Racial Equity in the Workplace I: Audio transcripts

Racial Equity in the Workplace I: Audio transcripts

On Thursday, July 27, 2023, Calgary Arts Development held the first in a series of three virtual town halls focused on Racial Equity in the Workplace. Host Toyin Oladele had a conversation with panelists Sanja Lukac, Visual & Media Arts Curator at Arts Commons, and Maud Salvi, Executive Director of Sled Island Music & Arts Festival, about hiring policies, practices and internal procedures that can help arts organizations hire and engage artists, staff and volunteers in an equitable way.

The discussion referred to statistics from the Calgary Arts Development Demographic Report, which can be found here.

Listen to an audio recording and read the transcript of the town hall below.

This is the first of a series of three town halls on Racial Equity in the Workplace hosted by Toyin Oladele.  

We’re going to be focusing on different things in this series. This is part one of three, and we’re going to be having different guests on this series. 

Today we’re focusing on racial equity in the workplace. 

Toyin: For those of you that know me and for those who don’t, I would like to say that I am very, very aware and conscious of the work, life, people, culture and the fun, the food, the animals, the air, the water, everything that existed on this land long, long before it was Calgary. And that’s the land that I’m hosting from today. 

I have been able to partake of the blessings and make a full commitment as a newcomer immigrant to contribute my knowledge, my talents, my skills to the peace and tranquility of this land. And I do that in different ways, through the work that I do, through the people that I meet and through associations to the community in different ways. 

I’m very happy to do that because it’s been a blessing being on this land and has contributed so much to my life. I would like to acknowledge that today we’re standing on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot and the people of the Treaty 7 region, which includes the Siksika, the Piikani, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina and the Stoney Nakoda First Nations. 

For those of you who don’t know, the city of Calgary is also home to the Métis nation of Alberta Region 3.  

So, who am I? My name is Toyin. I have been living in Calgary since I arrived in Canada in 2017 with my family. I am the founder of the Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation, which was founded in 2019. I’m an artist, an arts manager, a cultural strategist, projects manager, and advocate with a huge passion for equity in the creative economy. I focus my energy in the creative world, which I have been privileged to be part of since I was like seven years old. 

I love to see newcomer professionals grow and reach their full potential. It’s a very interesting journey for a lot of people when they move from one country to the other. It doesn’t really matter what background they’ve had before or what experiences they’ve had before; a lot of times it’s very challenging to settle into their new home. So, one of my life goals on this land is to ensure that I see people reach their full potential.  

I volunteer on the board of Calgary Young People’s Theatre, Contemporary Calgary, Chromatic Theatre and CARFAC Alberta. I also volunteer for organizations like Business for the Arts, Calgary Catholic Immigrant Society and more, where I mentor and support newcomers and immigrants.  

I’m also a member of the Calgary Arts Development Community Working Group on EDIA, and this town hall session is part of the initiatives and programs emanating from this group. We’ve been meeting consistently for about two years now – it started during the pandemic – and we’ve done a lot of work together, and had a lot of conversations together. 

It’s been an interesting journey. Part of the reason why we’re in the session today is because we’ve been curious about what the community thinks about a lot of things. We’ve had conversations and we just wanted to share some of the things that we’ve heard and also hear back from the community. These town hall sessions are great opportunities to do that. 

In case you don’t know about the Community Working Group, if you’d like to know more, you can actually go to the Calgary Arts Development website, especially because right now nominations are currently open to take in more members into the Community working Group. If you know anyone who you think would be great, who you think would be amazing and interested to be on this group, feel free to send them the link. 

Before I introduce the panelists, I just wanted to give you a brief background to why I’m doing this today. Like I said, I arrived in Canada in 2017 and I’ve been living in Calgary since then. After getting here, trying to find a job in the arts was a hustle. 

Like, it was tough, and I just couldn’t find the arts from there. I was Googling the wrong things. Looking back now, I probably did a lot of things wrong that I didn’t know also, or a lot of things were not just aligning. And I learned from those mistakes and I put that knowledge together. I did a lot of research and those things brought me to where I am right now. 

Now, a lot of research is also being done to find out how especially people from different groups, from different minority groups and who are seeking equity when it comes to employment and getting opportunities that are in leadership. It’s not like they don’t qualify, but for some reason it’s tough to get into those places. A lot of research has been done and I appreciate Helen Moore-Parkhouse for sharing these findings with me, because I’d like to share some of that with you today. 

I know it looks like a lot, but I’ll be reading them out because I would just appreciate if we have this background before we go into our conversation today. So, the arts sector, key findings and we can see more of this research on the website at https://calgaryartsdevelopment.com/publications/2021-demographic-census/ 

  • The arts sector continues to be significantly less racially diverse than the population of Calgary, while 41% of Calgarians identify as visible minorities. Only 21% of those participating in the arts share that identity. Those who identify as a visible minority are more likely to hold entry level positions and are less likely to earn over $59,000 per year than those who are white. 
  • While women make up the majority of the sector according to gender, 59%, those who identify as male are still more likely to hold leadership positions, either as board members or senior management. Those who identify as male are also more likely to earn over $50,000 per year. Those who identify as non-binary gender identities are more likely to have artistic and entry level roles. 
  • Indigenous representation in the sector is nearly identical to representation in the general population when compared to census data. While this movement is positive, but indigenous individuals are far more likely to hold entry level roles or individual contributor level in organizations rather than at the senior or mid-level management levels. 
  • While the Federal Census does not capture 2SLGBTQIA+ data at the local level, those identifying as to as 2SLGBTQIA+ are well represented in the arts sector. Though they are less likely to earn over $50,000 per year than heterosexual respondents.  
  • As well as earning a low wage in the sector, it is difficult to find full-time work. Of those, working for arts organizations, only 44% earn the majority of their income in the arts.  

Let’s find out more. This is about racial equity. The results we’re looking at on racial diversity in the arts are clear, very clear.  

  • Significantly fewer individuals who identify as visible minorities are participating in the arts, either as volunteers or as employees compared to Calgary’s general population. While 41% of Calgary’s identify as visible minorities, only 21% of those participating in the arts share that identity as Canada’s third most diverse city. 
  • Much work still needs to be done to better represent this diversity within the arts sector. Since the last survey, the share of those who identify as visible minority in the arts has increased substantially, though is still nowhere close to the share of the general population, of course, and in the previous survey, a slightly higher number of individuals who identified as visible minority were participating through volunteering only rather than having the opportunity to be employed. 

That gives you an idea of some things that relate to racial identity and income. You can clearly see what the difference is like between different groups, visible minorities, Indigenous people and white.  

Now, when looking at racial identity within the types of engagement in the sector, the greatest data that comes closest to matching Calgary’s demographics exist only in entry level positions. Even in those positions, the arts sector remains nearly 10% whiter than the general population. The least diverse roles in the sector are senior and mid-level management positions. 

That gives us an idea and background as to as to why this conversation today is very important and very essential. I have two panelists today who I have personally worked with and I have watched their own journey with their organizations and as individuals how much work they’ve done to look for practical and very intentional solutions to issues of racial equity. 

For both of them they’ve been very, very intentional. I believe that their stories are worth sharing and that’s why they are joining us on this panel today.  

Maud Salvi (bio above) was born in France, where she got involved with the arts community from a young age, spent a year volunteering at festivals and in a music venue housed in a community centre where she fell in love with music and grassroots organizing. 

She has over 15 years of experience working in the music sector, both in France and in Canada. And after immigrating in 2018 and settling in Montreal, she joined the Pop Montreal International Music Festival, where she honed her skills as an arts administrator, producer and curator. In 2013, she moved across the country to join the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival as executive director. 

Six months into her new position, the Calgary Flood forced the cancellation of the festival halfway through, leaving hundreds of artists stranded, staff and volunteers displaced and the fate of their organization more than uncertainty. Through hard work and incredible community support, Sled Island survived, and Maud has led its rebuilding ever since, further establishing it as a Calgary institution and as an internationally acclaimed event as a festival director and curator. Thank you for joining us today. I’m going to give you some time to say hello to folks after introducing Sanja.  

Sanja (full bio above) is the visual and media arts curator at Arts Commons, and she’s a visual artist, curator and community activist who is passionate about equity in the arts and in elevating the work of emerging artists. As an immigrant artist herself, Sanja works to create meaningful opportunities in the arts for all artists and is a mentor to many emerging and musical artists. Her passion for the arts extends to her local community. As the visual and media arts curator at Arts Commons, Canada’s third largest arts centre, she is actively helping other artists thrive in the Calgary markets. This art ecosystem thrives through her dedicated mentorship with the RBC Emerging Visual Artist Program and support with the TD Incubator Program at Arts Commons, as well as in her volunteer work for the Board of Directors of the Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation (ICAI) and the Exposure Photography Festival. Sanja, thanks so much for joining us today. 

So, the conversation today is centred around racial equity, and I know that both of you have done some amazing work as individuals and with the organizations that you work for. I’m going to start with you. I know that I read your bio already, but with you literally introducing yourself, your organization and what you do there, because we want to have that background as we started this conversation today. 

Maud: Hi, Toyin. And hi everyone who has tuned in. It’s really awesome to see this many people joining the conversation. I’m very excited and honoured to have been asked to talk with you today. As Toyin mentioned, I was born and raised in France, so I am an immigrant and a white settler in Canada. 

I immigrated back in 2007, so I’ve been here for about 15 years, and the past 10 years I’ve been living in Calgary after moving to Calgary for my job at Sled Island Music and Arts Festival, where I am the executive and artistic director. I was the first full-time permanent director that the organization had, so it was a very exciting opportunity for me to join. I did not start the festival. The festival was already well-established by the time I joined, but at this point I have spent more time than the festival has existed, more time with me at its helm than without me. So, I like to think that hopefully I have been able to influence some things. 

I think the reason that I probably find myself talking to you all today is because beyond obviously my passion for arts and music as an individual, I’ve always been very interested in social issues and equity. In my time living in Calgary, I have volunteered for various organizations in and outside of the arts who work with either newcomers, immigrants, or low income Calgarians. 

So that’s something that’s very important to me. Equity’s an important value that I like to champion wherever I go and in my capacity. And so obviously as executive director with SLED Island, I am privileged to be in a position where I can actually make change and hopefully see the impact of this change on the community and on the city as a whole. 

I first met Toyin when I participated in ICAI’s arts mentorship program; I was a mentor for the first edition of the program, mentoring an amazing music producer, Partha, who was coming from India. And then later on Sled Island hired Toyin as a community broker during a community engagement process that we undertook during the pandemic. This is how we got to know each other. And I’m also very familiar with Sanja’s work at Art Commons, and I think I’m in very good company and I’m excited for the discussion.  

Sanja: Thanks again for having me and for the opportunity to have this conversation together. It’s something that I think we need to be doing even more often. And this is a wonderful opportunity to bring that into the spotlight. Someone was mentioning originally I’m from a place called Yugoslavia, and through the breakup of this place I ended up in in Canada in the ‘90s. I’ve had 15 years of experience working in the arts including as an artist in the same ecosystem. I think what I will highlight is a lot of the relevant experience that I bring to the roles that I’m in are sometimes skill sets that I’ve developed just in a family dynamic or community dynamic or working in the service industries, in retail and management. 

Those skills are transferred and utilized every single day. So, in my current role, I work on the programming team at Arts comments under the Social Impact portfolio, and I lead the RBC Emerging Visual Artist Program and I support and develop our TD Incubator program. These two programs are artist development programs that support and connect artists and communities to different audiences here and will consist of, for me, utilizing the tool of art to bring people together and create a greater compassion cultures at the core of everything that I do and things that are important to me in bringing joy and critical dialog into the spotlight and being able to tell the stories of many, many people in the work that I do. And I first met Toyin at Arts Commons when we were blessed to have you here working with us in a different capacity. We still work together, of course, and into our work together at ICAI with the shared vision and values and supporting newcomer artists and communities together. To sum it up. 

Toyin: Thank you. Thanks so much for all the details. I really appreciate it. That would take me straight to questions around your workplace and what your story has been and to some of the activities that I know. So, I think I’ll start Maud, if that’s okay. 

Describe some of the recent and maybe not so recent activities that your organization, your workplace, has embarked on to activate equitable processes, maybe processes maybe policies, maybe access too as regards hiring, as regards curating because we’re in the arts, right? So, we hire both staff and artists. We do both. Are there processes or programs, just little tweaks here and there – can you describe some of those activities that you’ve done? And just to give a little background, so many organizations, when it comes to EDIA, often say that, you know, I would like to actually do this, would like to ask questions that would make our space more equitable, but we don’t even know where to start. We don’t even know what to do. We don’t even know the problems we have. Where do we start from? And I’m sure there’s someone here that probably has that question in their mind. So, what are some of those activities that you have particularly done with Sled Island? What are those things?  

Maud: Okay. So, let’s see a few initiatives in recent years that we’ve worked on. I guess I should start by saying that, you know, for all the challenges that the pandemic obviously brought, the one thing, the one silver lining in all of that is that I think a lot of us, I know that Sled Island as an organization, we really took advantage of this time to do a lot of thinking and reviewing the way we do things, why we do them. 

And we just had, yeah, the luxury of time for once not always being like, trying to like stay afloat, and actually having time to take a step back and in hindsight, I think we really took advantage of this time and managed to make the best of it. So, one easy, pretty straightforward way that we started working more closely and engaging with EDIA has been first just professional development for myself and the staff of the board of directors. 

So, you know, there were, especially during the pandemic with obviously everything that happened with George Floyd, there was an abundance of resources and offerings like educational offerings – like webinars, anti-racism training, all of that. So, I, myself and my coworkers, attended a number of those to sort of deepen our understanding of white supremacy, anti-racism, but more importantly, about what our role as a publicly funded organization in a city like Calgary. What did that look like and what was our responsibility and what were ways that we could do our part is the best way I can put it. We started with that, which was very enriching, both from a personal and professional standpoint, but it was also extremely overwhelming. I’m not going to lie. You know, there’s so much work to be done in the area of equity and inclusion. 

And as you mentioned, Toyin, I know that’s something that a lot of organizations are faced with like, hey, you want to do something? But it seems very daunting and where do you start? And, so I think that with Sled Island, the festival has existed since 2007 and over the years, even though I feel like the event is still pretty true to the original vision, but I think the first shift that people started perceiving was in the programming. So in the artists that we were bringing. And that wasn’t at first necessarily even maybe a conscious effort, I think it was just by virtue of myself and my co-worker Shawn, at the time, taking on the artistic direction, which used to be handled by someone else, and just simply like our own personal taste and interests and maybe engaging a little bit more the rest of the stuff in our community in like making suggestions and artist recommendations. 

And so slowly, organically, we started seeing the programming change a little because I think that when Sled Island started, it was kind of perceived as primarily an indie rock festival and definitely the indie rock international scene at the time. So about 15 years ago was extremely white and, unfortunately, still probably very much is. But I think there was this idea, this is a guitar forward festival, lots of white people on stage, lots of white people in attendance. 

It’s a great community event. But perhaps, you know, I’m not sure that everyone in the community saw themselves represented. And I guess the first time that it really struck me that things were starting to change was in 2017. At Sled Island, we have a guest curator model. So, each year we choose an artist who we ask to be our guest curator. 

And they usually select anywhere between eight and 12 artists that we then bring to the festival to perform alongside the rest of our programming. In 2017, we were lucky enough to confirm Flying Lotus as our guest curator – a very internationally renowned American music producer, and who happens to be also a black man and is the owner of a record label who also supports and champions a lot of black artists. I remember announcing that he was coming to Calgary and that he was going to be guest curator and immediately noticing that we were getting the attention of people that I think before weren’t necessarily paying attention to Sled Island. And then through his curatorial picks, I think immediately our programming for that year at least became more diverse. 

I certainly felt at the time that, yes, some people who maybe up to this point didn’t feel like Sled Island was for them, started paying attention, started sharing our posts online and so on and so forth. And so that’s really something that over the years I have seen increase. And I think the programming has just become more and more diverse. 

We, I think, realized that there was a real hunger for it in Calgary. And so nowadays over the past two years, I think it’s anywhere between 40 and 50 per cent of the artists who perform at Sled Island have at least one racialized member. Unfortunately I do not have the data from when I started 10 years ago because we were not tracking these at the time. But I’m pretty certain even without the data, that it’s a very large improvement and that’s been really wonderful to see.  

So, definitely, representation in programming has been one of the first things. And if I want to speak to a bit more of concrete tactics, one thing that we spend quite a bit of time on is that every year we do an open call for musicians who want to perform at the festival. We have an application form on our website and we really took the time to go through the form and to give some thought to the wording of it, to what information are we giving and what information is missing, and tried to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who may not know Sled Island, who may not even necessarily understand what a multi-venue indie music festival is, because perhaps where they’re from that doesn’t exist. Or this is not what like sharing music in a public setting looks like. We really try essentially to make the form as accessible as possible by using plain language and avoiding jargon, which is sometimes difficult because, you know, obviously when you work in an industry, there are some terms you use all the time and you feel like these are totally normal words, and then you ask someone who isn’t and they’re like, What are you talking about? 

We really tried to be mindful of that. And, also, we really tried to make the forms so that people would not self-eliminate. And what do you mean by that? Something I encounter a lot is like people not self-identifying as artists or as musicians, maybe because they haven’t had some kind of official stamp of approval on what they’ve done. And, unfortunately, I think that we lose a lot of talent that way. So also taking into consideration that and changing again the phrasing of what we were asking so that people are really encouraged to put themselves out there.  

And the last thing we changed on the form was adding some demographic, like there are demographic questions, so something about racial background, gender identity, sexual orientation, just really to start collecting data so that we can actually over the years track and see how we are trending and if things are working or not. 

That was a big thing for us that has been really useful, and now we have a better idea of not only who plays the festival, but even just who applies, who is aware of the festival and who submits an application. Collecting this data has been really great.  

Overall I would say that bringing more representation in the programming has probably been the easiest one. 

I think by default the music industry is actually diverse – like if you look at the biggest stars in the world, especially like hip hop is so huge internationally. Like a lot of these artists are black artists. There are racial lines now, as we all know. The problem is that they’re not necessarily getting what they’re owed with that participation, and also the people who work with them in the music industry in supporting roles and arts workers often don’t look like them, which is really disheartening. 

So yeah, the programming sort of came organically, which was great, but then during the pandemic, when we took that step back, we really started talking about how the artists are there, they’re on stage; the audience with the increase in programming diversity, we have seen it change a bit, but not necessarily as much as we would want to. And, definitely the point that we identified that really we were not doing so great was HR, like our staff, our board of directors. Our volunteers, actually, we’ve always been pretty lucky that it’s been it’s been a pretty diverse group of people. But yeah, in terms of people we were actually hiring, that was something that at the time I simply didn’t understand. 

And I was really frustrated because I felt like we were projecting the image of a company that was inclusive. So it was like, it’s not even that we don’t hire racialized people, it’s that we don’t even get a lot of diverse applications. And I was really racking my brain and not understanding why. 

And so again, during the pandemic, I really took some time and did a lot of research on best practices for hiring and recruitment processes and in particular job postings. There’s actually a myriad of resources online that you can find. And a lot of the things I found out were things that literally had never crossed my mind. 

And they’re all easy enough fixes, it’s just that I didn’t realize they were an issue to begin with. So, I’ll tell you about that. Obviously everyone can do their own research, there’s a lot online, but I’ll tell you, maybe a few key bullet points of the ones that I feel made the biggest difference. 

So, addressing the job postings was a very big one and also the ways we were sharing our job postings. Obviously, if you only share your job posts through your own communications channels, you’re only going to attract people who are already very aware of your work. And if I’m being perfectly honest, I think that one of my shortcomings used to be that I tended to think that for someone to be a fit with our organizations, they kind of had to be familiar with it already. And I realize in hindsight that I would be wrong. But that’s something that I believed because I just felt like if someone already knows about us, it’s because they have similar interests – they know about music, they’re interested about Sled already. I want to, like hire those people. Maybe people who volunteered for us and like, offering them a paid opportunity. 

This is the way I used to look at things. And then, by everything I was reading and just by conversation with other people, I was challenged on that assumption. And do you know, I still believe that in some very specific roles, yes, it might help. But then there are other roles where it’s less important. 

I’ll give an example of a recent situation. In the last year we created a brand new position for a fund development manager, and the person we ended up hiring, Laura, I don’t believe she was familiar with Sled Island before we hired her. She actually found out about the job posting because ICAI shared it through their network and Laura had been engaged with them. 

That totally confirmed that I was 100% wrong. She’s been an amazing and is probably one of the best hires I’ve ever made, and I would have never thought that before. So, I think challenging your own assumptions is very important when you undertake this kind of work. And so yeah, who and the way who you share the posting with and the way you go about it, I think is very important for hiring. 

And then there’s kind of a snowball effect when you start hiring more diverse people. Obviously just by living their life, they have friends, they have family who then become aware of your organization. These people maybe started taking an interest and they themselves started getting involved and then all of a sudden you really don’t have to do as much work anymore; it’s just happening like and I have seen it over and over the past two years. Every time we have posted a job the diversity of the applications I have received was really telling and that is pretty awesome to see. So that was something in terms of staff specifically, that was the main thing that we undertook and at an organizational level. 

So more broadly, again, during the pandemic, doing all of that, looking inward and sort of taking stock of where were at and where we wanted to go, we basically we wanted to take things one step further. So, you know, we were pretty happy with programming, as I was mentioning. Good representation there. The audience was getting a bit more diverse as well. 

We also felt like we needed to really embed those values of equity and anti-racism at the very base level. And so we undertook a community engagement process with a consultant working Jordan Baylon, who’s an amazing person working in Calgary, and they guided us through a great community engagement process where we engaged with three different communities that we identified as being communities that maybe were not as well represented as we would like at SLED Island and really just had conversations and listened to these communities to learn more about what we could do, how could we really embed anti-racism in our organization, how could we support their full participation, and how we could just become a more inclusive and more welcoming organization and festival. So that was the main initiative where the entire organization, including our board of directors, was part of. And it has been a very rewarding process but sometimes complex and hard to navigate because there’s not really a blueprint yet for that kind of work. 

It was the first time Jordan was working on such a project as well, so there was a lot of wayfinding, sort of figuring things out as we go, and I was lucky enough that my board of directors took a leap of faith to engage in a process that didn’t really have a lot of reference to show them what that would lead to. 

But, you know, looking back, I know that now we’re on the other side of it. They all thought it was tremendously enriching, both on a personal level and in their capacity as board members. I think it’s really helpful having everyone on the same page in terms of the vision and the values of the organization and helping ensure those values are in all of our work day to day.  

It’s okay not to know exactly what you’re doing. If you’re here and you want to ask questions. The most important thing is taking more intentional steps to improve on that, grow and make it organic, looking inwards and finding new ways of doing things on both sides. So as arts organizations, both on staffing side and recruiting artist side, both, they’re very important and looking at doing your own research, reviewing best practices, both online and what you’ve had before. 

Toyin: Those are key things that we can start with, even if we’ve never done this before. So thank you so much for sharing those very important things. Sanja, I’m coming to you. It’s the same question. If you can give us detailed descriptions of some of the activities that you’ve engaged in and if it’s programming first or policymaking, is it on the level of them, the board, whatever it is? Feel free to share. Thank you. 

Sanja: This is Sanja speaking. And I’m going to echo a little bit of what Maud has brought as well. Hopefully add some more insight into how we work and have a look at changing different policies and programming at Arts Commons and a really incredible opportunity to sort of demonstrate what arts leadership looks like. 

The same way that Sled Island and other organizations did over the pandemic in a very thoughtful, reflective way, which was a real luxury to be able to step back, and to sort of look forward in a lot of ways. And as a staff and as a programming team, professional development was essential for that. Conversations like this conversation that required deeply listening to each other and to our communities, to the people in them, the artists that work within them, and being invited into local and global conversations with other arts organizations to reflect together and to listen and develop strategies together have been essential. 

I feel really lucky that Arts Commons as Calgary’s Arts Centre is positioned very well to tell the stories of so many different people, so many different art forms, you know, whether that’s through the dedicated visual media art spaces that I operate in or through the stages, and the community engagement that my colleagues operate in, the building in its nature, connects directly to the population of Calgary and the many, many audiences and cultural backgrounds that make up the city. 

So, for me, it’s almost a common sense that the centre reflects the city. For me it was about the representation and prioritizing over the stories, especially stories that have been historically excluded. And in confronting that, confronting those things, learning from those things. And I’ve been in my role for the past four years, and when I was brought on, part of that intention was to work in the community, develop community partnerships that we haven’t had a chance to develop in the past, and to support through some of those spaces. 

It’s amazing to have a big team. We have a team of over 60 people here at Arts Commons and the programming team, as small and mighty as it is, we’re just a very small component of the work that gets done here. The board of directors is incredible and they’re an inspiring group of people to lead those conversations about equity, in removing barriers together and the support that we have with Alex Sarian coming to Calgary and developing so many new procedures and ways of thinking and encouraging staff to continue doing the work and investing in different resources, investing in our communities. We have an IDEA committee – inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility. That is the baseline for everything that we do, that we create, that we support, that we fund, that that we invest in, that we speak about. It is like common sense. It’s present in the work that we do, it is necessary to move forward with grace and it’s a great opportunity for leadership in the arts and to bring other communities into that as well. 

In hiring, I was able to consult with my colleague Glennl now, so I’ll give Glennl Miguel a shout out from our H.R. department because they also participated in a lot of professional development and in developing different ways in processing applications and outreach. So, for them, it’s like Maud was saying, it’s a lot about transparency in the hiring process and empathizing with the applicant, putting the applicant’s needs first and making the hiring process more transparent. 

It is pretty common now, but to list the salary or the salary range on your actual job posting is really effective and something that we learned from listening to the needs of our community. And the other thing that we’ve been working on with leadership is really identifying the skill sets in those job positions, the skills that are a must have and the skills that can be adaptable or transferred or learned in that role. This helps understanding where the background of that applicant is and what skills are transferable and applicable to the same role.  

The language and tone are so important. Using more inclusive and welcoming language. Again, focus on the applicant and what their experience is like working here at Arts Commons and giving them an idea of what the day to day is like. 

So, for H.R., it’s really important that the applicant at the interview stage is just as much interviewing the company as the company is interviewing the applicant. We do a lot of work to remove a the stress in this process – preparing people, setting them up for success in terms of sharing questions in advance can be helpful, just alleviating a lot of the pressure around the hiring process so that it’s more conversational. 

And choosing applicants of various backgrounds. So it’s not just looking at people’s job titles and credentials. It’s more looking at their skill set and who can also benefit most from working in this position, whose skill set will grow if they’re selected in some of those hiring processes. Also, not just picking people who are an immediate yes on paper who have all the experience. 

Obviously, that’s a consideration, but also seeing if there’s something about this applicant that resonates and prioritizing those applicants as well in the hiring process and at least opening up the conversation, removing the barriers in receiving an interview. All of this started with and is part of the trust context within the organization. 

You want to share those applications, calls and job postings not just on your own channels, but through the channels of your trusted colleagues and communities, because they will obviously open up the pool of visibility and cast the net a lot wider.  

Those are things that have been really successful in terms of the hiring process and shining a light on the work that H.R. has done here. It’s been absolutely wonderful. They’re seeing the results that they want to see in diversifying the pool of applicants. For example, in the last three years, they’re seeing applicants who are self-identifying as non-binary within their cover letters and are coming openly with that and are nodding back to the application process saying, you know, I’m applying because you use equitable language or I felt welcome to apply here or I heard about this position through a trusted contact as well. 

The other thing that they highlighted in terms of the hiring process is there’s just a transparency around timelines and expectation of what that process looks like. Staying connected to applicants once they’ve been invited into the interview process or not. Just to keep people up to date on the status of their application is something that they’ve really worked towards and I think demonstrates a lot of empathy in their role towards the applicants as well. So, nobody’s left in the dark about where the status of their application is and I think that’s good for the hiring.  

And then I’ll touch a little bit on the programming side of things. For me, there has to also, like in hiring, be a lot of different entry points for artists and communities and audiences to enter spaces like Arts Commons, which in their nature are not accessible and historically have had their challenges but identify the people that are working towards that change. 

And that’s something that I think is really important, to disrupt and to educate internally and externally and to recognize the power that you have in your organization or wherever you’re coming from today to make people feel differently about these spaces. For me, being an active member of the community is probably my greatest entry point and I get recharged by spending my time in the arts, spending my time listening to music, going out to see shows, supporting events, supporting exhibitions. 

That’s where I get to connect and start the foundation for some of those relationships. It’s that shared passion for the arts. A lot of the time, of course, we have application processes that we have also tweaked those forms endlessly to just do our best effort in making people feel welcome to apply to the opportunities, to best communicate these opportunities, and to participate actively in the community in different ways. 

I’ve been lucky to be invited to this conversation and other conversations and also adjudication processes where I find myself on a jury and I find a lot of connections with artists and communities through those spaces as well. And I always encourage artists to apply, apply, apply because you’re just letting those in the arts know that you’re here and making yourself visible in a different way. 

But yes, I think there’s still some challenges. It is important that we continue to be thoughtful and reflective about the work that we’re doing, and urgency obviously isn’t helpful and only delays the good work that is being put forward. Building genuine relationships and authentic relationships with partners and community members is sort of like the baseline for me. 

Seeing the results of that kind of work has resulted in being able to support and share the stories of many different artists in many, many different ways that have been historically underrepresented or overlooked. For me, that is the joy in the work – seeing the results and being able to support artists from a variety of backgrounds, not only just at their arts and culture background, but in the diversity of the art that they make. 

So, elevating different art forms like Maud was saying, opening it up to different genres, elevating the art forms that are overlooked sometimes that have an amazing historical context and also deserve the same sort of spotlight as some of the more traditional art forms. I think that will be my final thought because I have more to say, but I would like to refocus the conversation. 

Toyin: Absolutely. That was a lot. Thank you so much. I heard board involvement. I heard professional development for both of you. For both of your organizations had moments where you had to take steps back to redevelop yourselves, not just because of professionalism now, but specifically to be able to widen your knowledge on how to approach EDIA, how to approach being a racially inclusive space, and that that’s great. 

I heard about one-on-one connection, and that that stuck out for me because I know Alex reached out to quite a number of people in the community from Arts Commons, and I know that also aligned with the work they did. I heard being authentic from both of you and that that’s really amazing, thank you for sharing. A lot of the questions or thoughts that I would like to bring out you probably touched on, but I want us to go a little bit deeper in the short time that we have. 

Briefly, if you can tell me, I know that, Maud, you mentioned something about this, but what prompted these decisions? We know the pandemic happened. We know there was George Floyd, we know all those things happened. But to particularly do work that would help encourage more racialized folks to apply for the opportunities you have, what prompted that? 

And that’s because there are people in this space today who maybe are wondering how do they even know that they’re not doing well? You know what I mean? Or they need to improve. What were those signs that you saw in your organizations that made you say, okay, so it’s not just because everybody is doing it. For you personally, what instigated that decision? What made you say we have to do this? We need to review our policy, We need to do this. Was it because you wanted to apply for your grants? Was it because somebody called you out? Was it because a staff member said, okay, something is wrong? What was it? 

Maud: That’s a good question. I think that it was really based on our observations. First, you know, when the festival happens, we’re there, we’re on the ground, we’re looking at who’s in the room when we review applications. We’re part of the panel reviewing. I feel like if you have the slightest interest in those kinds of subjects, you do notice if you tend to get only the same type of thing. What happened a few times that I can recall is that one of us would go into the community and come across an artist like a musician that we had never heard of and we thought they were amazing, and realizing that they’d never applied to Sled Island before. Sometimes they don’t even know about it, even though they’re musicians, and that’s what they’re doing. And so, trying to understand, okay, why is that? We want them to apply and we want them to be a part of it. And so what are the missing parts here? What can we do to make that possible?  

But there was also, you know, as you said, sometimes someone calls you out or points something out. When you get the email, it’s your first reaction. It’s never pleasant to be criticized. And like we’ve all been defensive hearing something negative. But then when you just take the time to absorb the information and understand that essentially people don’t take the time to write you an email, they don’t care about your organization. Right? And so, trying to look beyond maybe your tone or something and just focusing on what they’re getting at, it has happened. 

Some people called out that in some areas of our programming the representation wasn’t there and we had to work on how can we improve that and doing the research. Yeah. To see what changes can be made, what tweaks can be made. But I think often it’s also asking people like really if you want to know the answer, then challenging your own assumptions as to why someone isn’t participating and reaching out and asking yourself, okay, why don’t people feel comfortable sharing with you? 

Like, why is it that you don’t want to attend? Or why do you not feel like you’re a good fit? Or why have you never applied? I think that listening is key because there are barriers that we obviously all have blind spots to and there are things that we haven’t thought about. I would say that it is mostly community feedback and our own observation, like self-reflection and looking at the facts. Like the facts for us were at that point in time our programming was lacking in these communities. We didn’t see them represented or we didn’t have stuff that was from their  communities. And it’s just a little bit too homogeneous and like, what do we do about that? I don’t think it’s amazing. 

Toyin: Thank you. I’ll go to Sanja.  

Sanja: This has been something that has been sort of internal and external from the programming team having a vision for what programming looks like and everything from how the applications are required to how we connect with artists. But speaking to working on the ground, you see what the arts community is like, you see how wonderful and diverse the artists who are working here in the city are and to not be able to see that reflected in arts spaces is incredibly frustrating and inaccurate in the representation of our city. 

So working to combat that and to bring awareness to that has been a great way to open up the conversation. But even my department – social impact – was created to do deeper rooted community engagement and programs like the TD Incubator program, bringing in interdisciplinary artists from diverse backgrounds and backgrounds that are historically underrepresented, and also bringing in leaders in the arts to lead those programs, much like Maud does in the curatorial sense. 

Like Sled Island we have brought in community artists who are professionals in what they do from different backgrounds to lead a cohort of artists, more emerging or mid-career professionals, in developing those voices and stepping back and letting the work happen, providing the resources, providing the spaces to groups that have never had access to those things, and finding new ways to work together and be accountable for the work that we want to do and continue to do, and be accountable for the work that has not been done. 

There’s a lot more work to do and it can really only be done one day at a time, one relationship at a time, and it takes a lot of patience. But those results do come together over that time frame and just seeking new ways, being open to new ways of working and bringing in the support of the leadership team, the board of directors, my programming team, my greater team because we all have the intention to work towards the same goals.  

Toyin: Thank you Sanja. That’s profound. I heard a few things from both of you. Observation and a lot of observations. Using those moments of stillness where you just observe what you’re doing going into the community, going to see who is out there, who’s challenging your own bias and getting feedback also. Those are amazing ways. Thank you.  

One of the things that I also thought of as I was preparing for this session was what results have you seen? So, I’ll quickly do a brief summary. I learned you went through a process of community engagement, you had your board involved with some of the work they did. 

You wanted to understand why community groups which had been looking to be a part of Sled and asking questions to know more about why people were not engaging with you. Who are the people engaging now, since you’ve done all that, I’m sure you have experienced some results. Some of them super positive, maybe some of them just positive, some of them those things. 

And I’m sure that it’s the same with Arts Commons saying I know that the social impact department that gives birth to the video series and the RBC emerging program that we’ve had for a couple of years now, those programs came from somewhere and now you have some sort of results. There are folks here who might be taking the steps and organizations who would be curious to say let’s start from somewhere. 

What kind of results tangible or intangible, whichever you want to share, have you both experienced? Like what kind of feedback have you received after you took these steps? We want to know it’s been effective. I can see that at least to a certain extent, you both said, you are not seeing the exact results that you dreamt of yet. 

It’s a journey, it’s not a destination. But where are you both right now, both organizations in the work that you’ve started? From there, we’re going to go to resources, but I just wanted to hear what your results have been for now. I’ll start with Maud and then I’ll go to Sanja.  

Maud: It’s an interesting question because it’s not always as straightforward as other things that you might work on. You know, I keep repeating that, but it’s true. It’s a lot of emerging strategies and initiatives. We don’t have a lot of models to look to. And, you know, when we embarked on that community engagement, we didn’t really know what it was going to look like, how long it was going to take and what the takeaways were going to be. 

And even now that we’ve done all that and our consultant Jordan created a report, we have all the main takeaways and some things are kind of concrete, but others are much more difficult to quantify. From an intangible perspective, I would say my first observation and something that I’m really happy with that came as a result of that process was how I saw some of my board members change, like right in front of my eyes, by participating in those conversations. 

It was pretty great to see. Not that they thought before participating in the conversation that the idea wasn’t important. I mean, they all voted in favour of undertaking this work and putting money into the process. But I could tell that when we first pitched it to the board, there were a lot of people who weren’t into it. Like, what is the point? How does that fit into strategic planning? /what is it going to mean to us? And I think that for those who volunteered to be part of the actual conversation, I could tell that for them as individuals it really opened their eyes to a whole lot of things that they didn’t realize before. 

And in particular challenges that people who don’t have all the same privileges are facing every day. And they got very excited about the work, like, let’s brainstorm what could Sled Island do. And I didn’t feel this same excitement prior to having that community engagement. And so that was really great. Now, for things that are a bit more tangible, I mean, just the relationship creation that came out of it, we’ve heard from various community brokers, the various artists who were part of those conversations. You know, there were some artists who were part of it who had never performed at Sled Island before. And now I can think of at least two off the top of my head who have been playing the past years, and at least it seems have had a really great time. So just that, you know, it’s a small thing, but it is important and I’m really happy about that. 

One of our community brokers who was someone I knew of from just being in the same scene for so many years, but that I had never really spoken to Carlin Black Rabbit. This year we collaborated with him. He curated a showcase of Indigenous punk and metal bands that took place during the festival on National Indigenous People’s Day, and it was amazing. It was a packed room like 400 people so excited. And from Carlin’s own feedback, even though he’s been a musician for so many years, he said he had never seen this many Indigenous folks in their room. Some people, he said, had traveled from across the country to come see that, because especially in some genres of music like punk and metal, the Indigenous representation is even less so than in others. 

So it was really awesome to see that. And I know there was a Treaty 7 chief in attendance, which was very meaningful for Carlin. And anyway, I would have never had that connection had we not done that community engagement. And to see how successful the showcase was and again, how meaningful it seems like it has been as an experience for Carlin and his community, was really wonderful. 

One of the key pieces of feedback that we heard from the various communities we engaged with was the difficulty for musicians, whether or not they’re newcomers, but even for some who’ve been here for many years, their difficulty integrating or becoming a part of the existing music community, like not knowing how to. Sanja was talking a lot about entry points and that’s very true. Knowing how to make those connections and to build your network, whether it’s in a new city or in the city that you’ve been in for many years.  

One idea we had was to use an existing event, so Sled Island, for many years has been doing an event that we call Rock Lotto, where we ask a lot of musicians if they want to participate, we put their name in a hat, we draw their names at random to create music groups, and that takes place in the morning. And then those groups are given the rest of the day to work together and create three or four songs, and then they perform them at night on stage. That event was a fundraiser for Sled Island and the participating musicians were usually musicians who were very familiar with Sled, who had played the festival many times – they were who we know and who we could easily contact to participate. But after we went through the community engagement, it struck us that it could be a really great event if we tweaked it. So, the idea now is having half of the participants being from our existing community and half being from other communities – people who have not participated in Sled who maybe don’t even know about it, and having these people meet and create music together for that day. That would hopefully give them an entry point and an introduction. 

That’s something we’re super excited about. However, one thing that we identify with that event specifically is that the way we usually run it, because it was a fundraiser, participants were not paid even though we’re asking for a full day commitment from these people. And I would say the second piece of feedback from the community engagement was a lot of financial barriers to participation, to a whole lot of things. 

And so we recognized that if we wanted to try and execute that idea, we were going to have to find funding, because usually it’s something like 30 different musician participating, if you want to pay everyone. And then we need rehearsal spaces for them to create those songs during the day. Usually in the past we just relied on musicians’ own practice days. 

But if we are putting equity at the forefront of organizing this event, we really wanted to have a budget to be able to pay for everything because we didn’t want someone to feel like, Oh, they can’t participate because they don’t have a rehearsal space or like, we cannot, travel from our house to the rehearsal space to the venue at night and that kind of stuff. 

So, long story short, we applied for a project grant from CADA that we were successful in receiving, and so we got enough to hopefully organize two editions of this this event. We’re hoping to have the first one this coming November and I’m really excited to see. I’m not sure if it’s going to work or not. There is a lot that we’re hoping for, but you know, we won’t know until we try. That’s the most recent development in all this work. 

Sanja: I’ll talk a little bit about results in terms of being able to advocate for increased resources, artists fees, being able to work directly with our fund development team to meet the needs of our artists to help remove certain barriers and access. We’re lucky to have two artist development programs, and with that comes access to incredible resources and education and access to local community and networking opportunities. 

So, for me, the results have been workforce development, developing artists and their skills to move beyond these walls so that they can apply those skills in a number of different capacities. My colleagues in education work very, very hard to develop teaching artistry and taking the artists that we work with in the artist development programs and applying their skills into developing teaching artists has been an incredible result of our departments working together better and with more intention. 

The results also have been working more collaboratively as a team, less in our silos. That has been incredible too, to collaborate and make those changes together and supporting the growth of artists and keeping artists here interested. To work here in Calgary is at the heart of a lot of what we do and making sure there’s a sustainable arts ecosystem for them to thrive in so that they don’t feel like they need to fly away and that their work is rewarded and that they are taken care of in working here in those capacities. 

Other meaningful results have been seeing our artist cohorts and our alumni collaborate and create together and being able to just put people in a room is a huge privilege to see those sparks sort of fly. Being able to invite the community into the work we’re doing in a meaningful and educational way with different professional development sessions, different mentors. 

Again, going back to the incubator, bringing in our fellows or curators with the support of artists like Jae Sterling and Wakefield Brewster leading those conversations and that direction, it just has been so incredibly valuable and wonderful for those artists and artist development and inspiration within the city and fostering that inspiration to continue making work together.  

Of course we see more stories reflected and we’re able to share more stories in a meaningful way. It’s very important that artists feel represented here, audiences feel represented here, and we hear this a lot. Like, you know, I never thought I’d have my art here. I never thought I would perform here. This is a dream come true. And it’s something that’s just catching up for me and being able to represent so many different and diverse stories and ways of making has been important and a great result because those artists are our biggest advocates and our pillars of support; those communities that we engage with are our biggest advocates and pillars of support and keep us accountable to the work that we’re doing together. So just more of that. It is challenging because I want to help everyone. There’s a capacity to buildings, there’s a capacity to rooms, there’s a capacity to budgets, but it’s about intentionally prioritizing potentially the communities you go into, the stories you share and the investments that you make through that. 

But yeah, just more resources to impact change, to support a deeper compassion in our culture.  

Toyin: Thanks so much, Sanja. My last question is kind of related the last two questions and related to some of the questions that I’ve seen in the chat. 

First there was a question in the chat here. This is that as an Indigenous artist arts instructor, I’ve noticed an increase in temporary paid opportunities for Indigenous peoples, but still not many Indigenous peoples meaningfully employed in arts organizations in roles that don’t have Indigenous designation in the title. I have seen this a lot. I’m curious if there’s any knowledge of methods any organizations have implemented to successfully bring in diverse employees.  

Before I take it to you, and I know that you might not have specific answers to this question in the work that you’ve done, so I’m going to make it generalized a bit. When you were consulting with the community, did you specifically consult with roles that you had to hire people for that were temporary? And did it lead to further conversations around retaining them? I know that you mentioned that you were going to speak with your H.R. person even before this meeting on this topic. So, I’m curious to know if there were activities you engaged in, in terms of staffing and or in this beautiful creative economy that we all belong to, these conversations, these engagement opportunities that you’ve had will lead to roles that are opportunities that wherein this is really designated to a particular community? That opened doors for them to come in?  

Sanja: So, with each initiative and I mean, this is frustrating for me as well, I want to work with more Indigenous people. This is so important to me personally, and this is why I prioritize these relationships in the partnerships that I can implement. 

And it is important. There are many projects that are growing in this sort of direction. The other Circle project is a really great one to highlight from Arts Commons, which is building those relationships. And I think that has been the foundation for many people to feel welcome here and to feel like they belong here and can see themselves working here. 

So, yes, a lot of the things that I mentioned in the hiring that have been opened up come from those initial conversations and community building trust, building relationships, building a way of working together that is, of course, mutually beneficial, but is also for the benefit of the applicants as equal and identifying people in the community who do want to get involved is something that is getting better with some of those things we talk about in terms of language and tone and welcoming people in. 

But again, I’m a firm believer that you in your organizations can be that catalyst for change. You can be the one that makes people feel differently and welcoming them in to think about themselves in these roles and then working with your teams to create those entry points. So maybe you can help somebody get an interview. That’s been a way that I’ve been able to support in terms of what I do and our hiring needs – I think this person is a great applicant. Can you please get them an interview. You can use those existing relationships or fill some of those gaps, some of the hiring processes and just include more people. But I don’t know if that really gets to the heart of it in terms of different methods. For me it’s all comes back to relationship building and finding a way forward that is a little more holistic rather than administrative. 

Toyin: And to just add to that, I think understanding that relating with people when it comes to the work that we’re doing here to further encourage racialized communities to be more engaged in the arts is not based on your own terms alone. So as organizations, we need to understand that it is also on their own terms. 

So, if you’re going to relate with Indigenous communities or with other racialized communities, you want to do that in a way that is mutually beneficial. It’s not about tokenizing, it’s not about, you know, just, oh yeah, we’re trying to get an Indigenous person or a black person for this role and we’re wondering if you’re interested. 

No, you want to know what will make them interested in working with you in the first place. Like I think Sanja or Maud said, it’s like doing interview. It’s like you’re interviewing the organization as much as the organization is interviewing you. So, building these relationships, let’s have it at the back of our minds that we are creating roles or positions that we were inviting different people to come and apply for at the back of your mind that as much as you are the one creating the role, they have to also see reasons to want to work with you. 

So, people first, relationships first. It’s not just about administration. It’s about, okay, what are the things of you? I would encourage organizations to do their own research about Indigenous ways of knowing, although we’re a creative sector, a cultural sector, we might not be able to understand everything that pertains to everybody’s culture. 

But doing the work. When this is done where this intersection exists will go a long way in preparing our organizations to be ready for when people apply who are not familiar with who we are, not our H.R. or hiring team. 

And so, when they are answering questions, you want to listen deeply to the skills that they are presenting to you and not just the checkmarks or the boxes you want to feel. So that’s kind of where that dynamics might come in.  

The one last question I’d like to take to Maud before I open it up in the chat and see if we have other questions, is resources. What are the resources that you would like to share that really helped you? And these resources can go from individuals to books or websites, to YouTube videos, podcasts whatever research you probably found online, anything like that, whatever they are, if you don’t mind sharing some of them would be really, really great. 

Maud: I’m not going to lie. A lot of the resources that we used when I did a lot of research was a few years ago. So, off the top of my head, I may not have a very good list, but I can sort of only share them after the fact. 

I mean, I’ve talked extensively about our work with Jordan Baylon, who is someone who practices in Calgary and is a freelance consultant. I cannot recommend them enough for any organization who is interested in taking on any initiative related to anti-racism and equity. And the time myself and our festival manager undertook the AROC training – that’s the one offered by Community Wise. It’s a workshop that really helps you look at how to embed anti-racism at the core of your organization and not just in external communication or representation in programming. If you look on the Community Wise website, you might be able to find a link to that. That’s one that I thought was really, really helpful. 

I find that often the people we talked to that you highlighted earlier like one-on-one conversations were sometimes a great resource. Maybe just invite someone for coffee or ask them if you can take them out for lunch or something. And obviously there is a right way to ask – we don’t want to use people’s knowledge and then, you know, just never engage with them ever again and they feel like they were just here to teach you. 

I think that by building meaningful and genuine relationships with various organizations, you are led to meet such-and-such person. And by just having conversations from a human being to a human being is how I feel I have learned a lot. And also by just experiencing art. I’m not a very academic person, so I’m very pro-learning through other means. Not necessarily things that are like just watching Indigenous movies or that kind of stuff, just maybe more organic ways of learning. 

But I feel like as long as you approach it with genuine intention, it will be well-received. I will look back in my files and I can certainly after the workshop share resources that I found particularly helpful or like a list of trainings that I have taken. 

Toyin: Thank you so much. Good. And Sanja, would you like to add to that? No access to those resources and making them accessible is key in those dialogs.  

Sanja: I would again like to focus on the benefit of building goals, authentic relationships, where your values meet the values of either the organizations you’re working with, the artists you’re working with, or the communities you’re working with, aligning your values. This is a really powerful way to start those conversations and seeing, because I do believe we have more in common than we don’t. So, finding where that common ground is, to move from having those conversations often, and making progress from those moments of mentorship, always learning, being curious and exactly just an open invitation to where you want that growth from and being considerate of who is being asked on the other side and what you can offer for those resources as well. 

Anything we can do to bring more joy and more critical dialog into those spaces I think is important. Does that help?  

Toyin: Absolutely, yes. Thank you. And before I take the questions in the chat, I think one thing I’d like to add to that is mentorship. Sometimes when people are starting a new journey, you might want to look at people who have done that before, people who have kind of explored some of the things you’d like to explore before and approach them and see if they’re willing to mentor you in the journey. That’s a good place to start from – we see what you’ve done with your organization and we’d like to do something similar. Do you have capacity to mentor us or something like that?  

I see somebody has asked in the chat in regards to community engagement and are there any initiatives to mentor other arts organizations? 

Are there mentorship programs across the country that have come across in Calgary that you might want to research? I don’t know if there are any organizations specifically mentoring other smaller organizations, but you can feel free to approach organizations that you think are doing what you would like to do, and start from there. 

We have about 10 minutes more and I see a question here in the chat. Are there resources or tactics to employ that would help us reach out to communities who may have preconceptions and self-eliminate simply due to the genre we represent. So, the background here I sit on the Calgary Choral Society board, and we have been experiencing challenges because choral music is perceived as very white, European and religious. Are there resources or tactics to employ that would help us reach out to communities who may have preconceptions and self-eliminate simply due to the genre we represent?  

Can I invite Maud to answer this question? Because I know you mentioned something very similar at the beginning, so if you don’t mind just quickly saying what you did back then, because you were also seen in a particular way and you took that off gradually. 

Maud: I think that the best way to show a community that they have their place in the kind of music you program is to program people who are not white, who play that type of music. And I totally recognize that in certain genres, unfortunately, it’s actually difficult to find people, but they exist and they’re there and it’s just a matter of finding them. 

But it’s not enough to just program them and hope that people come. You really have to do specific communications and reach out to specific community associations or specific groups that work directly with the communities you’re trying to attract and whose perception you’re trying to change and invite them. I would say if it’s at all possible to make the show free. 

It’s even better because people I think are more willing and able to take a chance. But I think if you say to yourself that it’s just a perception then that means that there are non-white people who practice that type of music. Right? So, yeah, if people can see that the artists that are being put on stage look like them, well, they’ll be probably more enticed to come and participate and will feel more like it is also for them and not just for white people.  

Toyin: Absolutely. Thank you so much. I think I can add a little bit to that about training. You know, maybe in your programming you want to create some space for training or for mentorship, and that space can be used to do a lot of community engagement to bring in people from diverse communities who you want to mentor and train in what you do. Find people who might be interested and bring them in. They, in the next 10 years will have had 10 years of experience doing the kind of arts you do. It may sound like a long-term vision, but if someone started out 10 years ago, the difference would have happened now. 

So, if you start now going into those communities, even if it’s like creating the program for training or for mentoring in your space and you get some support for that, what would eventually happen is that those people that you’re training today would eventually become a part of your community and they would bring people from their own community into your space. 

And that’s another very organic way of going about this. And that brings us almost to the end of the questions that we have today. I am very grateful for every one of you. Thank you for spending your lunch with us. I really appreciate it. And if you have questions, feel free to pop them in the chat or reach out to any of the people here. Sanja and Maud mentioned that they’re happy to answer questions from folks who might be curious about some of the things that you’ve done. 

Please feel free to reach out to them or to reach out to me. Thank you so much for spending your afternoon with us again.

The next session is on August 24th and we will be speaking with BIPOC-led arts organizations. It’s a different story entirely, and it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be very interesting. We want to know how these BIPOC became leaders in their organizations and what their organizations did that kind of encouraged them to get into the space and the work that they are currently doing. Amazing arts leaders and you’ll see the poster very soon. 

And please feel free to RSVP. I can’t wait to have that conversation again. Thank you so much and have a very great afternoon.

Toyin Oladele (Host) 

 Toyin Oladele is a multi-disciplinary artist, curator, arts manager, creative strategist, and community builder, originally from Nigeria. She is a motivated and results-focused professional with two decades of experience, she has demonstrated excellence in organizational development, strategic planning, program development and implementation, community and arts-based event planning, production and event management, engagement, and equity & diversity.  

As a consultant and in her diverse roles, Toyin has overseen the development, delivery, and evaluation of a range of programs, projects, and partnerships focused on elevating the cultural landscape and supporting arts and culture professionals from all backgrounds. Her professional strengths are firmly rooted in her passion to invigorate community spaces with arts and culture, infusing inclusivity and vibrancy into her community, through a strategic approach that is highly collaborative. 

Toyin has been named as Canada’s Top 100 Black Women to watch by CIBWE in 2022, Top 25 EDIA Persons of the year by Canadian Multicultural Group in 2021 amongst other awards and nominations. 

In her spare time, Toyin loves to watch movies in Yoruba language, her mother tongue and engage with creative people. She also enjoys coaching, mentoring and assisting newcomers, especially women, to find their voice as professionals in the city of Calgary and across Canada and North America. Toyin is married and is a mother of three. 

Sanja Lukac (Panelist)  

Sanja Lukac (she/her) is a visual artist, curator and community activator passionate about equity in the arts and elevating the work of emerging artists. As an immigrant artist herself, Sanja works to create meaningful opportunities in the arts for all artists and is a mentor to many emerging and newcomer artists. 

Her passion for the arts extends to her local community as the Visual and Media Arts Curator at Arts Commons, Canada’s 3rd largest art centre. She is actively helping other artists thrive in the Calgary/Mohkinstsis arts ecosystem through her dedicated mentorship with the RBC Emerging Visual Artist Program, and support with the TD Incubator Program at Arts Commons, as well as in her volunteer work for the board of directors of the Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation (ICAI) and the Exposure Photography Festival. 

She is a founder and the Executive Director of SEITIES STUDIO, a traditional photography publication + gallery dedicated to international artists who work with traditional production methods in contemporary photography. In her spare time, she explores nature or is in her environmental darkroom. 

Maud Salvi (Panelist) 

Maud Salvi was born in France, where she got involved with the arts community from a young age, spending years volunteering at festivals and in a music venue housed in a community center, where she fell in love with live music and grassroots organizing. 

She has over 15 years of experience working in the music sector, both in France and Canada. After immigrating in 2008 and settling in Montreal, she joined the POP Montreal International Music Festival where she honed her skills as an arts administrator, producer, and curator. In 2013, she moved across the country to join the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival as Executive Director. Six months into her new position, the Calgary flood forced the cancellation of the festival halfway through, leaving hundreds of artists stranded, staff and volunteers displaced, and the fate of the organization more than uncertain. Through hard work and incredible community support, Sled Island survived and Maud has led its rebuilding ever since, further establishing it as a Calgary institution and an internationally acclaimed event.  As a festival director and curator, she has participated in conferences across Canada, in the United States, Mexico, and South Korea.  

Racial Equity in the Workplace II, the next in this series of virtual town halls, takes place on Thursday, August 24, 2023 from 12 – 2pm. Register online via Zoom here.

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