. However, as an election approaches, a more widely representative collective action is essential to advancing the priorities of the sector. With this in mind, the PAA convened representatives from National Arts Service Organizations and equivalent groups in late October. Attendees discussed a proposed re-launch of a national arts coalition to coordinate the messages and actions of the arts sector during the next federal election campaign. The proposal, drafted by the Canadian Dance Assembly, received an enthusiastic response and incited much discussion about how to collectively keep arts issues on the public and political agenda.

At the end of the organizing meeting, there was unanimous agreement to form a non-partisan arts coalition specifically to lobby on behalf of arts issues. The short-term goals of the coalition will include two specific asks that coalition members will advocate to all parties: 1) increase the annual budget of the Canada Council for the Arts to $300 million; and 2) invest in a new market access and development fund – an investment measure aimed, in part, at replacing cut programs that supported international touring and dissemination.

Membership in the Coalition is open to any national arts service organization or equivalent that represents a significant number of arts, culture or heritage stakeholders, supports one or both of the asks, and participates in and promotes the work of the Coalition. Coalition membership is $100 plus we will need significant financial contributions in addition to membership fees. Membership in the Coalition entitles the organization to nominate and vote for a national steering committee and to participate in the work of the Coalition. The seven-person national steering committee will consist of two co-chairs and five other volunteers. Four of the steering committee members must be experienced in previous Canadian Arts Coalition activities.

A volunteer interim steering committee has been formed to guide this membership recruitment and voting phase of our work. We have committed to launching membership recruitment and the nominations process within the next few weeks. We will be conducting as much of the activity as possible online and keeping you informed through email and updates to the Coalition’s Facebook page and website.

The interim steering committee is:

Katherine Carleton, Orchestras Canada / Orchestre Canada, co-chair
Bastien Gilbert, Conférence des collectifs et des centres d’artistes autogérés / Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference, co-chair
Éric Dubeau, Fédération culturelle canadienne-française
Melissa Gruber, Canadian Artists’ Representation / Le Front des artistes canadiens
Shannon Litzenberger, Canadian Dance Assembly / Assemblé canadienne de la danse
Christina Loewen, Opera.ca
Christina J. Murray, Association of Canadian Choral Communities/Association des communautés chorales canadiennes
Lucy White, Professional Association of Canadian Theatres

Once the national steering committee is formed, next steps will include the creation of working groups to embrace such tasks as strategy development, communications, regional animation, and finance and resources.

Animating the widest possible number of supporters for the Coalition will be a critical factor in our success in getting our messages to each and every MP. Although membership in the Coalition will be reserved for paying organizations, participation will be encouraged through our many networks of colleagues, members, audiences, volunteers and other stakeholders.

The [re] formation of a national arts coalition is another milestone in the maturation of the Canadian arts community. Participation is open to all and we hope that you too will join the movement!

Shannon Litzenberger & Lucy White, for the Canadian Arts Coalition

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