SPARC – What’s Next?

SPARC has recently completed its one-year OTF funding and a lot of people are wondering, what’s next for us?

A big part of the last few months, and the last year really, has been about researching and setting out a plan to grow the SPARC Network and develop services that are needed in rural and remote regions across the province of Ontario.

You can read all about what we did over the past year to gain input from rural performing arts stakeholders, research networks,  and our plan to scale SPARC up considerably over the next three years in our OTF Report – FINAL EVALUATION REPORT SPARC.

We know that not everyone has the time to read all 28 pages of our report, so here is a condensed update on our plan and how we hope to make it happen:

SPARC has applied for a 3 year Grow Grant to the Ontario Trillium Foundation to scale-up its Network and develop services/programs with the input and guidance of rural performing arts stakeholders. SPARC has also applied to Canadian Heritage’s Canada Arts Presentation Fund and the Ontario Arts Council for additional support to produce a 2016 SPARC Symposium and to help support access to and administration of regional consultations.

If successful in its funding requests, SPARC will embark on connecting with stakeholders by:

-hosting over 13 consultations in rural and remote areas across Ontario over 3 years

-identifying locations and lead partners for 8 regional Network Hubs fairly distributed across Ontario to provide relatively closer points of contact and support to stakeholders and ensure that regional differences and realities are recognized in ongoing service delivery, development etc. Network Hubs are a part of the Constellation Model

-producing a 2016 SPARC Symposium once more in Haliburton, with the Symposium Coordinator responsible for documenting and writing the Symposium Model…thus allowing iterations/adaptations to occur in other rural areas in and beyond Ontario…as well as…

-a 2018 SPARC Symposium in a new host community in rural/remote Ontario (ideally in the same location as a SPARC Network Hub)

-through the promotion and population of our developed Online Network (and improvements based upon user’s feedback)

-develop services/supports with input from stakeholders across Ontario, discover gaps, current services that may not be getting to those who can use them, identify service barriers and potential solutions

-have a provincially-representative, diverse SPARC Network Steering Committee by 2019

To learn more specific, or find out how you can contribute/partner with SPARC, please contact

SPARC is awaiting the results of these applications and in all likelihood, won’t be embarking upon its 3 year plan until the beginning of 2016 though it is hopeful that some funding for specific projects – such as regional consultations and the 2016 SPARC Symposium – may be announced sooner than later (always fingers crossed!)

In the short term, SPARC has entered into a new, transitional phase with a focus on convening conversations and the activation of its new Online Network. Over the past year, SPARC has had the good fortune to be funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation with staff support but, due to the Federal election, decisions on funding applications to Canadian Heritage have been delayed. This delay means that SPARC is not currently able to sustain a staff person.

Funding ups and downs are a matter of course for the non-profit world and simply present a challenge that SPARC’s Network Steering Committee is excited to tackle. As rural communities well know, limited resources are quite often met with resourcefulness and innovations, and help to provide a true test of the sustainability of a project.

As SPARC enters this new phase, it wishes to thank its Network Coordinator, Elisha Barlow, for her dedication and leadership. SPARC is also thankful for and continues to enjoy a supportive relationship with the Arts Council ~ Haliburton Highlands.

SPARC is quite positive regarding its applications to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for a 3 year Grow Grant as well as applications to the Ontario Arts Council and Canadian Heritage. It remains hopeful for a positive result to these funding requests but has decided to acknowledge this pause in funding as an opportunity to continue to develop SPARC as a grass-roots provincial network.

SPARC’s Network Steering Committee is excited to lead this next stage of SPARC and encourages creators, presenters, producers and animateurs in rural and remote communities across Ontario to join the conversation in SPARC’s new Online Network.

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