I attended a very informative Brown Bag lunch with Canadian Conference of the Arts National Director Alain Pineau today. The CCA is in the midst of remaking itself to a) be more relevant to the Arts and to Canadians and b) adjust to the loss of the federal funding it has had for decades. Today's meeting was part of a larger cross-Canada tour, which M Pineau is blogging about here.
The long and short of it is that it is making me take a second look at the CCA. I had long thought that the organization hasn't been as effective as it used to be, but I think the new direction is worth a look. It's going to be a tough sell for organizational members, though, as their membership fees have had to increase substantially. With that said, a good portion of the CCA's relevance and clout, says M. Pineau, will have to come from individuals, and those memberships have actually come down in price. The depth and breadth of knowledge within the CCA on Federal Arts-related issues is clear, and I, for one, just might give them a second chance.
Another interesting facet of our conversation over lunch was an update on the review of Charities regulation and legislation, along with the issue of revised guidelines. After having the proposed guidelines reviewed by a lawyer with considerable expertise in this area, the advice is not to panic. There are no changes to current regulation or legislation. M. Pineau stated that their advice to Arts folk is that we simply need to exercise due diligence and ensure that we are up to date and aware of our obligations if we hold charitable licenses. He also advises those considering applying for such a designation to consider carefully whether it will be worth it for their organizations. He has offered to share the CCA's submission to the government on this matter and I hope to have his permission to share it here as well.
The next Federal issue on the horizon will be the budget, due in the coming weeks. I, for one, will be watching carefully as to whether and how much any cuts will be and how they will affect the Arts. I remember too well Minister Moore's announcement around this time last year at Edmonton`s Winspear Centre, when he indicated that the Conservative government strongly supported the Arts and pledged stable funding for the next 5 years. I also remember his colleague Minister Rona Ambrose's support for that commitment, both at that press conference and at a subsequent conference late last summer. To make sure I remembered, I blogged about both of these events here and here.
For me, the proof is always in the pudding. For the CCA, I'm cautiously optimistic that this organization is on the right path to make a difference once again. For the Federal government, and in particular the upcoming budget, while I'm sure they'll make a difference, I'm not sure it will be a good one.
Quick other notes: for anyone interested in some more research on Audience Engagement/Community Relevance/Entanglement (that last is a new term I heard last week), check out the Wallace Foundation's latest work here. I also haven't had a chance to check out ArtsJournal yet, but it sounds really interesting and I can't wait to do that. Of course, all of this makes me wish we had more Canadian sources similar to these about Canadian Arts. Maybe someday...