Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Issue No. 50 - Evidence - Meeting of October 3, 2018
OTTAWA, Wednesday, October 3, 2018
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade met this day at 4:17 p.m. to study on the impact and utilization of Canadian culture and arts in Canadian foreign policy and diplomacy, and other related matters.
Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade is called to order. I am going to ask the senators to introduce themselves.
Senator Bovey: Patricia Bovey, Manitoba.
Senator Ngo: Thanh Hai Ngo, Ontario.
Senator Oh: Victor Oh, Ontario.
Senator Ataullahjan: Senator Ataullahjan, Ontario.
The Chair: I’m Senator Raynell Andreychuk from Saskatchewan.
We have some other senators who have been called to other meetings who will be joining us. I know two witnesses have to leave within a time frame, so we’re going to accommodate them.
First of all, I would note that the committee has been authorized by the Senate to study the impact and utilization of Canadian culture and arts in Canadian foreign policy and diplomacy, and other related matters. Under this mandate, the committee is pleased today to continue its study.
We have, by video conference from Montreal, Ms. Phyllis Lambert, Founding Director Emeritus, Canadian Centre for Architecture. Here in Ottawa we have Mr. Gideon Arthurs, Director General, National Theatre School of Canada; and Mr. Howard Jang, Vice President, Arts and Leadership, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, who delightfully arrived in Ottawa before the massive snowstorm in Calgary. We’re pleased you’re here.
The biographies and all material have been disseminated. We do that so that senators are well equipped to come to the hearing and also to use our time efficiently to hear from you, the witnesses.
I’m going to take you in the order that you were introduced. So, Ms. Lambert, the floor is yours. Welcome.
Phyllis Lambert, Founding Director Emeritus, Canadian Centre for Architecture: Honourable members of the Senate, thank you for inviting me to speak to you today about something with which I have had a great deal of experience, and that is the impact and use of Canadian culture and arts in Canadian foreign policy.
In 1979, I founded the CCA as an imaginative and polemic institution. Such an institution is ever more necessary in a time of deep change and rupture like the one we are currently experiencing: the crisis of the environment, from the exploitation of resources to climate change; the rising inequalities reflected in the living conditions; and the impact of technological transformation in work conditions.
Today, the CCA has a major impact as an international institution, operating from the fundamental premise that architecture, considered as an enlarged field within historical, theoretical and critical discourse, is a public concern.
From our principal home in Montreal but also through our “CCA Elsewhere” activities worldwide and our virtual home online, we support and produce research, exhibitions, publications and a range of public programs driven by explaining how architecture shapes and may reshape contemporary life. We invite architects, photographers, students, scholars and the wider public to engage with our extensive collection, to deepen our understanding of the past and to give new relevance to architectural thinking in light of current disciplinary and societal issues.
Like many players on Canada’s arts scene, we are cultural diplomats, acting as international ambassadors but also as international hosts for intellectual and artistic thought and practice.
I would now like to present an approach which I believe appropriate to other cultural institutions and which, if adopted by Canadian government, would allow Canada to be culturally powerful on an international level. It requires three key shifts in focus: number one, from export to exchange; number two, from governments to institutions; and number three, from money to people.
First, I will discuss shifting the focus from export to exchange. Cultural diplomacy is not a one-way street. At its heart is the promotion of ideas, which is the key to knowledge and to cultural exchange. Rather than the unidirectional flow of traditional practices of cultural export, two-way exchange through discussion and debate enhances cultural production.
This exchange can take place nationally and internationally through many modes: conferences, exhibitions, concerts, hack-a-thons, plays, festivals, game jams, et cetera. Notably, the loci of cultural exchange are forever shifting.
We can no longer rely on shipping cultural artifacts and sitting back to wait for an international public to find us. To remain culturally relevant, we need to export ideas and to receive them in return. This exchange is at the core of cultural production. Otherwise, we risk being culturally isolated from, and irrelevant to, the major players on the international cultural scene.
For this exchange to meet with success, we must shift focus from governments to institutions, promoting and reinforcing synergies among different cultural institutions, both within Canada and internationally. I’d like to elaborate on this later.
With this shift, we can open ourselves to greater collaborative potential. As I mentioned earlier, the exchange of ideas takes us beyond simply placing artifacts in dominant locations; rather, it creates meaningful dialogue in emerging spaces of cultural relevance.
Indeed, international events should act as engines of cultural production and as powerful diplomatic tools that can and should include numerous activities of promotion by the Canadian embassy programs. However, Canada’s traditional lack of management and underfunding of international exhibitions, like the Venice Architecture Biennale, puts our country at a great disadvantage. Since many new biennales and triennales are being established around the world, a mechanism should be put in place to identify which ones should receive the appropriate support.
By shifting the focus from money to people, we can expand Canada’s cultural horizons most convincingly. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that money is not relevant or necessary in this project of cultural exchange. It is, and very much so. Unfortunately, support formerly available has been eliminated or minimized in areas such as cultural centres attached to embassies and programs such as Le programme d’aide à la tournée des arts de la scène.
The point is that we can never lose sight of the fact that when it comes to cultural diplomacy, people are the driving force.
We must open our doors more widely to foreign participants in this process of exchange, but stringent visa restrictions and growing fees have severely limited such exchanges rather than facilitating the movement of cultural agents that fosters ties among an international community of thinkers and producers. When obstacles to participation are eased or removed entirely, and when programs for cultural exchange are repeated year after year, those ties become immensely strong. I’ve seen the richness of this exchange first hand with the CCA’s research centre and through our countless collaborations with other like-minded institutions worldwide.
The bright young minds who come through our doors and often return, and who produce new knowledge with us, greatly contribute to Canada’s cultural capital, while at the same time, they are more able to contribute to their own cultures.
In closing, let me reiterate my firm belief that this shift in focus from export to exchange, from governments to institutions and from money to people can only strengthen the place of Canada’s cultural industry as a major factor in its economic prosperity.
Thank you for your attention and consideration. I will be pleased to answer questions that I hope my presentation has elicited.
The Chair: Thank you very much. You have covered a broad area. I can see some of the areas that I think will resonate in our report.
Our next presenter will be Mr. Gideon Arthurs. The floor is yours.
Gideon Arthurs, Director General, National Theatre School of Canada: Thank you, Madam Chair, for inviting me to discuss this critical matter.
It’s heartening to know that our Senate is taking the time to examine the question of cultural diplomacy and cultural export so thoroughly.
The National Theatre School of Canada is this country’s premier theatre training organization. At NTS, we offer intensely rigorous training to young theatre makers in both official languages. Over the past two years, we have expanded our programming from serving 160 people to now over 8,000 people who are involved in our programs, most notably through the National Theatre School Festival formerly known as the Sears Drama Festival.
The National Theatre School of Canada was founded in 1960 to serve a performing arts community that had not yet found its own identity. Our artists left for London or were trained in Paris and then came back to reproduce European theatre in Canada. Six decades later, we no longer have to debate the legitimacy of Canadian and Quebec theatre. This sector is now internationally recognized.
I mention this not only to celebrate our sector but to underline how fitting it is that in 2018 we are now discussing how this mature, singularly Canadian sector can advance our nation’s interests and goals internationally, a fitting reversal, I think, of our not-so-distant past.
Since my colleagues will already have presented various arguments as presenters or producers, I will focus on the role of training establishments in this discussion.
In particular, I hope to leave this committee with a clear idea of the production chain required to produce work of international calibre in the performing arts.
Before I do so, I will permit myself to speak briefly on the importance of including Canadian arts and culture in our efforts abroad. Please excuse me if I wax too lyrically, but it is a subject near and dear to my heart.
I think the essential role of the arts is to bring people together. By experiencing something together, we give ourselves the opportunity to think and feel things collectively, which helps build community, stimulates healthy debate and discussion, and serves as a catalyst for the creativity of all participants.
Art provokes empathy and lives in a liminal space where we know fundamentally that what we are seeing is not real — the couple on stage have argued every night since opening night, the prima ballerina is not, in fact, a swan — but we allow the feelings their performances evoke to feel real, to touch us enough to weep for the motherless child or to hope beyond hope that Orpheus won’t turn around this time.
All this high-minded philosophizing to say that we live today in a peculiar time, one that I would argue is suffering first and foremost from an empathy deficit. Somehow, with all the means to communicate at our disposal, we have lost the ability to understand the other, to understand that we have more in common than not. Perhaps what we need is more opportunities to sit in a dark room with strangers and feel something together. Art is our vehicle to understand the other, to find the commonalities rather than the differences, to come to an agreement, which sounds like diplomacy to me, and it sounds like a role that Canada must assume in an international context that is increasingly divisive and lacking in mutual understanding.
In fact, it sounds like a very Canadian form of diplomacy, an expression of our country’s plurality, our openness to newcomers, and our growing relationship with our First Nations. Our social fabric is rooted in empathy. We might even say that empathy is our greatest natural resource. In fact, should we not talk about a pipeline to help it reach new markets?
But thinking doesn’t make much of a business case for cultural export and diplomacy. The argument becomes clear when we understand the numbers.
Cultural industries contribute $54 billion per year to our economy and represent 3 per cent of our GDP. They also provide greater added value than agriculture, forestry, fisheries and hunting combined.
Six hundred and fifty thousand people, or 3.5 per cent of working Canadians, have jobs in the cultural industries. These are all statistics you are no doubt familiar with. There are endless studies on the positive economic impacts of the cultural sector on our economy at home, with an incredible spin-on effect for restaurants, parking revenues, real estate values, neighbourhood safety and far, far beyond. The return on investment is higher than many other commercial sectors. For an industry of this size and impact, it is vital to have a coherent, comprehensive strategy to make sure that it can live up to its potential by reaching new markets.
The National Theatre School of Canada is obviously neither a touring organization or a producer. We do not export productions, but we have recently forged new ties with the Conservatoire de Paris, the École du Nord in Lille, and the Escuela de Arte Teatral in Mexico. Our ability to develop more international relationships through our school is limited only by our budget.
That said, our training institutions play an even more important role than creating partnerships with schools beyond our borders. They are in fact the first link in a production chain that adds value to cultural products. We have to train artists, invest in their development, create conditions conducive to innovation, and then give them the necessary platforms to reach new markets.
Like all industries, culture is competitive. To make work that can stand shoulder to shoulder with international competition, we must invest all along the production chain. If we were speaking today about athletics, we could be discussing the Own the Podium program, which recognizes the importance of early investment to bring home Olympic gold. There would be little to debate if we were discussing commercial industries — experts must be trained, and the right conditions must be put in place to meet the needs of the industry. The same is true for culture. Recent significant investments in the Canada Council have gone some way in making sure that our cultural industries are competitive, but the council supports the middle link in the chain, specifically the creation and development step in the process. On either side of that are training and presentation.
Training and presentation, which are supported respectively by the Canada Arts Training Fund and the Canada Arts Presentation Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage, are on either side of this step. These funds have not increased since 2009 and provide less than $65 million to support all arts training and presentation. There is an urgent need for reinvestment in order to meet the needs of the sector. Without that investment, there is a bottleneck in the middle of the process, as the work is created by artists who are not fully trained and who are unable to present their work beyond very local venues.
Indeed, without that additional investment, Canadian work will not able to thrive in an international context, where the world’s best are supported by highly integrated, heavily state-supported cultural policies. If our artists are to be called upon to represent this nation’s interest, to manifest Canadian values, if an industry of this value is to access new marketplaces, they must have the same opportunities as their international peers. So I applaud your efforts on this committee and hope that in your findings you will examine the necessity of investment all along the production chain to ensure that this most Canadian of exports can be as competitive as you hope. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Arthurs.
Howard Jang, Vice President, Arts and Leadership, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity: Thank you for the opportunity to inform your study on the impact and utilization of Canadian culture and arts in Canadian foreign policy and diplomacy. My name is Howard Jang, and I am the vice president for arts and leadership at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
My career has spanned over 30 years leading large arts organizations in theatre, music and ballet in Vancouver, Winnipeg and New York City. From 2012 to 2016 I served as a member of the board of the Canada Council for the Arts and represented the Canada Council on the executive committee on the Canadian Commission for UNESCO.
Banff Centre is Canada’s largest post-secondary multidisciplinary arts and leadership training institute. It welcomes nearly 4,000 artists and leaders to its gorgeous 42-acre campus in Banff National Park. Founded in 1933 as a theatre school, Banff Centre has welcomed more than 75,000 artists over the past 85 years. Artists come to Banff from across Canada and around the world. Some of the most celebrated faculty and alumni include Oscar Peterson, Margaret Atwood, W. O. Mitchell, Yann Martel, Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Séan McCann, Tanya Tagaq, Crystal Pite, and the list goes on and on.
Artists come to Banff —
The Chair: Mr. Jang, could you perhaps slow down? We have to translate. We want to catch up with your words.
Mr. Jang: Artists do come to Banff Centre to learn and perfect their craft, and to create their next work of art that is shared not only across Canada but around the world.
Twenty-five per cent of our artists are international. Many come to Banff from the United States to study with our Canadian and American faculty. We currently have The New Yorker Susan Orlean teaching literary arts at Banff. Vijay Iyer, one of the world’s greatest jazz musicians and composers, teaches and leads our jazz and creative music program.
Our campus is beloved by students from around the world. We also created an incredible festival in the 1970s called the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival, which will be showcasing 88 mountain adventure films from around the world this October 27 to November 4. This highly recognized international festival draws more than 20,000 people who come to Banff Centre for this festival every year.
What’s more remarkable is that the same festival provides content that gets exported every year to 550 locations in 40 countries, including places as remote as Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, Venezuela and Wales.
The business model for the export of this extraordinary cultural product is tried and true. Banff Centre has been producing this content for international consumption in this way for decades now.
The winning films from the festival in Banff provide a menu of content that film hosts around the world purchase from Banff Centre. Typically the package includes a representative from Banff to host the evening or in some cases several evenings of presentation. Some locations feature the festival content over five nights.
Credits and royalties go to the filmmakers, and the Banff Centre and the Canadian brand receive worldwide recognition. As a result, it’s a win-win for all involved. The business model provides Banff Centre with revenue to support its operations, and it promotes the export of numerous filmmakers who entered their work in the festival. As a result, Banff and Canada are recognized around the world associated with this high-quality film content. Experience tells us that some international audiences only know and associate Banff, Alberta, as a result of the festival experience.
We are one of Canada’s greatest cultural exporters through our education and residency programs at Banff Centre and through this extraordinary record of international outreach, through our Banff Centre Mountain and Book Festival World Tour.
Why are public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy important? Because it allows us to tell the Canadian story at home and abroad and to project our values of tolerance, openness and diversity. Because of our unique position in the cultural landscape in Canada, Banff Centre, with its beautiful campus and conference facility, can convene the world’s cultural leaders to explore the issues facing our country and the international community when it comes to culture.
In this digital era, we are all grappling with how to promote our own distinct voices or culture as we are engulfed by social media. Cultural sovereignty in the digital age is something Canadian arts theatres are talking about, but so is the rest of the world. We would love to invite the rest of the world to Banff Centre to conduct research into these areas, to publish and disseminate their findings widely, and to convene and meet one another to find solutions to one of the biggest questions that face us today.
Consequently, Banff Centre is studying the opportunity to establish deeper applied research summits and think tanks to lead Canadian arts and cultural policy research, creation and communication, which would serve the creative industry and ensure employer relevance. As a result, Canada could be strengthened through the vitality of its cultures, with Canadians more connected through creativity and empowered through creative entrepreneurship.
We aspire to lead Canadian arts and culture policy research, and we believe we have a unique role to play in Canadian cultural diplomacy, including the export of cultural products as a place where the world can come to meet and discuss complex issues related to culture and a place in Canada where world artists can come, learn, create and perform along with their Canadian colleagues, which, of course, creates the greatest global understanding.
Thank you, and I look forward to any questions you have.
The Chair: Thank you. We have had three unique presentations.
Senator Bovey: Thank you to all our presenters.
Madam Lambert, it’s wonderful to see you again.
We all know that we’re in a time that has been dubbed the knowledge economy, and a big part of that knowledge economy is creative and intellectual property, and therefore with that knowledge I want to explore a theme that’s come through in each of your presentations, that of innovation.
Madam Lambert, you talked very poignantly about the need for international dialogue, which you certainly have achieved through the CCA, and again with theatre, training and the work that you’re doing, Mr. Arthurs and Mr. Jang, and what the Banff Centre has achieved through its history.
Can we dig deeper? A buzz word in Canadian society now is innovation. We talk about scientific innovation. We talk about all kinds of innovation, but I’d like us to explore the innovation through creative dialogue, creative exhibitions and exchanges of artistic expression. Would each of you please dig deeper on that when it comes to the role of Canada on that international stage?
Ms. Lambert: Well, in our exhibitions and programs, we’re there to ask questions. We’re not there to tell people what to think. We’ve had huge exhibitions that relate to what you could do with the city; space odyssey and speed limits, which deal with technology and shaping our society; architecture and journeys of travelling through ideas of buildings and rearranging our environment; and we’ve experimented tremendously with accessing and interpreting the “Born Digital Archives,” initially through a series of three exhibitions titled the “Archaeology of the Digital.”
We, of course, have the documents that support this. Many people from all different countries are involved.
We have a very interesting program which we call the CCA c/o, for example, with Portugal. We have the collection of one of their great architects, Álvaro Siza, who was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize. We have a relationship with Serralves in Porto and the Gulbenkian in Lisbon. We’ve had exhibitions. We catalogue and work together in terms of establishing connections.
We have also been able to have exhibitions from our place go to Portugal, even at the Venice Biennale. We collaborated with Portugal on an exhibition on architecture called “Where Siza Meets Rossi.” These are interpersonal things. What we do is we train people; we train minds. That is what I am trying to establish. Of course we have conferences and debates, but it’s how to do it and how to bring critical ideas to more people and to convince them about the importance of our environment and the built world.
Mr. Arthurs: I think it’s a vital question, and I’ll try to give a couple of concrete examples. But a bit of framing is important. We talk about the knowledge economy. We also talk about the creative economy, an economy that requires people who are able to tell stories. We all know now that companies are looking for new ways to reach potential audiences and potential customers, and they’re turning to the creative fields to try to tell those stories.
We have had a little bit of a block here in Canada. There seems to be a separation between the cultural sector as an artistic sector and what we call the cultural industries, as if broadcasting could exist without content, as if a great ad could exist without a cinematographer.
I’ll give you an example of how the arts sector and the investments we make in the arts sector lead into this economy and how, in fact, it’s gone on to international renown. I am based in Montreal at the National Theatre School. Montreal is world renowned for its cultural exports, in particular in the domains of digital content around things like video mapping and live productions. It is the centre of video game creation in North America at the moment.
The National Theatre School of Canada had a partnership with Ubisoft that trained National Theatre School actors to perform in green screen and motion capture technology in order to be able to play the characters in video games. These are video games that are played internationally, a multi-multi-billion dollar industry.
What they needed was young actors who knew how to cry on command because the cameras are so advanced now that they needed to capture that emotion. It is no longer just the domain of monsters and people doing backflips. It is the human story that is driving the cultural industries. I think a connection needs to be rebuilt between the cultural sector and these so-called industries in order to drive that innovation conversation.
Mr. Jang: Thank you, Senator Bovey, for the question. The concept of innovation has been on the table for us as a sector for a long time. We strongly believe that it’s about a process discussion. The creative process is actually the ways in which we are now learning about new ways to problem solve. The artistic process is becoming a part of the ways in which we’re now beginning to address societal issues, new ways of thinking and relating to our communities. What we’re learning, in particular at the Banff Centre but throughout the country in the work of our artists, is that if we combine the concept of exploration and the concept of curiosity, we get innovation. We get the opportunity to actually collaborate — and those are three words that all three of us used today — in really critical areas of thought because collaboration has become key to the way we engage with our communities. Collaboration is not necessarily always with other artists; it’s collaborating with other communities and with the opportunity to work with businesses across the street, the other not-for-profit organizations dealing with issues.
I had the pleasure of working at Simon Fraser University in the downtown campus at SFU Woodward’s in the Downtown Eastside. To tell you what it was like to work in an institution embedded in one of the most struggling postal codes in our country, to see how we worked, collaborated and innovated new ways of thinking and understanding of how to work and build healthier and vital communities is the difference between STEM and STEAM.
We used to talk about arts and culture being at the centre of our communities. Now we’re talking about arts and culture being at the table with our communities — that is, being in partnership with the other parts of our communities that are critical to us. Socially relevant areas of practice is where we are now finding innovation. What we’re excited about is that we’re now seeing advances in society and healthier communities.
Senator Bovey: Madam Lambert, you talked about the work you’ve done with Portugal. I know many of the international collaborations that you have spearheaded and been involved in. You also talked about architecture defining our cities and our living spaces. Perhaps you could tie that together with what Howard Jang just said about working across the street and put it into the international stage — that is, defining Canadian values, but making the world a better place as a result of these international collaborations and innovations.
Ms. Lambert: It’s about the formation of thinking. It’s a process of ideas and developing those ideas. As I mentioned earlier, it’s very much about individual contact, one on one. When it becomes a kind of mass production, I don’t think that really achieves anything. I think that’s the best way I can answer that.
Senator Bovey: Thank you.
Senator Oh: Thank you to all the presenters. We are fortunate today to have three outstanding cultural creators and cultural diplomacy activators. You guys have done a great job.
I want to bring the question back to what the senator mentioned earlier about to what extent and in what ways your sectors integrate into new technology and digital media to get it to the international stage.
Mr. Jang: I’m happy to answer, or would you like to go in the same order, Madam Chair?
The Chair: We’ll just keep going with the order we have.
Senator Oh: Whoever the first one is.
The Chair: Madam Lambert, if you have anything to add to that, please do.
Ms. Lambert: I certainly do have a lot to add.
The Chair: Thank you.
Ms. Lambert: A lot of museums are building new buildings. We’re a research centre as well as a museum. Our second building is our website. We have experimented with our website. It is really a place to learn and where we ask people to read. Obviously, we give access to the collections, but we have experimented with this. We’re a small place, so to be able to connect to others by using the website is a fantastically good tool.
Then, of course, we have really led the world, I think, in terms of the use of the Internet, the computer and digital media to create an understanding and develop the use of creation in computer design. It’s not using the computer as a way of replicating or producing drawings — that’s useful, but it’s beyond that. It’s a fantastic type of design that’s done within the computer and how that can be extended. As I said, we’ve had three major exhibitions on that and a collection that’s been able to work on the early work that was done. It would be lost if we hadn’t connected properly and developed it, which was not easy at all.
These are the areas that we are involved in with the computer. We’re also involved in terms of administration within the whole CCA, within the management of the whole CCA, and with other sectors. We connect our computer and our digital systems to our territory so that they work together. These are not separate silos; we work horizontally across the board.
Mr. Arthurs: I’ll give a couple of concrete examples of how we’re working directly in new technologies, but first I’ll take a second to stress again that the heart of good technology is the content that’s being created by a human being. There is still much to define in new technology, the difference between serving the technology and serving the interests of communities through technology. At a different Senate hearing — that is, when I’m invited again — I’ll defend the importance of live arts to everyone.
There are a few important areas where technologies are being integrated a lot into the creative process. To come back to the idea of how technologies are being conceived of, it’s often through the same process as a collective creation in theatre or in other art forms. You start with an idea, prototype it quickly, take it to market and then test it.
At our school in particular — and we’re talking about very young people — 100 per cent of our production students and our production design and techno arts program students are hired before graduating from our program because of their familiarity with new technologies. They are adept at video mapping, which is a particularly strong field right now in the performing arts where video is being integrated with human movement and the decor. We are exploring more ecologically friendly approaches to production design in the arts, and we even have some proposals on the table to look at augmented reality for set design so that you might see things on stage using augmented reality rather than having to build it. Those are all domains that are currently of great interest in the theatre world, but again it comes down to that moment where an audience takes that information and feels something.
Mr. Jang: Technology is probably on everyone’s strategic thinking list right now for our entire community.
When I think of technology as it relates to our industry, I think of it in two streams. One is the creative process, as Gideon has spoken to it. We can remember an analysis when we go to a performance today, you’re seeing fewer physical sets. You’re seeing much more technology on stage. That’s coming down to one really big issue that we’re always trying to grapple with in our communities, which is how to build deeper, more intrinsic relationships with our communities.
What we’re trying to unpack right now when it comes to technology is how technology can serve us better in deepening those relationships. Our artists and creative thinkers are now exploring really new, interesting ways, whether it’s through augmented reality or something else, but the technology is not the thing. The goal is to create that better, deeper story that you can connect with an audience through.
I mentioned there were two different ways of looking at it. The other way is the platform and the way we communicate through technology and how much that has changed.
Yes, it used to be about bums in seats. That was the measurement of success when you talk about live performance. Now it’s how many eyeballs can we get to see the work? We’re talking about live streaming and ways in which to engage a global community. That’s one way.
The thing that links both those creative processes and communication is something we call “discoverability.” The opportunity to actually discover, through technology, and deepen your experience by discovering what is happening as well as extending what is happening.
We’re just unpacking what discoverability is to us today. What we’re learning is that the show doesn’t end at 10 o’clock when the curtain goes down. What happens is we’re creating memories. And technology is helping us today to create deeper memories, and deeper memories that go beyond not only our theatres or concert halls, but rather beyond our borders.
Senator Oh: Mr. Arthurs, what are the most successful federal programs in the arts sector that strengthen Canadian culture for the National Theatre School of Canada?
Mr. Arthurs: That’s a great question. I would say that this government’s recent investment in the Canada Council is heartening to our graduates. It’s the bread and butter of the cultural community. But we believe there is a required investment or a great impact in everything that allows them to reach new audiences. So creation and development is one thing, but there is the Canada Arts Presentation Fund which is of vital importance to our community.
Obviously, for us personally, as an institution, the Canada Arts Training Fund is vitally important, but for our graduates, definitely that presentation piece.
Senator Ataullahjan: I thank all of you for your presentations.
The majority of the witnesses who have appeared before this committee have stressed the importance of cultural diplomacy. For us it means promoting a mutual understanding between countries, promoting the Canadian brand and encouraging trade in cultural products.
In your opinion, does cultural diplomacy achieve these results, or is it underestimated or exaggerated?
Ms. Lambert: Cultural diplomacy is extremely important in terms of representation. I talked about the embassies, for example. When the embassies become involved with presenting and expanding the work that is done, this is enormous.
For example, Paris has a great program for presenting the arts in general, and this has been hugely important. It has created an environment where many groups in Montreal are completely related to these programs.
Also, for example, when the President of Portugal came over to discuss with Prime Minister Trudeau, he came over very specially to the CCA because he appreciated that connection that we have.
These interactions are hugely important. For example, I talked about Le programme d’aide à la tournée des arts de la scène. I know someone who presents in various places in France, which is tremendous, but the support for this was actually cut out. It was such a huge sector. There were 175 organizations abandoned in 2008; they generated $15 million in revenue. These artists are ambassadors. These are people that connect to other people. It’s always on this personal level of the presentation, and, of course, many people are brought into it.
Mr. Arthurs: I would suggest that in general in Canada cultural diplomacy is underestimated. I would point to our greatest success story, which is the cultural export strategies from the province of Quebec. We could easily talk about all the name brands, Cirque du Soleil, Les 7 Doigts, Robert Lepage, all name brands that are recognized internationally and do so much to advance the world’s understanding of what Quebec is.
Maybe Howard disagrees with me, but within the cultural context, Quebec’s brand for cultural presence is stronger than Canada’s. Howard does disagree with me. There is a deep recognition of the role that Quebec plays in the world and what it stands for because of the artists that it is able to put in contact with other international artists.
I would argue that there is extraordinary talent and potential in the rest of Canada to create a cultural brand that would be recognized internationally. I truly believe it’s a question of access to markets and support all the way along the chain of creation.
Mr. Jang: I agree with you because of our knowledge and deep, long history of being in the sector of understanding how critical early investment and the historical investment that Quebec has made in their cultural industries.
We can see the value of that. We can list 100 right now that talk about where cultural diplomacy has really made a difference.
Just look at the National Arts Centre orchestra when they toured China, how critical that was, and how that was more than just a hand across the ocean. It was really an opportunity to initiate that relationship that began to be critical to our relationship with China.
We can go on and on to the role that Betroffenheit has played, an incredible dance production proudly created in Banff, but more important, it has garnered international acclaim, winning the Olivier Award in London and across Europe and around the world.
One area that is fascinating to me when it comes to culture is the impact it has on tourism.
I’ve also had a significant experience. I was part of the Cultural Olympiad organization in Vancouver during 2010 and saw first-hand the impact that the Cultural Olympiad had of bringing international opportunities to collaborate on an international scale and the cultural events that occurred.
I spoke quite a bit about our Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival that is in 40 different countries around the world, and we’re seeing significant impact when it comes to brand development, when it comes to economic development and when it comes to where Banff Centre has been able to position itself on the world stage.
Senator Ataullahjan: Mr. Jang, my question to you is about the Banff Centre. Do you use social media at all to promote?
Mr. Jang: I would say our entire sector has moved away from what we call mainstream media for almost all our promotion and connections that we’re making.
Blogging is critical to us now. The blogging community, I’d say, are probably invited to shows, but have more coming from social media agencies. So yes, absolutely.
Senator Ataullahjan: Mr. Arthurs, you just made a very interesting statement. I think it would be hard for us to disagree with you that Quebec’s brand is stronger than Canada’s.
What does Quebec do differently? What can the other provinces learn from Quebec?
Mr. Arthurs: It really comes down to a question of root and leaf investment, that there’s an investment all the way through the process. This, I think, spans all of the art forms. I can speak specifically to the performing arts. There is a profound belief that young people should have access to experiencing art. From there, there are opportunities for both preparatory classes and classes for pleasure in the performing arts, and then there are well-funded training institutions that prepare artists for careers. A crucial stage is an investment in the development right after school.
I’ve never been in an arts ecology that supports its emerging artistic scene so well. They are artist-run centres for visual artists. There are the various Maisons de la culture, which are embedded in communities across the Island of Montreal, for example. There is incredible infrastructure to support emerging artists.
Then, there is real availability for touring money. They support their industries because they realize that it brings back huge return on investments.
There’s also an interesting hybrid in Quebec that doesn’t exist in the rest of Canada, which is that there is a commercial possibility for artistic work. Companies like Les 7 Doigts have two wings; they have their foundation to do their community-based work, and then they will be doing the choreography for the Sochi opening ceremonies, which is a highly profitable enterprise for them, which is also supported by a very rich and complex ecology that is built into a cultural policy supported by the state.
The Chair: We’re centring on what the government role should be, but increasingly, as I travel to countries, the corporate sector sees its corporate responsibility to support culture, and they make the equation between their businesses and that.
Governments have to balance regions and interest groups, et cetera. It would seem that corporations make a business choice. To what extent do our laws preclude or encourage businesses to look at the cultural sector? I come from Saskatchewan, and we have the Remai Centre that we’re very proud of. It was initiated in the business community, which brought on the government support at all levels, municipal, provincial and federal.
Is there something we can say as a committee in this study pointing to the laws, the encouragement to have a community responsibility or a corporate responsibility? Anything of help?
Ms. Lambert: I’m not sure that it’s a question of laws, necessarily. I don’t know anything about that. I can’t answer that aspect, but I certainly know that businesses, when they are considering investing — and I don’t like the idea of donating, but investing — in a cultural or architectural project, social housing, these kinds of things, first of all, they look for the people that give the biggest bang for the buck. For example, the symphony has thousands of donors. They like that.
Yet, so many of the smaller organizations that don’t have huge numbers of people that follow them have a deep cultural impact in terms of learning. I think there is a problem with that, when only numbers count.
The Chair: We’ve lost the video. Perhaps we can turn to Mr. Arthurs.
Ms. Lambert: I can’t hear you.
The Chair: I think we are having a bit of video problems. Can you hear me now?
Ms. Lambert: I can hear you now.
The Chair: Is there something further you wish to add? The video faulted right at the last sentence. Is there anything else you want to add? Or I’ll turn to the next witness.
Ms. Lambert: Well, I think you heard my last sentence.
The Chair: Yes.
Ms. Lambert: Then I stand with that.
Mr. Arthurs: It’s a great question. I would tend to agree, there isn’t a legal obstacle in place. There is certainly an issue about disproportionate investment by the private sector in large companies versus small companies, but that’s something that in our sector, internally, we should be doing a better job of.
I can tell you that in our quite successful fundraising efforts in the private sector we are seen as an outlet for corporations to express their humanity and their engagement towards their communities. As I mentioned, we recently took over the Sears Drama Festival, which takes place in 450 high schools across Canada, and we are hoping to announce next week a national sponsor who is interested in being present in all of those communities in one of the most beloved and cultural contexts that exists.
That relationship is incredibly important. I don’t think that we have any particular impediment to their participation.
Mr. Jang: As I’ve seen over the course of my career, the corporate approach to philanthropy has changed dramatically. There was a time in which it was a philanthropic discussion, and it was about the corporate philanthropy and support that was given from that perspective.
That shifted quite significantly, not for any taxation or legal reasons, but for business reasons. It shifted to market concerns and concerns about being able to express their brand in association with a not-for-profit. Discussions were less about getting a tax receipt, but rather getting exposure and the opportunity to have exposure through their corporate support.
We’re actually seeing things shift right now. We’re seeing a much stronger movement to CSR, corporate social responsibility. That is becoming very critical, for business and community reasons. For business reasons, it’s about engagement with their employees. It’s about recruitment. It’s about giving where we live, to use one of their phrases. It’s become really critical.
I spent eight years on the TELUS community foundation board, and I knew very well and saw first-hand how that corporation saw their role in terms of support for their communities.
We’re seeing a significant change right now around the idea that corporations are now taking a much more serious look at their role as it relates to how they engage with the community.
The Chair: Mr. Jang, just to follow up, then. We’re talking about cultural diplomacy and the internationalism, foreign policy. You’ve said that corporate responsibility is more rooted in the community. How does that then translate to companies, and how do they then translate that to the international sector?
Mr. Jang: It’s the alignment of approaches and values. We see first-hand international tours of cultural performances that are well sponsored by corporations because they have businesses in those countries. That’s a very common relationship that gets built, whether it’s a large accounting firm — that’s quite common — and these kinds of interests.
The Chair: We’ve come to the end of our session, but if there is anything any of our witnesses wish to add, now is the time.
Ms. Lambert: Yes, I would like to add something. I would like to add the fact that the international involvement in culture is extraordinary. The CCA, our study centre, started in 1997 and we have had 145 visiting scholars since then; we have 800 pre-docs and master’s students. These people come from literally all over the world for our various programs.
Again, I emphasized each time the importance of immediate, face-to-face contact. This is not mass anything, but it builds enormously. This is real diplomacy and it is really cultural, as cultural ambassadors. That’s what I wanted to add.
Mr. Arthurs: I have nothing to add. Thank you.
Mr. Jang: I want to add that we do spend a lot of time talking about economic benefit, and that’s critical. I understand that lens, which is important.
At the core of our business is intrinsic benefit and understanding and encouraging the role we play when it comes to culture and the role it has in engaging with new communities and healthier communities.
The Chair: I want to thank, on behalf of the committee, all our witnesses. You’ve contributed immensely to our study, with new dimensions. I trust that some of your words will be echoed through our report. If there is anything else you wish to add, please contact our clerk. Thank you very much for your presence, and particularly your recommendations and thoughts about our study.
(The committee adjourned.)