Watch the 2023 Report to Community

Watch the 2023 Report to Community

If you missed our in-person Report to Community event on June 25, 2024 at cSpace Marda Loop, you can now view the presentation online. Watch the video to hear our President & CEO Patti Pon talk about our arts activities in 2023 and what’s needed next.

Each year, at least 75 per cent of our grant from The City is distributed into the community through our grant investment programs. In 2023 a total of $14.4M was invested through 663 grants to organizations, individual artists and arts collectives, and total participation in arts activities produced by grantees was up 11 per cent to $4.96 million.

Read what we’ve learned about artists and arts organizations during 2023, and how we continue to support and champion the arts sector, in our 2023 Accountability + Impact Report at

You will also find other research and reports referred to in the presentation here.

Read the transcript of this year’s Report to Community below:

Patti Pon: So we’re going to get started. please encourage and invite as more people arrive to sort of wave them into your row or let them know there’s a seat near you or anything like that, and then we’re going to get underway. So, welcome everyone to our 2023 Report to Community, at today’s event we’ll present a summary of our work in 2023 and how we stewarded the funds that are received from us by the City of Calgary to benefit the arts and artists first and foremost, but by extension, because of the great work that many of you do, benefit Calgarians, and that’s something that we’re all here to do.

Before I begin with my comments, I’d like to invite Elder Adrian Wolfleg to the stage to start us off in a good way.

Elder Adrian Wolfleg: Thank you and I just received some tobacco, which in a lot of our traditions is a gift, it’s medicine, it’s for healing, and it just, it puts it back at a good start again. And when we look at art, for myself, I never really considered myself an artist, and then my sister one time was saying Well, you know, she’s my adopted sister, she said your dad does this, your uncle does this, this one does this, so what do you? And I tried to make it smaller, I said I just do stick figures, and she was like, oh, a traditionalist.

It made me smile and she made me feel good about what I was doing so to each their own. And we had some awesome, awesome days and my sister, it was an honour this year to do a project with an association that worked at our school, Joanne Cardinal Schubert, and working with these artists there was a retrospective a while back at the Glenbow with (inaudible) and I was sitting there and talking with him, and people would come and ask him things and ask him to sign books, and there was a couple there that said that they had, someone going to school. They said, what do you recommend that we tell him as he pursues a degree in art? And he said, do not fill this up, but this up here. That is to you. And then somebody else had asked well when did you do first do art? He goes I did say when I started school, but I think actually, he was out by Cold Lake, being on the shore and I had a stick, and I was drawing pictures in the sand, I was probably a year and a half, two years old.

So art starts when we’re young and stays with us for life. And it’s a way of actualizing our dreams and taking people to different places because you probably see different works, heard songs, seen performances that can make you cry, that just stuck with you, and then later on again and stuff that was like, how did they get inside my brain? How did they know that this piece was missing from the puzzle?

And so we will bring that to artists. And during COVID they made life bearable. They let us be someplace else when we’re stuck somewhere. But that’s the thing with this group (CADA), is they encourage, they’re there. But they don’t just focus on one group they include the older people, they include the artists, they include community members that say I don’t know anything about art. You’re a person, you have a heart, you have a voice, you’re included. And so when you think of art, remember those spoken word, remember those graffiti artists, remember those classes, those dancers, the models and the people that talk to you and took you someplace else and make you want to see more. So in your own way I ask that you give thanks. I’ll start off in Siksika and then I’ll switch to English. And during Siksika if you just do interpretive dance.

I do ask that when we do the prayer that you don’t record it, you don’t capture it because it’s given. And once we capture it, we hang onto it, so let it go. And working with youth, there was this one session where an individual was sitting there, just awestruck, I was like, What’s rolling around in your head? And he said I was thinking when you talk of asking, and they were all children, I was thinking how many, that other place, how many prayers are there that no one asked for, because we’ve been conditioned to do it on our own, to not ask for help. So give yourself a break, ask for help.

(prayer not recorded)

Patti Pon: Thank you, Elder Adrian.

So, following up on the very wise words and agreeing to start us off in a good way, and as you all know we live and work and play here on the Otipemisiwak territories, the people of Treaty 7, this is the home of the Blackfoot people comprising the Siksika, the Kainai, the Piikani First Nations, as well as the Treaty 7 signatories, the Tsuut’ina Nation, and the Îyârhe  Nakoda Bearspaw Chiniki and Goodstoney Nations. Today this land is home to the Otipemisiwak, the Métis Government Districts 5 & 6, as well as many First Nations and people from across Turtle Island and all of us who call this place home. There’s been art and music and dance, storytelling and ceremony on this land for time immemorial, and it is the spirit of this and the land and all of us who call this place home that we do our work. And in particular, when I have the opportunity to be in a room of so many creatives and artists and people who devote their work, and I don’t necessarily mean gig work, they put their passion to sharing and to connecting us and to feel that we belong. That is the good work, that is acknowledgement that all of you give to this place every day.

So it isn’t about whether or not can I say Otipemisiwak, or am I right in saying Piikani, or Kainai or Siksika, and by the way, you should practice if you’re going to say land acknowledgements, you know there’s enough stuff out there on the YouTube where you can practice. Right. And also it’s OK when Elder Adrian will correct me and say, well, you know…, it’s more like, it’s about trying, right? And as artists, artists more than anybody know what it is to try, know what it is to iterate, know what it is to keep working, to keep going. And, that’s the gift you bring. That’s the acknowledgement you bring to this place. So always carry that with you in your heart.

There are a ton of Calgary Arts Development team members here today. We are a mighty team, and I am so grateful to all of you. I hope that you’ll get to meet some of our team members, they’re wearing their name tags, except for Van who left hers, but she remembered that, and good for you Van, I’m picking on you because I can.

But you know, you’ll see members of our team around and happy to answer any questions that you have.

How today’s going to work is I’m going to talk, with some slides about 2023, as you heard. And then we’re going to have a moment with a couple of our poets laureate today.

And then we’re going to open up for a short Q&A session, I’ve got members of our leadership team here. So as you hear me talk about, some of the things that happened in 2023, if other things come up that you want to ask us about in space in, in group, in circle, then, we’re happy to do that and then we’re going to head out and allow for some time for networking and mingling, which is the thing here, people most value, is getting to meet new people and getting to talk one on one with members of the CADA team and things like that. So we’re going to try to do all of that knowing we have to be out of here by 6:30, because there’s another event coming in here tonight. So we’ll try to do all of that today.

So, starting off 2023, we granted $14.4 million into Calgary’s arts sector through 663 grants. You can see how the public dollars we receive from the City of Calgary spread out into the community, supporting more than 37,000 arts experiences that had a total participation of over 4.9 million.

So when people talk about this isn’t an arts city, there’s nothing to do, it’s just like really, really? And actually, I was saying to Helen the other day, I think the next time I hear someone say that, I’m going to challenge them to spend the week with me, come with me, and then tell me there’s nothing to do. I don’t know where to go, I don’t know.

But that, you know, and keeping in mind that 37,400+, that’s only the 663 grants. So it’s not what happens is the Saddledome, it’s not what happens at Mikey’s and thank goodness they have another venue, it’s not what happens at the Ironwood, it’s not what happens at your kids’ dance school, that’s just those that we invest in.

So think about that in terms of the opportunities and the presence of the arts in our own community for the benefit of our own citizens. It’s really quite something. And I really applaud you all and I think you should be proud of that. Know that you are a part of something this big.

On the next two slides, we break out a bit of what our, how our grant investment $14.4 million broke out, from the largest program, which is the Operating Grant Program  which is at $8.5 million, give or take, to the rest of our programs, including Project Grants for arts organizations and individual artists, the Future Focus program, as well as grants with specific focus on equity deserving artists like the Original Peoples Investment Program and ArtShare.

Our grant investment programs that also promote cultural activation and tourism like the Cultural Activation Fund, and grants supporting art for social change like the Changemaker grants. So there’s always a bit of a fine line, a dynamic tension that we manage because as we got bigger, right, our envelopes got bigger, we also had more demand. We also saw a wider array of ways in which artists and creatives are connecting Calgarians, are undertaking their practice in support of what I call public benefit for Calgarians, which includes artists by the way. And so while we aren’t looking to have all these programs serving all people, we knew we needed to have more programs that were starting to, I think, give artists and creatives the opportunity to sort of see themselves inside some of these programs that really did align to their practice.

So, you know, it’s that kind of, again, that dynamic tension I mentioned, which as the funder, you shouldn’t be the one who has to try and fit into my reality. We should be the ones trying to fit into yours. So part of that involves an array of programs, and maybe you might see yourself inside some of them. So that’s the core group of the programs that we had in 2023, and for those of you who are grant recipients inside the Operating Grant Program, you know Melissa and team began the work at the end of ‘23 in looking at a review of that program for the similar reasons that I just talked about in terms of how we see ourselves inside these programs.

From a vibrancy perspective, I don’t have to tell you, but part of the timing around our Report to Community is that we also undertake our annual shareholder meeting. So, Calgary Arts Development’s structure is such that we have one shareholder and that’s the City of Calgary as represented by City Council. And so once a year, we have an opportunity to spend an hour with Council talking about our last year, we bring the voices of artists to Council, Dwight Farhat is here with us, thanks for joining us, Dwight. Dwight was one of the artists who spoke to Council and it’s really giving our elected officials a chance to hear directly from those people who are receiving the funds and doing amazing things with them in a way that I could never describe. And as was the case, Dwight, Sue Elliott from Calgary Opera, Stephanie Banszky spoke and it was incredible. Their seven minutes of talking was much more impactful than the 17 minutes of talking that I did. So thank you so much Dwight for that.

So what I shared with them is that the contribution the arts make to a more vibrant downtown, how the arts align the neighborhoods in every ward in the city, are all things and all reasons why the City makes a really good choice in investing in the arts through Calgary Arts Development and with other programs that the City has. We’ll talk more about it next year, but 2024 marked ten years of Living a Creative Life, which was a city-wide arts strategy that that we embarked on in 2014. And really incredible things have come from that, and, you know, I’ll give you a teaser to encourage you to come back next year. Living a Creative Life is an actual, is an exemplar in the country and beyond for how arts and culture contribute to city making and community building. And I’m actually invited to speak at an international congress in the fall with my colleagues Greg and Melissa about Living a Creative Life and how it’s manifested. Like, if you think in ten years, which included a 100 year flood, (inaudible) since the Great Depression, a worldwide pandemic, it also included us tripling our budget from 6 million to 18 million, and now we’re almost at 20 million, it included the participation, the active participation of partners like Calgary Economic Development, Tourism Calgary, I see Josh Traptow here from the Heritage Calgary or any other City partners to include to think about how arts and culture play a role in their missions and in their strategies. So we’re now elevating arts and culture to be included in an identity for the City. Living a Creative Life itself has turned into a podcast, a Storytelling Project, a Congress, specifically artists, and so, and we’re on the radar nationally. The team regularly gets phone calls and inquiries from other funders across Canada, across America, about our work in granting, about our work in research, about our work in reconciliation, from all over. And that’s, I attribute, because of Living a Creative Life and all of you who helped us take it off the page. And so, I just wanted to celebrate all of you for this moment and know that the rest of this year and beyond we’ll talk more about what does the next chapter of Living a Creative Life look like, how do we continue to create the conditions where Calgarians can live their most creative lives? And at the heart of that are artists, because you practice creativity every day. You are, like I say, elite athletes of the  Creativity Olympics.  If anyone ever says to make me a more innovative Calgary, or a more innovative neighborhood, or a more innovative this, the first question I ask is and where are the arts in that pursuit? Because if you don’t have artists in that, then you actually don’t really mean you want to find innovation, right? Solutions, new and searching new solutions for all problems. Because the direct output of creativity is innovation, right? Artists know what it is to fail. They know what it is to get back up and try again. They know what it is to pivot. That’s what you do when you’re innovative.

So you know, the next time someone says to one of you, if you’re innovative, ask them, where am I in that conversation? Why aren’t you hiring me as an artist if that’s really what you want to have? Because you know, then you’re just spinning wheels in my opinion.

Economic impact. The arts provide jobs, generate revenue, I know sometimes it’s like oh do we need to talk about numbers again, and it’s like yes, we do, because that’s how we get $18 million and not $6 million dollars, and because we need 8 votes on Council. The creative economy is the fastest growing economy in the world, and we spend quite a bit of time with our friends at Calgary Economic Development, speaking with those in a variety of creative industries to talk about what makes sense for Calgary, what’s true for Calgary. And last fall, as the mayor’s celebration, where she launched the Creative Economy Guidebook, which isn’t a strategy per se, but it is a bit of a scan of what we think the opportunities are for creative industry, creative community, however you describe yourself within this realm, to find your place in that. And then from there CADA has identified three particular priorities, Economic Development has identified three priorities that they’re working on, and we’re inviting others to see themselves inside that fabric as well, so that we can start to really lift and have a critical mass that is contributing to the creative economy.

I mean, with respect to, again, those 663 of you, well, actually less than that, about 180 inside the Operating Grant Program, have an accumulated revenue of over $150 million and a total direct economic output of almost $149 million. So again, that’s just, it’s not even 663 grants. Am I right in saying it’s like 170, 180? 198 to be exact that have that $350 million in total revenue, $149 million in total sales. Right. Anyway, so to say that the arts isn’t supporting our local economy?  Really? It’s $14.4 million that we grant. And only those 98 or $14.4 million imagine if we could collect the data for all 663, then what would that number look like. So that’s the kind of impact that this community has.

The total number of artists hired in 2023 was over 12,000. And the total number of full-time equivalent art staff was 800. So we’re pulling our weight. As a matter of fact, I’d argue we’re punching above our weight. And, and again, congratulations. In this timeline, we know life is really challenging. I know many, many organizations, many of the folks or leaders in this room are making really challenging choices, but on balance (inaudible) you are doing the good work and congratulations and thank you for that.

From the access perspective of the total number of arts experiences like I said was 37,000. And of those, 7700 were for youth with attendance of over 230,000 young people. For those of you who are involved and engaged in programming, you know first-hand how arts experiences contribute to young lives in terms of enhancing learning, building confidence, teamwork, understanding, generating a sense of belonging.

And it isn’t only in that moment for that person, that stays for life. So when we talk about creating better citizens, artists do that. Arts organizations do that work. And so it makes a difference.

Artists are our storytellers and our meaning makers, you heard me say that last year, and how much and how important it is for artists to be among us in this time and to hear from artists. The work you do shapes the identity of our city, which is the third most diverse major city in Canada. And by third most that means 43% of Calgarians, including urban Indigenous populations, are a visible minority.  We are well on our way to becoming not the visible minority, but the visible majority. And so when I say that our arts ecosystem includes stories and arts experiences that are as varied as the people who live here, and we need to pay attention to that, and who’s living kin Calgary and who’s coming to Calgary, and how and why our work is guided by the values of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility. And I say that again, not as a “if you want to be a good person, if you want to be progressive, if you want to do the right thing” it’s not about that. It’s about do the math. If we’re 43% visible minority right now, well on our way to being over 50% by a longshot within our lifetimes, what are you doing if you’re not paying attention to that? You’re putting yourself out of the market. And that current market that maybe you focus on is shrinking.

So this is about business. You want to do good business? Think about how EDIA is impacting your organizations. Think about your communities that you’re in good relations with. Think about what that means. Think about the cultural backgrounds that they come from. Think about what it is to be a plural society, a plural community is yes, we built traditions together. We build a cultural practice together, but not at the expense of people forgetting the cultural practices of where they come from, of the many identities that they wear, and let them walk in this world, right.

When in front of a group of people I don’t know, I’ll introduce myself in three ways, my Chinese name, my Blackfoot name and my English name, I’ll say how and why my names are what they are. And it’s to say that I walk in this world in at least those three ways that people know me by. So if all of us are welcomed with at least three ways, what does that mean, what are the opportunities and the possibilities that open up for you in your work, in your business. When you think about, and I just had a great conversation with Allison today about fundraising, what is that going to mean when we’re 50+% visible minority? And this city’s growing by the way, we’re at 1.7 million, it kind of blows my mind, we are growing. So is the demand. So are the costs. So are the challenges of keeping our doors open. All of those things are large, are happening for us. So that’s where I hope we come into play as Calgary Arts Development, to try and embrace those observations with you, and also be on that learning journey because goodness knows we don’t know it all, by a long shot. We’re willing to try stuff, and we would welcome the opportunity to walk with you in trying those things.

Art equals belonging, that’s a big part of it I think, that’s a clue. You know, two things really affected me as I was thinking about my comments today, one is the Calgary Foundation, they do Vital Signs, which is an annual report and a survey of kind of well-being in our community, and in this year’s edition, they reported that those who identify as, racialized people, people of colour, 80% reported that they feel like they don’t have a place in Calgary. They don’t know where they fit. And then Calgary Economic Development and Tourism Calgary undertook a survey as they were creating the new brand for Calgary, right, Blue Sky City, and in that report, what they discovered is 60% of Calgarians feel like they don’t belong, don’t feel connected. Holy cow. That’s an opportunity for the arts.

Sorry, things come out of my mouth and I kinda go that’s not good. Excuse me. But there’s an opportunity for artists because of the belonging and inclusion that you create, because of the ways we find storytelling in a manner that says I see me in that, I’m not alone in that, they see that, they are telling me that back. Those are amazing things and we need to do more of that, that’s what the numbers tell us.

So we need you. And particularly, you’ve heard me say this on a broken record, I won’t stop saying it until I see more artists around tables that are making good conversation and decisions about community building and city building. We need you to help us with sense making, to help us with meaning making, to help us think about different ways that we might respond to the challenges we find ourselves in this time that is more fractured, that is more polarized. I really think art is the one place where or, no, I think it’s the one place, where we can help close the gap on issues and challenges and help people discover ways to create their own meaning, which isn’t easy. And I know that. We’re not asking people to sort of do all the popular stuff, and be all light and laughter, although we need some of that right now, we need some joy in that right now. But, you know, as we often talk about theaters and music halls and other venues, that they are safe spaces, they are brave spaces, and something like that for us, for our communities, for the work that you do going forward, helping people feel connected because of the impact of your work.

And that means we need to keep more artists here and we need to pay them more. Artists are, again, you know, you support artists, you’re actually supporting some of the lowest income folks in the community, we know the median income for artists stayed at 2016 levels at $35,000 a year, where for Calgarians overall went up from $47,000 to $65,000 a year.

Artists stayed at 35%. We’ve got to fix that. We have to change that. And not only artists, but other arts workers, those who also support the industries and the craft. We gotta change that somehow. And I don’t have the answer, but I know we’ve got to fix that, we can’t continually work on the backs of each other in this room. If 1.7 million people are here now versus the 1.8, it might even be just over, we broke the 1 million when I started as the CEO in 2013. I remember Mayor Nenshi saying we broke a million, that’s a milestone. Well, now we’re well on our way to 2 million. And so what does that mean for us?

People are returning to the arts, we did see that, we saw that in the numbers and we need to find more places where like-minds and like-souls can gather, and to be in space together and that’s all of you that create that.

You heard me talk earlier about the numbers of the Creative Economy, the fastest growing economy in the world, and we looked to support initiatives like Rise Up and Chinook Blast in partnership with other city builders, Tourism, Economic Development, the City of Calgary, Calgary Hotel Association support opportunities for Calgarians to experience events that range from small pop-up, intimate performances to the large scale spectacle events like Chinook Blast. This year, over three weekends, 450,000 Calgarians took part in activities, many of whom I see Johnny and Joanna here from the Rabbits during the High Performance Rodeo, there is some extraordinary work that happened. And so again, how do we create that critical mass so you feel like you’re part of something? You feel like you’re part of something really exciting?  Those were initiatives, and again, I was invited to the first Summit on Cities by the Canadian Urban Institute to talk about Chinook Blast and how we’re including artists in recovery from Covid and economic downturns and all that kind of stuff. And so people see us and because they see us, it gives us an opportunity for people to see you and the good work that you all do.

So, you know, as you get more phone calls from across the country saying, hey, how did you do that? What are you doing? That’s why, because people are seeing you in that way.

One of the newest programs that we undertook is stewarding the Public Art Program on behalf of the City of Calgary. It’s an important part of our work, we’re commissioning new works, we’re offering learning about public art, and we’re activating the municipal public art collection. And, what you see up here is one of the projects which is activating the part of the City’s collection that we don’t get to see because it’s not like a public installation in a park or on a bridge or wherever it might be. It’s actually pieces of work that, acquired by the City and, and sit in storage or sit in places where the public isn’t normally, able to access. So we, the team came up with these digital billboards in locations throughout the city, displaying works from the collection and making it clear that as Calgarians this is your collection. These are things that you own as citizens, and it’s a way to take the artwork to where people are. I said to our Interim Public Art Director, Greg, and members of the public art team, I want us to think about it as putting the public back in public art. And so how do we create that kind of connection and an opportunity, and these billboards are traveling throughout the city and we’re particularly focusing on communities that don’t currently have public art in their neighborhoods and in their communities.

Our current work is guided by a four-year strategic framework called Ákáakomatapoap. It is a name that was gifted to us by Blackfoot Elder Saa’kokoto and Ákáakomatapoap means and now we begin, and he gifted us that name as he participated in our strategic, kind of reflection and planning in light of everything I’ve mentioned has happened in the last ten years. And he felt like it was like, I think and now we begin this next chapter, this next part of the journey. And so he gifted us this name, and we identified these four directions of purpose, people, community and resources. And you can find the framework on our website. And we’re taking an ecosystem approach to recognizing the arts sector in a complex system that includes everything from individual artists to small and large organizations, both for profit and not for profit, venues, events, arts education and the many, many other inputs and outputs at multiple scales. Now that’s not ‘and CADA is going to support all of them’, but it is about recognizing what the system looks like and then where are the parts that to greatest effect we might take part, and how might we take part?

Our work is also guided by the values of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility, and supports City Council’s strategic priorities, particularly those of economic resilience and a focus on numbers these days, and social resilience.

We also address climate resilience as we explore ways to measure and help curtail the carbon footprint of various players inside the arts ecosystem through the Creative Green Tools program and other initiatives that we’re exploring in public art. So, I know some of you are working as organizations, as pilots inside that, and it’s really unwieldy, and we’re having a hard time really kind of measuring how those numbers work, and as we all know, when we try systemic change it’s messy, it’s unwieldy, the messy middle if you’ve taken any kind of systems change course work, and so we continue to find our way, through that with the community.

And, finally, before we get to the really awesome stuff with Wakefield and Shone, I just want to remind all of you that our Celebration for the Arts hosted by Mayor Gondek will be held on Friday, October 4 at Jack Singer Concert Hall.

The emcee for this year’s event is Karla Marx, and it promises to be a fabulous party. We’re really grateful to our major sponsors, the Rozsa Foundation, Calgary Foundation and Arts Commons. Once again, many thanks to our friends at Bird Creatives, because of them, artist tickets are free, so if you want to attend and ask for artist tickets, email, and in the subject line for Request Artist Tickets and we’ll get you on the list. So I’m saying that because tickets went on sale today. So mark your calendars now, and we look forward to seeing the arts community in all of its glory on October 4th. I can already tell you that this is one of Mayor Gondek’s favourite, favourite events of the year, and she always tries to figure out a way to one up what she did last year.

And for those of you who were there, she sang with the Heebee Jeebees Total Eclipse of the Heart, it was awesome. I don’t know what she’s going to do with Karla Marx, but you know, if you want to go there, you know it’s going to be like on that day. So that was 2023. And, before we open the floor for questions, there’s one other thing, we have a very special treat for you. Although our poet laureate officially changed hands at the end of April, we haven’t yet done a public thank you to our outgoing Poet Laureate Wakefield Brewster, or a public welcome to our new poet laureate, Shone Thistle. So we wanted to take this opportunity to do that today, and I’d like to invite, well, I’d like to call on Wakefield to say some amazing words like he always does and introduce our new Poet Laureate, Shone Thistle.

Wakefield Brewster: How’s this? Better. Here we go.My last two years, this term that I have had as your poet laureate has been an all day, every day poetry party. I have never had so much poetic, artistic, creative fun ever in my life. And I’m blessed, thank you, one of the greatest awards was being dubbed, monikered as a social poet, as a poet of people, it was a really great honour to hear citizens of Calgary, one of the most seemingly resistant cities in the country in one of the seemingly most resistant provinces in the country, would view a person of my stature, of my culture, of my colour as someone who could tell their stories, too.

I am honoured, and I just want to say thank you so much. Calgary.

Now. The piece that I would like to read to you, it’s funny because in April, when I passed the baton on, I had a lot of people asking, so what’s next? what’s next, what’s next? When I walked in, Cherie McMaster asked me, so how is your retirement? I thought that’s cute, and I said, it hasn’t changed, nothing has changed, it’s actually gotten busier. And I have more public engagement to write for our city. So in the same spirit as some of the tales that Patty Potter was speaking of when it comes to community and Indigenous learning, and I know we don’t have time. So Indigenous learning… there is, a dinner series and it is titled Aisinna’kiiks.

And at this dinner series, Indigenous Elders and communities and non-Indigenous communities got together over several meetings to share stories, share food, engage in Indigenous learning, and the artists that were present, they were at the privilege to interpret their experience through their desired medium. So I chose poetry, who figured? So I decided I would choose poetry to give you this reflection and in Blackfoot, the name Aisinna’kiiks means make your mark.

And I thought that was a really awesome, synchronous moment when I found that out at the very end, it meant to make your mark. And that’s what artists do. I would like to dedicate this poem to Elder Saa’kokoto, that is the Elder who sat at my particular table and all of the attending elders, including Elder Adrian Wolfleg, I’d like to also dedicate this to Patti Pon, CEO and Helen Moore-Parkhouse, Director of Communications and Events of Calgary Arts Development and everyone at Calgary Arts Development, thank you so much for having the faith in me, for being able to pull this off. Here we go. This poem is for all of you, again, it’s titled Aisinna’kiiks. It’s also titled Good Relations.


I arrived from Toronto in 2006 and Shone was one of the first poets I met, I befriended, and have been friends with to this very day. The two of us have been able to actually watch each other’s careers do what they have done, which is rise to some unfathomable heights. And I have to say, I didn’t see this coming, and I couldn’t predict it happening.

I simply did the best I could at all times with this thing called poetry. And the effort simply radiated until they got to this wonderful moment. I can say honestly that it is about the greatest public acclaim I’ve ever achieved, and I am so very happy to pass this honour on to you, my friend. Everyone, please welcome the seventh Poet Laureate of Calgary, Shone Thistle.

Shone Thistle: I’m not as tall as him. Here we go. So my friend and my friends, I have two PSAs, my first PSA is that one of the other things that I get to do in this life is I get to be executive director of Calgary Queer Art Society and Fairy Tales Queer Art and Film Festival is happening this week.

So in addition to it being National Indigenous History Month, it is also International Pride Month, and starting tomorrow for 4 or 5 days, we are taking over the GRAND downtown, and there is a lovely code which you can all use called chosen family, all one word. To get a little discount to come down and celebrate with us! That’s my first PSA.

And now I have forgotten my second PSA. The poem I’m going to share with you today is about love and learning and grounding ourselves so we can soar together. It’s called Making Time.


There’s been a lot of gratitude shared. I just want to also offer a very quick note of gratitude to Calgary Arts Development, the Calgary Public Library, the City of Calgary, the Calgary Foundation, all of you and our great city that is making space for poets and poetry and all kinds of art because we are claiming that space and will soar together. Thank you.

Patti Pon: Wakefield, you gotta go. I don’t know how you even did that knowing what you know. We have a certificate that we provide to all of our Poets Laureate, and so I wanted to be sure you have this. Thank you so much. Thank you.

And Shone, if you remember your second PSA just wave at me and we’ll make sure that you get a chance to say that.

So we wanted to allow you to have a little bit of time for any Q&A or comments or maybe there was something that you saw up on the slides or that you heard me say that you want a little bit of clarity on, if you, we’ll, we’ll create a few minutes here if anyone has any other questions or comments you want to share?

And then, if not, then we’ll all go and break bread, and we have catering from Great Events, to sort of nosh on while we get to meet each other, I have my colleagues here, and so many of us, Melissa Tuplin, Director of Community Investment and Impact, Gregory Burbage, Public Art Director, Helen Moore-Parkhouse who is up in the booth with the slides, our Director of Communication and Events, our colleague Sable Sweetgrass is the Director of Reconciliation and Engagement, so these four folks along with myself comprise the leadership team, so thank you, thank you, thank you. And we actually have over 30 people who are working with CADA right now, so I’m not going to name you all, even though I picked on Van, I’m sorry, I just want you to know honoured I am to get to work with all of you in supporting an extraordinary group of Calgarians who help connect us and make us feel like we belong.

So many thanks to the team.

And so that was the time to sort of give everybody a chance to say so what do you want to ask about? No, you! Does anybody have any questions or comments they want to raise in circle? There’s one there, I see, thank you. Hi.

Audience member: Thank you. I wanted to ask if you could tell us a little more of what you’re doing with your climate change, climate action initiatives. You said it was a bit of a middle level, but maybe you can even the level a little bit.

Patti Pon: Come on over Melissa.

Melissa Tuplin: Yes, thank you so much Wendy. So as Patti said, we’re very early in our thinking about this, this work where the City of Calgary has declared a Climate State of Emergency, and as a civic partner to the City of Calgary we’ve been asked to consider what our response might be and therefore what the response of the arts sector might be. Something that is really top of mind for us is the layer upon layer upon layer of varying emergencies and crises that arts organizations can respond to, whether that’s continuing to come out of the pandemic, increasing costs and the affordability of specifically doing business, responding to these deep questions of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility, and then also recognizing the intersection all of these things coming together and informing each other, and so the very first thing that we did was partner with the Centre for Sustainable Practice in the Arts which is based out of Ontario, that are building a program based off of a program that Julie’s Bicycle developed in the UK called The Creative Green Tools. The first question they asked was what simply is the impact of the arts sector on climate change and the climate emergency? Do we have enough information and enough data about how it is that you are contributing to emissions or carbon outputs? So we piloted The Creative Green Tools with about 38 organizations who measured their output for a year. We’ve just got the report back from the Centre for Sustainable Practices in the Arts and now we’re going, Okay, now compared to what? Carbon output compared to what? And so I’m working with a consortium of national funders across Canada who are also grappling with this question, and so we’re thinking there, we’re also asking organizations who are interested in this work to come along on this journey with us.

We’re also very conscious that this should not come at the cost of your mandate. If you are an organization that tours, you tour, right? As a funder we can’t come in and say you gotta not fly, you gotta not tour across Canada. So early stages, right now it’s data collection, some thinking from mitigation strategies, Mass Culture has been working with art service organizations, and the Canada Council recently has done a convening on climate mitigation strategies, and we’ll be letting the sector know within the next couple of months here how we’re going to proceed, are we going to continue with the Tools, are we going to ask organizations to submit mandatory carbon reporting as part of their Operating Grant? I don’t know, I don’t think so. I will tell you that Quebec is, the province of Quebec and the City of Montreal have added sustainability and climate measures to the criteria for the program. I would argue that the context in Quebec is a little bit different than the context in Alberta, and so we will be talking about regionality as well. So no clear answer but it is something we’re working on.

Patti Pon: Thanks for that question, Wendy. Anyone else? Yes. Okay.

Audience member: Hi Patti, so what accommodations, and by the way, great presentation, great speech of course, thank you for including all of us in this good space. What accommodations is CADA making for technology, specifically Artificial Intelligence AI in their work and considerations for the community of artists?

Melissa Tuplin: I’m back! That’s a great question and also something that we’re really, really grappling with. So I guess my answer is twofold, the first is the question of artificial intelligence and the use of artificial intelligence in granting and funding processes is something that we want to approach really taking seriously the ethical concerns of the usage on feeding open source AI or whatever it is. And I think the question that we’re really holding is ‘to what end? Right? Is this about efficiency, is this about responding to the speed at which the technology in the sector is changing, is this about acknowledging that for many people artificial intelligence and these types of tools are indeed an accommodation and accessibility tool for people to be able to access our programs.

And we’ve never wanted to be in a position to tell artists and organizations how to undertake their own work. So we, I don’t know if anybody from the Foundation is here, we are looking to those organizations who are a little bit ahead of us, the Rozsa Foundation has developed an AI policy for their own work, there are funders across the country who have done the same, so again very kind of early stages for us thinking about how we might respond to that internally and also create ways for us to be awesome about artists not being either penalized or put in a situation using tools that they don’t know the impact of. So no strong answer right now but we hope to have some policies in place for the future, but again this is very important to the ethical considerations as it pertains to creative IP.

Patti Pon: Further to that, in terms of a broader Canadian conversation, OCoADU, so Ontario College of Art and Design University, they created two years ago the Cultural Policy Hub. And so that was comprised of a number of funders right now across the country. Calgary Arts Development has a seat at that table, and the next piece of cultural policy that they’re exploring is the impact of AI on the cultural sector. So, if you haven’t heard about the hub, and you wouldn’t have necessarily, two years in, it’s all still trying to get up and going, one of the things we’re really looking to do is hold sessions and gatherings mostly online, to create the greatest possible access to really think about this.

Some the work that the hub has been doing so far, and there’s no reason, by the way, why you would know this, has been work around advocating around C18, C11 which is the Broadcasting Act, C18 is the impact of forcing Google and Facebook and others to support the journalism industry in Canada and to commit, so you have heard that announcement about Facebook providing funds to support journalism in Canada and the U.S.? They’re looking at the impact of AI as one of the next areas. And then the other area that the hub is going to focus on is the precarity of the nonprofit sector in Canada right now to all those things that Melissa said, where all of these impacts are happening all at once.

And so that is, so those kinds of conversations are coming up with the hub and there and we, I guess I sit on that committee, are looking at ways to try and extend the conversation nationally and have a presence in community. So you should hear more about that and we’ll include information in our newsletter if you’re signed up, so that you’ll find out more, so yeah, not a really full answer either but it’s certainly on people’s minds. And we know the impact is going to be great, and I don’t mean great good.

So anyone else? Questions? Thoughts? All right, so on that note, Helen is giving me the cue, we’re going to get everybody to make their way into the lobby, that’s our presentation, please stay, enjoy from food from Great Events, mingle with our team, each other. Our full Accountability and Impact Report is at Thank you cSPACE, Haider and Graham and the team here and I don’t know who else is here for everything, and Sarah even though she told me not to do that, I look forward to seeing you in the lobby for a bit and the many, many festivals we’re holding this season.

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