Looking Back & Looking Forward

A year in, our grants specialist for arts organizations reflects on her time

Marta Ligocki

For me, the arts community defines the heart and soul of our city. At its best, the sector reveals a Mohkinstsis that is generous, connected, and working together to make the place we live better for everyone who calls Calgary home.

I see the magic of this place in the high-fives exchanged on the bike paths during Sled Island, our togetherness measured by the number of friends that congregate on a single tarp during the Calgary Folk Music Festival. I see the spirit of our city in the hushed moments at the Jack Singer Concert Hall between movements of a symphony. I see its future during an Indigenous Resiliency in Music album release showcase. Calgary’s inventiveness comes to life during the High Performance Rodeo, and our playfulness is on full display on Friday nights at the Loose Moose Theatre.

It’s these moments that define a city, and it’s these moments that I miss more than anything else in the world. It’s a cruel trick that these moments of togetherness are precisely what we must forgo for the health and safety of our neighbours for the foreseeable future.

Looking back on my calendar from 2020, a weekend filled with a performance at The GRAND for Unganisha, Whispers in the Dark at Vertigo Theatre, and a finale at the National Music Centre to celebrate Block Heater feel like a lifetime ago.

I was so excited to begin my role as grants specialist for arts organizations in December 2019 because central to the job is my greatest passion—helping arts organizations succeed.

Although the context of our collective work has shifted, my fundamental love and belief in the sector hasn’t.

In the last year I learned how to decipher Operating Grant interim reports and draw salient information from what you’re sharing. I supported organizations through our Operating Grant increase process. I began my practice as a facilitator and worked with incredible peer assessors. In 2020, from the comfort of our home offices, the community investment team distributed over 800 grants to support arts organizations and individuals. I’m continually humbled by the capacity of the team, and the abilities of all the staff at Calgary Arts Development.

As I look to 2021 the next major chapter of my portfolio begins—the re-imagining of the Operating Grant. Although the context of funding has shifted, I see that the need for unrestricted operating dollars is more important than ever. And as we begin this process, I will be calling upon the collective knowledge of the community to help us understand these new contexts of operational funding, and there will be opportunities to weigh in as this process unfolds.

My hope for the sector is for this current environment to illuminate the very best of us. I hope we come together in a way that only Calgary can, and to support each other to the best of our collective abilities. I hope we continue to break down the systemic barriers that exist so all voices can add their harmonies to the chorus of Calgary’s cultural landscape.

There will come a day when we will reunite in the theatres and concerts halls. A time when our calendars are full of gallery openings, and the electric energy of a festival is once again in the air. And when that day comes, know that I will be in the crowd cheering you on. I look forward to running into old friends and familiar faces, and to continuing to build upon the heart and soul of Calgary once again.

A graphic for the Looking Back & Looking Forward fieldnoteMarta Ligocki joined the community investment team in 2019 and is thrilled to support arts organizations across Calgary set and meet their goals. Building strong, open, and reciprocal relationships is at the heart of her practice as an arts administrator. She graduated from the University of Victoria in 2013 and completed the Rozsa Arts Management Program in 2015.

Marta is the former Program Director at CJSW 90.9 FM and a current on-air host. Marta also worked at the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and the Quickdraw Animation Society. She is also a past board member of the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association and Femme Wave Feminist Arts Festival.

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