Rebecca Represents SPARC at the N3 Arts Presenters Summit

By Rebecca Ballarin (Network Coordinator)

If you follow us on Twitter or Instagram, you may have seen some of my updates from the N3 Arts Presenters Summit in Whitehorse last week. Michele Emslie (who facilitated our 2016 symposium) invited me to attend this gathering alongside several other national delegates, as well as international delegates from Norway, Greenland and Finland. I am so grateful I had this opportunity, both on a personal level (going to the Yukon has been on my traveling “wish list” for a few years) and a professional one. At the summit I met so many incredible people doing incredible things in rural and remote areas. It was inspiring to hear their stories, and I made a number of great connections that I think will be beneficial for SPARC as we continue to build our network. For this blog post I’m going to share some of the activities I participated in and sessions I attended, including as many links as possible for your clicking pleasure!

WEDNESDAY

I joined a group of “non-Yukoners” who were flown in early so that we could do some networking and partake in a culture tour around Whitehorse. On the shuttle we were greeted by Suzanne de la Barre, who presented us with a task that required us to take “field notes” on both our expectations before entering, and experiences after leaving each cultural site. These notes would then be used as part of Suzanne’s Cultural Tourism workshop on Friday. Our journey took us to

With only 17 minutes at each stop, this “sampling” of different locations didn’t allow for deep engagement, but was a great way to introduce tourists to a new city. It encouraged us to explore places we may not have otherwise found, and to support local businesses and organizations during the rest of our trip.

THURSDAY

The Summit officially began Thursday evening with a gallery opening at the Yukon Arts Centre (YAC). It was really neat to be included in this event, where I could connect with other summit attendees and members of the local community. A highlight for me was the Youth Gallery, which exhibited a number of works by a seven-year-old artist named Owen. Owen was there for the opening and we had a long discussion about his favourite pieces, how he created them, and why he loves doing art. It was so cool to see local youth showcased in this way!

After spending time at the YAC, we all went to Antoinette’s, an incredible local restaurant, for dinner and networking. It was packed that night as Antoinette (the owner) was also hosting an International Women’s Day event !

FRIDAY

The first full day of the conference started with a networking activity and a Yukon First Nations Welcome which included the incredible Elijah Smith Dancers from Elijah Smith Elementary School. (Click here for an article about how culture, traditions and language are shared among Yukon First Nations and non-First Nation students at this school)

This was followed by Pecha Kucha community presentations by students from the School of Visual Arts in Dawson City, Melissa Shaginoff (curator of contemporary Indigenous art and culture at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska), Dennis Shorty and Jennifer Frohling (artists working in Ross River who have  created their own cultural centre in the area), Joonas Martikainen (Managing director of the Silence Festival in Finland), and Ellen Hamilton and Julia Ogina (representing Qaggiavuut, a non-profit society dedicated to strengthening the Nunavut performing arts, and currently campaigning to raise support for the construction of a performing arts centre in Nunavut).  If you aren’t familiar with the Pecha Kucha format, you should click the link above and read more. It offers a neat way to approach presentations that pushes presenters to be precise and image oriented!

Following these presentations we were invited to listen to an artist’s talk with Reneltta Arluk (who you might recognize as one of the keynote speakers for our upcoming SPARC symposium!). Reneltta  discussed her experiences as an Indigenous actress and theatre creator; from the different training programs she completed, to the companies she has worked with across the country.

After an afternoon workshop and discussion on the complexities of cultural tourism, we headed back to the YAC for an artist showcase. Singer-songwriter Lazarus Qattalik opened for Diyet and the Love Soldiers. Lazarus came to the summit from Igloolik, Nunavut, and this showcase was the first time he had performed outside of his home community. It was truly very special to be there in the audience supporting such a talented musician.

SATURDAY

If you attended our 2014 symposium, you probably remember Inga Petri and her presentation on the research paper “The Value of Presenting”. Inga led us through a Digital Innovation workshop on Saturday morning, and offered many useful tips to easily improve the information that appears when your organization is “Googled”. She also presented some big ideas about the development of a digital distribution platform for the performing arts in Canada along with plans for a Digital Lab Collaborative in the Yukon.

Before lunch we were treated to four “theatre pitches” by Yukon-based companies: Gwaandak Theatre, Nakai Theatre, Open Pit Theatre, and Ramshackle Theatre.

In the afternoon I acted as “rapporteur” for the Youth Engagement table at the “Knowledge Café”. Two facilitators (in our case Jona Barr and Andrea Simpson-Fowler) led the discussion as different people joined the table intermittently to talk about youth outreach. Some of the key action steps I pulled from our discussions were:

  • Space: Youth need a safe and open space which they can use and make their own.
  • Relationship building: Staff or volunteers working with youth need to love working with them and be dedicated to long-term relationship building. Too often youth outreach involves someone coming to do work and then leaving again. Youth should feel liked and appreciated; when they do, they will stick around.
  • Leadership: Provide opportunities for youth to take on leadership roles. Providing leadership training opportunities for youth who participate in your programming will lead to more well-equipped staff for you to hire in the future! This also encourages youth to give back to the community, and can be inspiring for younger participants to see how they may be able to apply their skills and experience in the future.
  • Partner: If someone is doing youth outreach/programming well – get in touch with them! Partner with them. Collaborate with them. You don’t have to start from scratch.

We had another INCREDIBLE showcase Saturday evening (kudos to Eric Epstein- Artistic Director of the Theatre program at the YAC for putting this one together). The lineup featured The Sweeties, Soda Pony, Leela Gilday, Calla Kinglit, the Dakhká Kwáan Dancers, and Quantum Tangle. This showcase ended with another performance by Lazarus, who was accompanied by Leela and Quantum Tangle for an awesome finale number.

SUNDAY

The main focus of this final half-day was action plans and next steps: Asking ourselves what we would be taking away from the summit.

Our two Elder Witnesses gave reports at the beginning of the day, reflecting on what they had witnessed over the weekend. We then had some focused discussions in small groups, looking at the big themes in our action plans (which we had been asked to fill out prior to the last day). We worked together to identify concrete action items that we could pursue upon returning home. I joined a group discussing relationship building with First Nations communities. Witnessing Elder Shirley Adamson, a member of the Wolf Clan and citizen of the Ta’an Kwach’an of the Tagish Kwan, joined us and provided some thoughtful insight about building relationships both with organizations and individual artists. I’m looking forward to receiving a summary of the notes that we handed in at the end of our discussion. I intend to add the action items we brainstormed to my work-plan for the rest of the year.

After these break-out discussions, we all joined a sharing circle for another artists’ talk, this time led by the artists of Quantum Tangle – Tiffany Ayalik and Greyson Gritt. Tiffany and Greyson focused the discussion on the responsibility of presenters to create safe spaces for artists – specifically Indigenous and Two-Spirit artists. They spoke about some of their negative experiences at music festivals – experiencing abuse, experiencing misuse of personal pronouns and experiencing a lack of support and accountability from festival organizers. They offered actions that everyone could implement to create safer spaces. Their honesty made for a very impactful discussion, and I don’t think I’m the only person who left the circle thinking about what I needed to do in advance of our next event.

NOW

It’s a few days after the summit has ended, I’ve returned home, and I’m still processing my experiences. After catching up on emails (and publishing this blog post!) I’ll be making time to reflect. To go back through all my notes to find all the places where I jotted down “maybe SPARC could…” or “an opportunity for SPARC to…”. I’ll be putting together a list of follow-up calls and emails to make, organizations to research further, and relationships to build. I’m so grateful to Michele and her amazing team, as well as all the presenters and facilitators, and all the other attendees, for everything they did to make this summit a success. Opportunities to get together and share are so important; they challenge, inspire, and invigorate. I look forward to continuing the discussions had in Whitehorse with the delegates that were there. And I look forward to building on these discussions with the SPARC community and at our symposium in May!

A group of us after returning from a visit to the Takhini Hot Springs on Sunday afternoon. A great way to unwind after the end of an amazing summit!

 

 

 

 

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