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THINKING COLLABORATIVELY ACTING COLLECTIVELY Creating a Collaborative Learning Community for Indigenous and Ethno-Racial Artists in Ontario .

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Thinking Collaboratively – Acting Collectively: Creating and Operating a Collaborative Learning Community for Indigenous and Ethno-Racial Artists in Ontario.Over the past six months Jane Marsland examined the available literature on the concept of shared platforms in their broadest context – from simply sharing office space to the ideas of charitable venture organizations. A particular emphasis of her research was to investigate new collaboration systems in both the for-profit sector as well as the arts.


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Creating a Collaborative Learning Community for Indigenous and Ethno-Racial Artists in Ontario.

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1. CPAMO: The Story so Far ... 12. Background Research ... 63. Current Environment & Policy Context ... 94. Moving to a Collaborative Approach: Why a Shared Learning Platform? ... 165. Models for Collaborative Support Structures ... 206. Preferred Collaborative Model for CPAMO ... 247. Conclusion/Recommendations ... 358. Acknowledgements ... 389. References/resources ... 39

Paper prepared by: Jane Marsland

In consultation with: charles c. smith, CPAMO Board & Advisory Committee

We would like to thank our funders, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, for their support.

Graphic design by Victoria Glizer

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Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO) began officially in 2009 as a movement of Indigenous and ethno-racial artists seeking opportunities to engage with presenters across Ontario and to enable presenters to develop constructive relationships with Indigenous and ethno-racial artists.

However, there was much that happened before then to get to this point. In 2002, the now Executive Director of CPAMO, charles c. smith, began meeting with artists and presenters to get a sense of the issues, challenges and concerns in the arts communities and to understand what might need to be done to promote more diverse performances on stages across Ontario. At first he met with representatives of the SONY Centre, Community Arts Ontario (no longer in existence), the Hispanic Development Council, CAHOOTS Theatre, Modern Times Theatre, Nathaniel Dett Chorale, Community Cultural Impresarios (CCI and now Ontario Presents), Creative Trust, Centre for Indigenous Theatre and others.

He then met with representatives of funding agencies, including the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council.

In this process, it was clear that all consulted felt there was an urgent need for some focus to increase the access of Indigenous and ethno-racial artists to presenting venues. Artists had worked for years to both create work and present it themselves and many found that the latter was taking away from what their main interest was, i.e., creation and performing. Some of these artists did not have strong, or any, capacities to market and promote their work and often worked in venues that were not the best sites for their performances, e.g., in community centres, religious institutions and other non-arts spaces.



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While the process to build CPAMO into what it now is started in 2002, it wasn’t until a partnership developed between Ontario Presents that CPAMO received its first grants from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts. Following this, CPAMO was successful in receiving grants from the Ontario Arts Council and the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation (as it was then). These funds, mostly administered by Ontario Presents, were for projects to support building a relationship between Indigenous, ethno-racial artists and presenters – a process that started in January 2010.

Presenters were seeing the dramatic demographic changes in their communities and were not very familiar with whom these new and rapidlygrowing communities were, how to communicate with them and the kinds of cultural productions they were interested in seeing. Funders were concerned about the equally rapid growth in grant applications and how best to address these in terms of available funds, criteria for assessment, jurors who could assess the work and how successful funded artists might be in an environment of rapid demographic change.

“ Pluralism, collaboration, and new methodologies for cultural production are central tenets of CPAMO’s mandate. What better way to manifest these principles than a shared platform? Combining energy and resources will assist Aboriginal and ethno-racial organizations, allowing them to share expenses, exchange skills and knowledge, co-mentor, combine marketing campaigns, collaborate on audience engagement strategies, and so much more. Coming to-gether in this manner will help create an energetic engagement with diversity and relationships based on understanding across lines of artistic and cultural difference, and that can only help to bolster artistic innovation and the vitality of Canada’s cultural sector.”

- Rebecca Burton, Membership and Professional Contracts Manager, Equity in Theatre Co-Organizer, Playwrights Guild of Canada


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At the centre of CPAMO’s work is the belief in pluralism as a way to move beyond simply acknowledging culturally diverse arts organizations which can still leave cultural groups isolated with little interaction among them and those responsible for more established arts venues that represent European cultural productions. CPAMO seeks to achieve an energetic engagement with diversity and actively seeks to build relationships based on under-standing across lines of artistic and cultural difference as well as engaging the Eurocentric culture, so we get to know and more fully understand each other. CPAMO works to establish a new paradigm of pluralism where we do not leave our identities and beliefs behind, instead we hold our genuine differences not in isolation, but in relationship to each other. This level of understanding is achieved through dialogue, a process of talking and listening to each other to reveal our common understandings and authentic differences.

An example of this is evident in CPAMO’s work in the dance community. The Canadian Dance Assembly/L’Assembléecanadienne de la danse has developed a short piece on pluralism which is appended to this report. A very helpful element of this piece is the differences between diversity and pluralism which is extracted below.


DIVERSITY VS. PLURALISMPluralism is a positive response to diversity.

Diversity (in the absence of pluralism)

Tolerates differences

Creates exclusion

Elicits division

Creates passive observance

Risks conformity

Exists in isolation

Is a reality

Pluralism (in response to diversity)

Values differences

Promotes inclusion

Encourages cooperation

Nurtures active engagement

Encourages mutual exchange

Requires compromise

Is a choice

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In this context, CPAMO has functioned as a network of Indigenous and ethno-racial artists involved in theatre, music, dance, visual and literary arts. They are members of CPAMO’s Roundtable and include representatives of Sampradaya Dance, Nathaniel Dett Chorale, Little Pear Garden Theatre Collective, Centre for Indigenous Theatre, Kaha:wi Dance, b-current, urban arts and backforward collective, TeyyaPeya Productions, Culture Days, Lua Shayenne and Company, Obsidian Theatre, the Collective of Black Artists, CanAsian Dance and others.

CPAMO has been very effective in developing relationships and partnerships to achieve many of its goals. CPAMO has worked very closely with Ontario Presents, Canadian Dance Assembly, the IMPACT Festival in Kitchener-Waterloo, cultur-al organizations in Ottawa and their members to build their capacities, cultural competencies and understanding of pluralism in the arts so that these members engage artists from these communities and, thereby, enable audiences across Ontario to access artistic expressions from diverse communities on a regular basis.

CPAMO’s overarching goal is to help foster the creation of high quality art from diverse backgrounds and support its presentation on all stages in Ontario. To move this work into spaces where it can be seen and enjoyed by everyone who is interested in the performing arts and the stories of all the people of Ontario.

To achieve this, CPAMO is committed to a grassroots approach, always shaping its programs and activities from the members needs.

Over the past five years CPAMO has engaged a significant number of arts organizations, artists, facilitators to provide very successful workshops.


CPAMO workshop at Flato Markham Theatre in 2011. Photo by Pam Lau.

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CPAMO has been involved in six principle activities: 1) coordinating public forums/Town Halls on pluralism in the arts; 2) providing showcases of Indigenous and ethno-racial artists; 3) coordinating professional development opportunities; 4) engaging in networking activities within the arts; 5) conducting research and promoting member activities; 6) delivering presentations at conferences and other forums. (For more detailed information on this and the CPAMO history, see

CPAMO has recently incorporated as a non-profit organization. CPAMO felt this was a necessary step to more effectively respond to the changes in the arts ecosystem. CPAMO believes it must be a catalytic entity to support change for Indigenous and ethno-racial artists and arts organization, in the arts sector and in the broader community as well.

It is at this point that CPAMO commissioned this report to research possible shared platform models and provide recommendations for moving forward.


CPAMO Worskhop at CSI Spadina, Toronto, 2011. Photo by Kevin A. Ormsby

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Over the past six months I examined the available literature on the concept of shared platforms in their broadest context – from simply sharing office space to the ideas of charitable venture organizations. A particular emphasis of my research was to investigate new collaboration systems in both the for-profit sector as well as the arts.

Over the same period there have been two focus group sessions, two board meetings and three advisory committee sessions to gain a betterunderstanding of what Indigenous and ethno-racial artists want and require in order to achieve their artistic visions. CPAMO has also surveyed its membership on several occasions to learn what its members wish to participate in and the level of relationship they wish to have with their peers.

Shared Charitable Platforms:

In my Metcalf Foundation paper, Shared Platforms and Charitable Venture Organizations, I examined the current state of the arts funding system and its impact on the development of arts organizations and artists.

“The number of arts organizations is growing faster than available funding, so the existing funding resources have had to be more thinly apportioned among a greater number of organizations. This leads to severe under-capitalization among all arts organizations, no matter their size or age. But the most pressing concern is that there is no longer sufficient growth in public arts funding to allow emerging art-ists to enter the system in any significant way.”


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The two key factors that I felt were contributing to the impasse in the arts funding system were:

1) “Growth in the numbers of arts organizations seeking government funding has far outstripped the growth of funds available.2) Retaining status as a stand-alone, charitable, non-profit organization requires too many resources and is no longer an efficient model for producing art.”

That paper went on to examine the role that shared charitable platforms/charitable venture organizations could provide to enhance support to the arts sector, especially for small and emerging arts entities.

For the purposes of this Report, I continued my research into shared charitable platforms. There have been a few interesting additions to the topic. As part of their Sector Signals series, Mowat NFP published, A Platform for Change, written by Elizabeth McIsaac and Carrie Moody. The report provided some examples of current shared platforms in the non profit sector and examined some of the successes as well as the challenges facing the development of shared charitable platforms. The Report made a number of recommendations on developing the concept, investing in it and the importance of continuing the learning.

The Ontario Nonprofit Network is currently producing A Guidebook for Shared Platforms for Nonprofit and Charitable Organizations. This Guide-book is primarily looking at Shared Charitable Platforms and “will provide practical information and resources to support organizations in how to structure and implement the model”. It is anticipated that the Guidebook will be released at the ONN’s Conference in October 20/21, 2015.

The Metcalf Foundation along with the Ontario Arts Council, Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts recently issued a Request for Proposals for a Shared Charitable Platform for the Arts. The funding partners will jointly contribute up to $200,000 per year for a three year


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period to establish a shared charitable platform for the arts. While there is no guarantee of ongoing funding, the proposal did indicate that should the platform require ongoing funding support it may be eligible to apply to regular programs after the pilot period.

CPAMO submitted a Request for Expressions of Intent and was invited to the June session which was intended to:

• further the conversation around shared charitable platforms, • help shape the process to apply for funding for both funders and potential applicants, and • invent some possible collaborative activities.

After some consideration, it was decided that the timing was too premature for CPAMO to try to establish a Shared Charitable Platform at this time and so CPAMO did not submit a Request for Proposal for a Shared Platform for the Arts. However, the concept of a shared charitable platform is still a part of CPAMO’s future thinking.

“In 2000 I met a woman who said to me: “In this new century it is vital that we learn to work together”. It has only been in the last few years that I have really understood those words. Alu-na Theatre is a small independent company with limited funding and human resources. Collaborations have become the key to our growth and artistic success. They permit us to reach more artists and audiences, but more importantly still, they allow us to understand who we are as artists and what our role is within the Canadian ecology. Further, they show us how to connect Canada to the rest of the Americas. Shared Platforms help us reach those goals.”

- Beatriz Pizano, Artistic Director, Aluna Theatre


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The Current Environment:

“The world we have created has outstripped our capacity to under-stand it. The scale of interconnectivity and interdependence has resulted in a step change in the complexity of the operating environ-ment. These new conditions are raising fundamental questions about our competence in key areas of governance, economy, sustainabil-ity and consciousness. We are struggling as professionals and in our private lives to meet the demands they are placing on traditional models of organisation, understanding and action. The anchors of identity, morality, cultural coherence and social stability are unravel-ling and we are losing our bearings. This is a conceptual emergency.” 1

The volatility of the current environment caused in part by the very rapid technological change has outpaced our capacity to fully understand it. We need to be constantly prepared for unpredictable, disruptive change. Our old mental model of trying to create a self-sustaining organization that can find the resources it needs to operate independently is no longer viable. We need to develop collaborative and systemic approaches to survive. We have to shift the lens from scarcity to abundance, from self-contained organizations to networks, from stable to flexible/adaptable.

A key aspect of the research was to gain an understanding of the rapidly changing environment for the arts. In particular, to try to determine the impact of the arts funding system’s inability to keep pace with the exploding number of artists coming into the system.



1. Graham Leicester and Maureen O’Hara. “Ten Things to Do in a Conceptual Emergency”. International Futures Forum, 2009.

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The theory and foundation on how arts organizations are structured and managed that was developed in the 60’s and 70’s no longer works in an environment of rapid change and instability. The nonprofit corporate foundation model that was imposed on artists because there was no other model for accountability available at that time. It is a linear, hierarchical and mechanistic structure. It also can be influenced by class structure as boards tend to come from the upper middle class and utilize those networks to develop resources for the organization. Indigenous and ethno-racial arts organizations are being hampered in their ability to determine the appropriate formats they need to create their art by the need to apply these structures and methods. At this point in time, Indigenous and ethno-racial arts entities also need to be able to develop and work within a structure/frame that is not filtered through the main-stream, privileged mindset.

Many artists who incorporated as nonprofit organizations and entered the arts funding system after 1990 have not been able to develop the resources to be a fully operational model with adequate staffing. They are generally under-capitalized so are always in a precarious position. Many artists coming into the system after 2000 have not even been able to develop an ongoing organizational structure. Many have had to continue to rely on income from unrelated work while struggling to find the resources to produce their own work. And the most disturbing aspect of this current state in the arts fund-ing system is that even project funding has not kept pace with the cost of producing art. Added to this is the challenge to emerging and artists from diverse backgrounds of the very competitive nature of the funding system due to the lack of resources in the arts funding system.

However, there has been an explosion in the expansion, range, diversity, productivity of artists working in non-formal, non-institutional formats. These artists are working new in formats by choice, not just waiting until they can grow into traditional organizations. Many of these organizing/pro-ducing models embrace the collaborative nature of the creative process.


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This crisis of funding has been particularly challenging for the development of the Indigenous and ethno-racial artists and arts organizations that had encountered systemic barriers to arts funding prior to the establishment of the Equity Office and the Aboriginal Arts Office at the Canada Council for the Arts in the early 1990’s. To begin to address this historical inequity, the Canada Council established the Capacity Building Initiative, which ran from 2001/02 to 2013/14.

“In 1999, the Canada Council recognized that culturally diverse organizations were far from receiving an appropriate level of funding equal to that of their peers in the mainstream arts milieu. The capacity-building program was created as a sunset initiative to address this gap. This priority was reflected in its 2002-2005 Corporate Plan.

To strengthen and sustain the creativity of Canada’s culturally diverse artists and organizations by ensuring they receive an appropriate level of funding and support in the form of grants and services.

The Capacity Building Initiative had four key goals to strengthen the capacity of Indigenous and ethno-racial arts organizations across Canada: to develop the administrative infrastructure of organizations; to better support artistic productivity and professional development of personnel, and to increase impact on the organization’s identified communities.” 2


2. Fernandez, Sharon. “Outcome Assessment of the Canada Council’s Aboriginal and Culturally Diverse Capacity-Building Programs”, 2008.

“Artists are like running water, they will find a path. Funders need to embrace their creativity in finding a new path.”

John Ryerson, Board Chair, CPAMO

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While organizations participating in the Initiative seemed mostly satisfied with the funding provided by the Capacity Building Initiative and felt that it should be continued, the program ended in 2014.

The impact of the end of the Capacity Building Initiative means Indigenous and ethno-racial arts organizations will continue to experience difficulty developing the resources they require to build organizations to support their artistic visions. As a response to this, Canada Council for the Arts began its ‘Cultivate’ Program in 2014 and this program is being offered again in 2015. However, it is unclear what will happen with this program in the Council’s scheme to revise all of its grant programs into four major categories for 2017.

More locally, while the Ontario Arts Council has an Aboriginal Office and specific funding programs in some of its disciplines for ‘culturally diverse artists, e.g., dance and visual arts, and has recently developed a program for deaf and disabled artists, it does not have a distinct overarching equity program like the Canada Council for the Arts. Further, aside from the recent creation of an Indigenous Arts Program, the Toronto Arts Council does not have any specific policies or programs to address these artists and arts organizations

To move forward, we will need to move beyond the exclusive focus on formal organizations as there are no longer the resources to build them. The new era will need to focus on networks and infrastructure, both internal and external. The focus will need to be about building an ecology of shared resources. In particular, we must develop a collabo-rative mindset. Collaboration is defined as a mutually dependent and reciprocal relationship, which fosters interdependence and reliance on others within the group. Successful collaboration acknowledges that everyone has ideas. This principle is a foundation for the development of a shared vision from which access to information, trust, respect, and participation flows. We will need to establish how to effectively support such a collaborative vision.


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As I conducted the research for this paper I came to the realization that just sustaining the existing infrastructure will not necessarily ensure a healthy and vital arts ecology. This is a bigger societal issue that demands big questions so clearly posed by Diane Ragsdale in her paper, Holding Up the Arts: Can we sustain what we’ve created? Should we?:

• “If governance largely means board members and leaders looking out for the future of their own institutions, then who is looking out for the interests of the community-at-large?• Who is able to recognize when we may be trying to sustain one arts institution at the expense of another, or many others?• Or trying to sustain an arts sector at the expense of other amenities or social services?• Or trying to sustain opera companies, orchestras, theatres, and dance companies at the expense of sustaining artists, creativity, culture and broad and deep engagement with the arts?”

As we work our way through these challenging times, developing the right questions might be more important initially than having the answers.

In our report, Seizing Permission: The TLC Toronto Initiative, we noted the increasing challenge of the resource distribution problem in the arts sector:

“These are challenging discussions as everyone is inclined to be protective of what they have, even in a dysfunctional system. It has been easier, and less contentious, to focus on the challenges of being under-resourced as a sector and assume that a solution to that challenge would automatically address the resource distributioninequities. But the traditional ‘trickle down’ structure in which large institutions receive the bulk of the resources with the expectation that these resources will be infused throughout the sector is out of step in a world in which exciting, dynamic and significant work is emerging in places disconnected from traditional power structures. Further, the entrenched model of resource distribution sustains


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historic patterns, which prevent the sector from realizing genuine equity and diversity.” 3

Some additional questions that might be posed from a pluralistic perspective for the future of the arts ecology are:

• Who is making the key decisions on who gets what resources in this time of constraint in the arts funding system?• Where do we start the conversation about pluralism and what that means in an arts ecosystem?• Is there a willingness on the part of the arts institutions to examine their mission and goals of the institution from a pluralistic perspective?

The Policy Context:

As part of my research, I tried to find examples of arts and cultural policies that reflected a pluralistic perspective. The diversity strategy developed by The Arts Council England best supported a pluralistic concept.

The Arts Council England has developed a diversity strategy which they have framed as “The Creative Case”.

“The creative case is based upon the simple observation that diversity,in the widest sense, is an integral part of the artistic process. It is an important element in the dynamic that drives art forward; thatinnovates it and brings it closer to a profound dialogue with contemporary society.

We need to recognise that art placed in the margins through structural barriers and antiquated and exclusive approaches has to be brought to the centre of our culture and valued accordingly. The Arts Council

3. Seizing Permission: The TLC Toronto Initiative, written & compiled by Anne Dunning, Jane Marsland & Nello McDaniel, ARTS Action Research, p.19


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believes that the creative case approach demands three interlocking progressions: Equality, Recognition, A New Vision.

EqualityThere has to be a continued drive for equality to remove barriers in the arts world, releasing and realising potential and helping to transform the arts so that they truly reflect the reality of the diverse country that we have become but still do not fully recognise.

RecognitionThere has to be a new conversation that attempts through various means to resituate diverse artists, both historically and theoretically, at the centre of British art – whether that is the performing arts, the visual arts, combined arts, music, literature or film.

A New VisionWe need a new framework for viewing diversity, one that takes it out of a negative or ‘deficit’ model and places it in an artistic context. Diversity becomes not an optional extra but part of the fabric of our discussions and decisions about how we encourage an energetic, relevant, fear-less and challenging artistic culture in England and the wider world.” 4

4. The Creative Case for Diversity in Britain website


CPAMO in Markham, 2012. Photo by Eric Lariviere

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What do Indigenous and Ethno-Racial Artists and Arts Organizations Want/Need?

As part of the process of developing this report, I reviewed the member surveys CPAMO conducted in 2013 and 2014 as a basis to develop a strategy for consultations with artists and others interested in this project. Based on this this initial research, CPAMO held two board meetings, two focus group meetings and two advisory committee meetings to discuss what the artists wanted/needed to continue to create their work and how other participants who are committed to working in a pluralistic environment could be involved.

The predominant desire expressed by the artists and arts entities who par-ticipated in these sessions was to not pursue incorporation as a non profit, charitable arts organization to support their work. The organizations that had already incorporated felt that they were always struggling to find the resources to sustain that organiza-tional model. They all needed more resources and support to be able to produce the work they aspired to.

There was, however, strong agreement that a shared learning platform was required, along with the belief that working collaboratively would help them achieve the quality of work they wanted and a willingness to actively participate in the shared learning platform.



Social Media 101 workshop in 2013.Photo by Kevin A. Ormsby

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The key reasons to establish a shared learning platform were:

• To promote an inclusive arts ecology that engages with historically marginalized arts practices – to live our values in the world.• To share our abundance – support, skills, pooling of resources.• To establish conditions for learning and opening creativity – peer to peer learning, engaging in process & principles.• To stimulate peer support, networking and mentorship.• To develop relationships between audiences, artists, and presenters.• To showcase our work – a new definition of Canadian contemporary art making.• To promote leadership for change in the arts sector/arts practice.• To provide a safe space/environment (not a building) for art making, learning, sharing, advocacy.• To be an active clearing house – how to disseminate best practices, and how everyone can contribute.• To open up the space for Indigenous and ethno-racial artists and arts organizations and ensure inclusion into the whole arts eco-system.• To provide individuals from Indigenous and ethno-racial arts entities the opportunity to enjoy a sustainable career in the arts.• To aspire to equity, balance, and opportunity.




“Collaboration in the arts is no longer a luxury – it is a necessity. But productive collaboration requires that the partners are truly engaged in the shared process. Token collaboration is rampant, but fruitful collaboration is rare. Marsland’s report is eagerly an-ticipated to help guide the arts sector forward.”

- Kate Cornell, Executive Director ~ Directrice Exécutive, Canadi-an Dance Assembly ~ Assemblée canadienne de la danse

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Principles of collaboration/shared platform:

• Trust• Respect – understanding - open dialogue• Peer to peer – lateral learning• Reciprocity• Willingness to share resources• Collaboration and transparency• Commitment to making it work and to the values• Spirit of inquiry• Collective roles/responsibilities

Participants – who are committed to the values:

• Artists/arts organizations who engage with the shared platform• Arts service organizations• Presenters – volunteer and professional• Audiences• Volunteers in the arts• Businesses who share the same intrinsic values

Possible structure or organizing framework:

• Groups invested in a particular area/various hubs based on interests• Constellation model or concept• Fluidity based on needs – collectively shared• Virtual vs. physical – hot office/online meet ups• Branding and mandate – philosophical statements – why we want to work this way• Facilitation (collectively convening)• Documentation of processes • Agreement vs. free membership• Free vs. paid





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Practices – acting on the principles:

• Understanding of collaborative practices – collaborative art making• Shared marketing, funding, fundraising information/expertise/contacts• Support mentoring, facilitating needs• Harnessing collective resources• Create learning opportunities• Peer to peer networking promotion• Best practice guides• Shared database• Skill sharing• Value system around how we work and participate• How do we show commitment/evaluate participation of others• Catalyst for everyone• Documentation/sharing of processes

Community Engagment Workshop, 2013. Photo by Kevin A. Ormsby.


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Shared Space:

In researching the possible models for collaboration, I examined the various configurations for shared platforms. Some like the Centre for Social Innovation provide a collaborative hub where small, innovative groups can share space, launch their initiatives, have the opportunity to connect with other groups that share similar values or just rent a hot desk wherever they need one. While their model is shared space, they believe that that sets the environment for new relationships, new projects and unexpected outcomes. They are also trying to build a movement of social innovators to build a better world.

Shared Services:

There are a number of shared service providers assisting artists and arts organizations. Some are nonprofit organizations such as DUO and STAF as well as small agencies that manage/produce a few companies such as Meredith Potter Arts Management. Eponymous in Vancouver functions like a production house for several performing arts organizations.

A variation on this model has been developed in New York and is detailed in the paper, Collective Insourcing: A Systemic Approach to Nonprofit Arts Management by Guy Yarden & Sarah Maxfield. (Link in Web Resources) It is a slightly different approach as it functions as “a shared, self-sustaining agency owned by its clients”. They have realized that collaboration works well in the arts as what differentiates artists and arts organizations is the creativity and individuality of the content they produce, not the procedures required to maintain a nonprofit company.



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Other variations on the shared services model:

• An Incubator – assist emerging artists to access the skills and support of the network with financial and programmatic support. Lean Start Up or Lean Arts are examples of this approach.• Co-location – provide shared space and services for mature organizations with large back office needs, such as office space, finance & accounting, technology/shared databases, human resources, legal, etc.• Shared back office services only – provide shared non-core back office services remotely for organizations that could realize improvements in efficiency and effectiveness such as, financial, technology, human resources, marketing/promotion.

Examples from the For-Profit Sector:

In response to the highly disruptive environment caused by the rapid advances in technology, for-profit corporations and businesses have realized that collaborative approaches are now required, that the old command and control model can no longer know enough, or move fast enough to respond to such rapid change.

The first efforts were developing an internal capacity for collaboration, based on a team approach to problem solving and developing technological tools to support the collaborative work.

Internal organizational collaboration:• The introduction of smarter ways of working together across the extended enterprise enabled by new innovative concepts and technologies.• The focus is on ways of working together and how to find better ways of working that make better use of individual and collective time and capacity.• Stresses that new technologies are core enablers, but also new concepts such as crowdsourcing, collective intelligence, social networking and cloud computing.• Scope of collaboration is not always limited to teams or organizations –


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there is a recent understanding that a collaborative effort can potentially involve any stakeholders. • Traditional collaboration technologies and ways of working focused on team collaboration within the organization.

Moving to external collaborations and networks:In the current highly dynamic, fast paced and inter-connected environment,businesses – including arts entities - can no longer be static, linear organizations. Tomorrow’s organizations will have to be more like a flock of starlings or a school of fish, that can take new shapes when required. Instead of relying on long-term planning, organizations have to be prepared for theunexpected, to become more adaptive and resilient. Decisions must be made wherever and whenever they need to be made, by people who understand the environment, while at the same time keeping the shared purpose and artistic vision in mind. This cannot be done if we continue to work in silos and blindly follow detailed strategies crafted by consultants and boards of directors.


Together In Dance Forum at Flato Markham Theatre in 2012. Photo by Eric Lariviere.

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Although technology is a core enabler for this kind of collaboration, the artistic vision/mission, people, and technology have to be balanced. People are the engine of any enterprise, and such things as purpose, culture – values, beliefs, attitudes, behaviours – along with skills and engagement determine how well the engine runs. The artistic vision/mission sets the direction, defines what needs to get done, by whom, for whom, when and why, and evaluates how we are performing. Technology as the core enabler, provides us with an environment and tools to achieve things together without being limited by distance or other barriers to communica-tion and coordination.

Unfortunately, in the arts, we have not kept pace with developments in technology, mostly because of lack of resources, and are now at adisadvantage. Microsoft just released its Windows 10, which is a mobile-dominant enterprise architecture. Its release could enable arts entities to implement a social collaboration platform…if they know about it.

Much of the sharing economy such as Airbnb, Snapgood and Uber only exist because they are enabled by technological advances. Owners can rent out goods they are not currently using to strangers. SpaceFinder Toronto is an example of using technological tools for sharing information/space, but the arts are still way behind the rest of society in the sharing economy.


“This is a challenging time for arts organizations who are seeking new ways of creating work. In our age, collaboration among the arts organizations is key to remaining innovative. Just being insular and working with the same people in the same way doesn’t function any longer. Artistic and organizational collaboration between arts orga-nizations is the secret to the survival of arts in this country.”

- Soheil Parsa, Artistic Director, Modern Times Stage Company

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Collaborative Learning Community:

Consistent with CPAMO’s surveys and interviews done in 2013 and 2014, the results of the consultations through focus groups, CPAMO Board and Advisory Committee meetings as well as the programs that CPAMO has offered to date, strongly indicate that the associates of CPAMO want to establish a collaborative learning community.

Some work would be required to create a stronger community first. A facilitatedprocess might be required to help the participants develop a shared sense of purpose and a set of principles that ensured a commitment to ongoing participation. Role clarity among board, staff and associates/members would also be important to achieve at the beginning.

Technology would be a core enabler in this model as well. A web-based platform would be required to support and share collaborative learning, common interests, skills, tools and knowledge to accelerate new knowledge in the areas of:• Artistic practice• Collaborative creation• Marketing/audience development/engagement• Resource development• Social networking/new media• Capture shared information• Facilitate development of ‘toolkits’• Administrative capacities

Anchoring the collaborative learning community is the commitment to pluralism.



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An important aspect of the Collaborative Learning Community is the ability to capture what individuals know and make it accessible to others. In the corporate world, organizations now see high performing teams as far more effective than the brightest individuals. In the arts we’ve always under-stood that, the creative process is a collaborative journey to realize an artistic vision. But now we need to start using new learning processes and technologies to cultivate collective intelligence. This could provide an even more powerful capacity-building program for Indigenous and ethno-racial arts entities.

Humans have always focused many minds on a problem to make progress. What has now changed is the scale at which diverse individuals can connect into a global mind to learn faster and deeper. Collective intelligence unites the strengths of what educator Howard Gardner has defined as multiple intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, kinesthetic, naturalist, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and existential.

The concept of pluralism supports collective intelligence with its reliance on dialogue. James Surowiecke states in the Wisdom of Crowds that crowds are wise if they have diverse opinions, sufficient independence to avoid groupthink, access to local knowledge, and a mechanism for aggregating their opinions into a collective decision.


Social Media 101 workshop. Photo by Kevin A. Ormsby

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Peter Senge outlines extraordinary group processes in his book, Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations or Society, where people listen deeply to one another and are open to new knowledge and transformation. People can make better decisions in the face of uncertainty and complexity when they challenge each other’s assumptions about reality.

“Our actions are most likely to revert to what is habitual when we are in a state of fear or anxiety. Collective actions are no different. Even as conditions in the world change dramatically, most businesses, governments, schools, and other large organizations, driven by fear, continue to take the same kinds of institutional actions that they always have.

This does not mean that no learning occurs. But it is a limited type of learning: learning how best to react to circumstances we see ourselves as having had no hand in creating. Reactive learning is governed by ‘downloading’ habitual ways of thinking, of continuing to see the world within the familiar categories we’re comfortable with. We discount interpretations and options for action that are different from those we know and trust. We act to defend our interests. In reactive learning, our actions are actually reenacted habits, and we invariably end up reinforcing pre-established mental models. Regardless of the outcomes, we end up being ‘right’. At best, we get better at what we have always done. We remain secure in the cocoon of our own world-view, isolated from the larger world.

All learning integrates thinking and doing. All learning is about how we interact in the world and the types of capacities that develop from our interactions. What differs is the depth of the awareness and the consequent source of action. If awareness never reaches beyond superficial events and current circumstances, actions will be reactions. If, on the other hand, we penetrate more deeply to see the


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larger whole that generate ‘what is’ and our own connection to this wholeness, the source and effectiveness of our actions can change dramatically.

The key to the deeper levels of learning is that the larger living wholes of which we are an active part are not inherently static. Like all living systems, they both conserve features essential to their existence and seek to evolve. When we become more aware of the dynamic whole, we also become more aware of what is emerging.” 5

Collective intelligence arises out of respecting and incorporating different knowledge and experience. It is based in inclusion: uniting difference to create a higher order of capacity. Collective intelligence is drawn from different disciplines, cultures and generations.

What is the Operating Model of a Collaborative Learning Community?

The purpose of this model is to create a body of information and knowledge on which to build a resilient community of ethno-racial and Indigenous artists and arts organizations who can develop their capacity to create and present quality works of art through collaborative processes and shared resources.

How does it work?

It would start in phases. In the beginning the core activities will be a series of workshops on how to build collaborative practices: • How to make successful artistic collaborations• How to collaborate with presenters• How artists can share resources for mutual benefit


5. Presence: An exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society, by Peter Senge, C.OttoScharmer, Joseph Jaworkski, Betty Sue Flowers, SoL (Society for Organizational Learning) Doubleday, New York, NY 2005, pp. 10,11

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The Objectives for this are to:

• Develop a Lean Start Up approach – prototype several scenarios – select one – act/fail fast – learn • Set Workshop schedule• Determine web platform for communication. Exploit new communications technologies to promote connectivity• Invest in building relationships with a minimum five- to seven-year time frame, focusing on support for creative work as well as organizational capacity building• Build programs from the ground up, rather than the top down, with frequent consultation, sharing of information, and consensus building about tactics

CPAMO has already received funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for this step and is currently engaged in setting up a series of seven (7) full day workshops involving award-winning artists and presenters who will facilitate these sessions. CPAMO will also conduct research on collaborative artistic practices to be shared with those attending these sessions.

Out of these workshops, CPAMO anticipates that the participants will gain an awareness of the value of collaborative practices, learn about evidence-based practices currently in the field, share their knowledge with each other and design a collaborative practice to pursue.

Based on these results, in the second, third and fourth years CPAMO will:

1) support the artists and presenters who have agreed to work in and have developed a collaborative practice in year one. This support might take several forms to address practices that may vary from artistic collaboration, sharing administrative resources and capacities, marketing and promoting a specific activity, engaging diverse audiences or some other form of practice.


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2) provide a series of workshops similar to those offered in year one. This will allow new participants to become involved. It will also build the collaborative learning community as participants in the first year may become involved as facilitators and resources for these new participants. In this way, CPAMO seeks to build the artistic milieu by supporting peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing, skill development and common action that expands the capacities of artists and arts organizations committed to pluralism.

3) convene Town Halls and artistic showcases to promote the concepts of pluralism in artistic collaborations. These forums have been an ongoing feature of CPAMO’s work and have been very successful at enabling the engagement of artists, arts organizations, presenters, funders and other interested in promoting pluralism in the arts.

4) disseminate information through its newsletters, social media, web site;

5) conduct research into contemporary issues in the arts related to promoting pluralism and collaborative practices; and

6) continue its engagement in the broader arts community by supporting its Advisory Committee as well as contributing to broader sectoral dialogue on shared platforms, with national and provincial arts services organizations and with arts organizations that share common goals and objectives, e.g. the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance, the IMPACT Festival (Kitchener-Waterloo), the Equity In Theatre Project (Playwrights Guild of Canada), the Canadian Dance Assembly Pluralism Committee, the Canadian Arts Coalition.

If I want to participate, how would I go about it?

CPAMO is always open to new interests and people and/or organizations that want to get involved in its work. There are several ways this can happen:

a. Apply as a member. CPAMO membership is always open and there is no


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charge. Most of CPAMO members are Indigenous and ethno-racial artists. However, some members are supporters of these artists. All members must subscribe to CPAMO’s goals. To become a member, simply write an email to [email protected] and ask how you can join.

b. Express interest as a presenter. CPAMO encourages presenters – venue operators, publishers, galleries – to become involved. CPAMO believes that presenters are a critical part of the arts ecology and want to assist making connections between presenters and artists and engaging both in dialogue related to pluralism in the arts and how to advance it;

c. Be on the list-serve. There are many individuals and organizations who are interested in what CPAMO is doing and wish to receive updates, newsletters and other materials CPAMO disseminates.

CPAMO’s collaborative projects will be open to its members and others who are committed to the principles outlined earlier in this report.

All of the above receive CPAMO updates and publications regularly. The CPAMO newsletter comes out quarterly and CPAMO publishes the information shared at its events. CPAMO has also produced annual reports for the past three years, published 25 newsletters and maintains an active web-site ( and social media (Facebook: u l t u ra l - P l u ra l i s m - i n - t h e - A r t s - M o ve m e nt- O nta r i o - C PA M O -103338769715371 and Twitter:


As a recently incorporated body with its first full year of operational fund-ing, CPAMO’s core staff is an Executive Director, Program Manager and Program Assistant. This is a lean administrative model which enables CPAMO to both provide certain core services with these resources while, at the same time, contracting artists, presenters and other professionals for short-term projects and activities, e.g., facilitating a workshop, conducting research, engaging in fundraising, etc.


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CPAMO has recently incorporated and is governed by a Board of Directors.

CPAMO has also established an Advisory Committee to:• Support and act as goodwill ambassadors for CPAMO. As ambassadors the members will help develop awareness and advance the vision for the program within their own respective constituencies. • Act as ‘door openers’ to key individuals within their own community, company, industry or institution where CPAMO may be seeking participation and support. • Give advice and guidance to CPAMO where needed, and may be invited to participate on working committees.

The current members of the Advisory Committee are:• Kathleen Sharpe, Executive Director, Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund• John Ryerson, former Director Cultural Services, City of Markham• Patty Jarvis, Executive Director, Prologue to the Performing Arts• Ronnie Brown, Oakville Centre for the Arts• Eric Lariviere, General Manager Flato Markham Theatre• Alicia Rose, Timeraiser • Kate Cornell, Executive Director, Canadian Dance Assembly• Bruce Pitkin, Executive Director, Theatre Ontario• Warren Garrett, Executive Director, Community Cultural Impresarios/Ontario Presenters Network• Helen Yung, Independent Artist and Former Co-Coordinator Canada Council Stand Firm Network (Ontario and Manitoba)• Mimi Beck, CanDance Network• Cindy Yip, Little Pear Garden Collective• Anita Agrawal, Consultant and Former Co-Coordinator Canada Council Stand Firm Network (Ontario and Manitoba)

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• Charmaine Headley, Collective of Black Artists• Rebecca Burton, Playwrights Guild of Canada• Millie Knapp, Executive Director, Association of Native Development in the Performing and Visual Arts• Sheniz Janmohamed, IGNITE Poets• Soheil Parsa, Artistic Director Modern Times Theatre• LataPada, Artistic Director Sampradaya Dance Creations• Sara Meuller, PACT• Bea Pizano, Artistic Director Aluna Theatre

In addition, as a resource to plan and coordinate its activities, CPAMO has set-up a Roundtable comprised of ethno-racial and Indigenous creation-based arts organizations and individual artists from these communities.

The members of the Roundtable are:• Anahita Azrahimi, Visual Artist• Denise Fujiwara, Canasian Dance • Charmaine Headley and Bakari Eddison Lindsay, Collective of Black Artists (Dance)• Lata Pada, Sampradaya Dance Creations • Nova Bhattacharya, Nova Dance • Seema Jethalal, Manifesto Festival of Community and Culture (Multi/Youth Arts)• Phillip Akin, Obsidian Theatre• Brainard Bryden-Taylor, Nathaniel Dett Chorale• Emily Cheung, Little Pear Garden Collective (Dance)• Spy Denome-Welch, Aboriginal Playwright (Music/Theatre)• Sedina Fiati, Actor• Sinara Perdomo-Rozo, alucine latino film festival• Shannon Thunderbird, TeyaPeya Productions (Performance, Storyteller)• Olga Barrios, Olga Barrios Dance• Santee Smith, Kaha’wi Dance Theatre

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• MenakaThakker, Menaka Thakkar Dance Company• Sandra Laronde, Red Sky Performance• b-current (Theatre)• Cahoots Theatre• Bea Pizano, Aluna Theatre• Korean Canadian Dance Studies of Canada• Millie Knapp, Association for Native Development in the Performing and Visual Arts• Harvey Weisfeld, wind in the leaves collective (Multidisciplinary)• Lua Shayenne and Company (Dance)• Sheniz Janmohamed, Ignite Poets• KasheDance• danceImmersion

Sponsorship and Fundraising workshop. Photo by Kevin A. Ormsby

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Developing awareness and getting the word out to possible participants:

CPAMO has an extensive email list of the ethno-racial and Indigenous artists and arts organizations in Ontario. It has also developed a brochure which describes its work and encourages participation in its activities.

Business Model of the Collaborative Learning Community:

Based on its mission and mandate, CPAMO’s business model is supported by its resources in order to support its activities. In this context, CPAMO’s resources are aimed at promoting its value proposition on the importance of pluralism and collaboration in the creation of the arts ecology across Ontario and Canada. With its lean administrative resources, CPAMO has a virtual office environment and, while its staffing can and does support its main activities, CPAMO has built a community of resources it can call upon for specific projects. These resources are either part of the CPAMO Board, Roundtable and Advisory Committee or are experts in the field who share the same value proposition.

In concrete terms, this indicates that:

i. CPAMO’s core staffing carry out and coordinate its ongoing activities, i.e., project development and implementation (pending funding approval), delivery of projects and/or contracting the expertise to do so, conducting research and disseminating information, and, promoting activities that are engaged in pluralism in the arts;

ii. CPAMO’s Board, Advisory Committee and Roundtable members may be invited to facilitate CPAMO services and projects, participate with CPAMO staff in conducting outreach and awareness raising activities, identifying opportunities for CPAMO to be engaged in within the arts milieu;

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As I’ve worked closely with CPAMO during the research and prepa-ration of this report, I understand that it’s Board, staff and Advisory Committee are in full support of this report and the directions noted in the section “Preferred Model for CPAMO”. In this regard, CPAMO is convening a series of seven (7) full day workshops starting in September 2015 and continuing into April 2016 on the concepts, strategies and evidence-based practices to build collaborative practices between artists and between artists and presenters. With funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, these workshops will seek to enable participants to develop their knowledge of collaborative practices, their benefits and strategies, and how to get them off the ground.

This area, however, is new ground in the arts and, to be successful, will need the support and encouragement of funding bodies to achieve.

After spending considerable time researching this paper I have two key recommendations that will require additional support:

1. The need for more substantive research:I was not able to find any comprehensive research on the scope of the ethno-racial and Indigenous artists and arts organizations. While there is information on arts funders websites as to who is getting grants in Equity and Aboriginal offices, there does not seem to be any compiled informa-tion on the field.

Canadian Actors’ Equity Association has undertaken a survey on diversity on Canadian stages – The Equity Census – the results have not been publically released as yet. While this is a very important initiative, it is still just one aspect of the arts sector.



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Hill Strategies’ report, A Statistical Profile of Artists and Cultural Workers in Canada, based on the 2011 National Household Survey and the Labour Force Survey, Oct. 2014, provides some statistical/demographic information on the numbers and percentages of visible minority, immigrant and indigenous artists.

This is certainly not enough information to give any sort of picture of the scale, development and contribution of the artists and arts organizations who self identify as ethno-racial and Indigenous.

Without substantive research and information on the sector, how will we really know what the enabling conditions are that will allow the growth, health and sustainability of these artists and arts organizations.

Funders require better information to develop better policy frameworks to support this sector. To know and understand how the arts work in society and in the economy. The Arts Council England’s Creative Case was developed from substantial research. I was not able to find any comparable research in Canada.

2. The need to develop an online platform that provides easy access to a range of tools for creative collaboration:The Collaborative Learning Community recommended as the model for the CPAMO initiative will require online collaborative tools which draw on peer-to-peer decentralized practices, infrastructures for buildingcommunities of interest, developing new kinds of narratives and synergies that add depth to artistic practice and contribute to a true sharing economy.

There will need to be investment in the design of these digital tools for communication, artistic collaboration, and the sharing and co-creation between artists. They need to be designed from the bottom-up as off-the-shelf programs are most often built on corporate infrastructures.


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Time and resources will be required to figure out: • how to design a shared digital platform for collaboration that empowers the emergence of communities of interest, and that are not part of the generic social media platforms;• how to use these shared digital platforms to overcome the lack of resources and possible future funding-cuts in the arts funding system;• how to produce, through emergent creative practices, models for collaborative and sharing economies that can be facilitated by digital cultures, e.g. open-source software, file-sharing, etc.

These digital tools will need to be developed as the Collaborative Learning Community begins to establish what kind of projects and artistic practicesthey want to undertake. Over time it will become apparent what collaboration and co-creation means to the associates/members in an online networked world.

Part of the work that will be essential will be understanding and resolving issues around privacy, ownership, anonymity or multiple identity.

It will also be critical to find the right partners in the technical field to help design such a digital tool.

Finally, this report should be regarded as a work in progress, to be updated from time to time as the environment changes and the learning advances.


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This report was made possible by grants from the Ontario Arts Council Compass Program and the Canada Council for the Arts Leadership for Change Program.

I am most grateful for the support and guidance of charles c. smith, Kevin A. Ormsby, the CPAMO Board and the Advisory Committee throughout the research and writing of this report. The artists and arts organizations that participated in the focus groups as well as the newly formed Board of Directors of CPAMO were especially helpful and very generous of the time they provided to offer their insights, concerns, and recommendations which formed the direction and basis of this report.



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Web Resources

What is Pluralism?

The Big “P” in the Field of the Arts

The Creative Case for Diversity: Innovation and Excellence in the Arts site has a number of excellent reports in its Resource section:Hassan Mahamdallie sets out the Arts Council’s Creative Case for Diversity in What is the Creative Case for Diversity?The Role of Diversity in Building Adaptive Resilience, a paper by Tony Nwachukwu and Mark Robinson commissioned by Arts Council England,Beyond Cultural Diversity: The Case for Creativity compiled and edited by Richard Appignanesi, commissioned by the Diversity Team of Arts Council England, and produced by the art journal Third Text.

Highlights of Capacity Building Initiative, Equity Office, Canada Council for the Arts, Oct. 2014

Aboriginal Arts Research Initiative, Report on Consultations, prepared by France Trépanier



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Sharing Space, edited by Falen Johnson, published by Indigenous Perform-ing Arts Alliance, 2013

Why the Lean Startup Changes Everything

Seizing Permission: The TLC Toronto Initiative, written & compiled by Anne Dunning, Jane Marsland & Nello McDaniel

Choreographing our Future: Strategies for Supporting Next Generation Arts Practice, by Shannon Litzenburger

Shared Platforms and Charitable Venture Organizations, by Jane Marsland


The blogs below have frequent articles on diversity and the arts.

You’ve Cott Mail, curated by Thomas Cott

HowlRound, A knowledge commons for and by the theatre community

Diane Ragsdale on what the arts do and why


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Print Media:

Pluralism in the Arts in Canada: A Change is Gonna Come, by Charles C. Smith

Across Oceans: Writings on Collaboration, Artists of the At HOME Project, edited by Maxine HeppnerPublished by Across Oceans, 2008 Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society, by Peter Senge, C.OttoScharmer, Joseph Jaworkski, Betty Sue Flowers, SoL (Society for Organizational Learning) Doubleday, New York, NY 2005

The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki, Anchor 2005

The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism, by Jeremy Rifkin, St. Martins Press, 2014

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