ARCCO 2020 MEMBERS SUMMIT
In February 2020, ARCCO began a process of revitalization. Guided by a new board of directors, ARCCO is renewing its commitment to advocating for the rights of artists and arts workers in Ontario. In this critical moment, we recognize the need to listen closely to Ontario’s artists collectives and artist-run institutions, to help guide and shape our support and advocacy.
From July 24 to 26, we invited existing and prospective members to join us for a series of virtual panel discussions with ARCCO members, arts professionals, activists, curators and arts workers, to talk about where we are and where we’re heading. You can view the full speakers list and details on the panel discussions at ARCCO.NET
Below are the results of the summit, including recordings of the talks, an annotated bibliography of materials provided by the speakers, and a RESPONSE paper overviewing the summit, produced by Art Historian and Curator Dr. Nadia Kurd.
ARCCO would like to thank Kay Pettigrew for providing live transcription throughout the summit, Alex Noreau for assisting with the recording and organization of the panels, and Danielle St-Amour for planning, organizing and executing the Summit.
For any questions or feedback on this document, please contact Board Chair Jonathan Middleton at ARCCO@RUBYARTS.ORG
LABOUR AND WAGES
Mod – Anne-Sophie Grenier
Michael Maranda (AGYU)
Laurence Dubuc (CRIMT/UdeM)
Mod – Anne-Sophie Grenier
Yan Wu (City of Markham)
Craig Fahner (York/Ryerson) + Neal Moignard (UO)
Lindsay Fisher (Creative Users Project)
Mod – Lucas Cabral
*Please note that Rihkee Strapp’s presentation is not included in the recording, at their request.
Rihkee Strapp (Northern Indigenous Artist Alliance)
Lucas Cabral (Artcite Inc)
Jenna Faye Powell (Annandale Artist Residency/Partners in Art)
“For those of you who haven’t heard of the term Disability Arts, much like Queer or Feminist or any other political community in the arts, Disability Arts challenges how we think about disability and works toward the larger goal of achieving access for anybody living at the margins of society.” 
– Lindsay Fisher
“I think a lot can be leveraged. How do we ethically move through those changes? Again, I am thinking a lot about contingency right now, it’s a place where I’m more comfortable, because I think a lot of good decisions will be made in terms of migrating our lives, shuffling things around, but also a lot of poor decisions.” 
– Neil Moignard
“We are in the moment of revolution, a revolutionary moment that has spanned decades. We can each make choices now that can dramatically address this crisis in the arts. It’s time to move beyond performative allyship. This is the time to get involved in meaningful ways that lead to structural change.” 
– Syrus Marcus Ware
“What the COVID-19 pandemic has done” writes novelist and poet Dionne Brand, “is expose even further the endoskeleton of the world.”  What Brand, and many other Black and Indigenous writers, artists and thinkers in the past few months have urgently noted is that, while much of the world has been consumed by the current pandemic, it has also heightened issues of injustice and inequity to show the true costs of life on the planet. Rather, it is not merely a health pandemic, but the revelation of pre-existing social injustices that have been firmly rooted in a western worldview that is thoroughly anti-Black. From this faulty yet historic foundation, much of the policies, practices and operations have come to inform not only mainstream Canadian society at-large today, but also its cultural institutions.
In the last few months, with the pandemic and the global uprising as a response to the recent murder of George Floyd , such conditions have shaped and informed many conversations not only on the role of art, but the institutions and organizations that promote it.
As the auditor for the 2020 ARCCO members summit, my role was to observe conversations, take notes of key thoughts and issues, and most of all, to piece together critical discussions for ARCCO and its membership to consider as they move forward. This is a period of great change, not only globally, but also for a revitalized ARCCO as it determines the best, most ethical ways to serve its members. This brief paper highlights some of the current issues and contexts facing artists and artist-run centres.
The first session of the conference, moderated by Anne-Sophie Grenier (Modern Fuel), with presentations by Michael Maranda (AGYU) and Laurence Dubuc (CRIMT/UdeM) examined precarity in arts organizations in Canada, and the attitudes towards labour and compensation. In particular, Dubuc points out that many artist-run centres operate as “double employers”, meaning, not only are artist-run centres offering compensation to artists exhibiting their work, but also run by artists, providing salaries for them to operate exhibition spaces. Michael Maranda’s ongoing project, the Waging Culture Survey (2008–present), provides detailed information on the combined reputational economy and a “winner takes all” way of working in the arts, which ultimately foster inequity . Both presenters cited burnout as a common condition, and the need for a universal income benefit in the arts.
In their presentation, artists Craig Fahner (YorkU/RyersonU) and Neal Moignard (UO) discussed the possibilities and pitfalls of contemporary digital technologies. At the heart of this presentation was the call to re-examine the digital platforms used by artist-run centres and evaluate how these platforms may align themselves with the mandates of the artist-run. Most often, such online platforms do not align themselves with the values of artist-run centres. As Fahner and Moignard point out, the majority of these platforms monetise experiences (platform capitalism) and also actively monopolise the Internet— ultimately limiting the knowledge and experiences of the arts.
In regards to pushing the boundaries of online platforms and public art, Yan Wu (City of Markham) presented on Delimit (2020), a project that seeks to explore speculative art projects. By exploring the potential of public art across the city of Markham through digital renderings, participating artists are allowed to experiment with space and reimagine their art practice.
As Lindsay Fisher (Creative Users Project) points out, those with lived experiences with disabilities and difference have long been at the forefront for advocating better design and increased accessibility of not only arts programming but also, more critically, for day-to-day living. Innovations and adaptations of spaces, events and audio-visual materials (among many other things), have been created in order to provide accessibility within the disabled community and as a means to combat ableism, which, as Fisher notes, is embedded in all living designs. Many of these new technologies and designs have been more widely used during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The shift towards increased online content this past year has been widely heralded by those living with difference.
In terms of regional collaborations and partnerships, the session with Lucas Cabral (Artcite), Rikhee Strapp (Northern Indigenous Artist Alliance) and Jenna Faye Powell (Annandale Artist Residency/Partners in Art) covered a wide range of strategies for partnerships. These presentations also highlighted the successes as well as drawbacks for collaborating. For Powell, the pandemic brought on a series of challenges to working collaboratively, however for Partners in Art, one solution has been to collaborate with galleries to present online content— through strategies such as Instagram takeovers for example— in order to benefit both artist-run centres and artists. Such activities have generated positive outreach beyond the Greater Toronto Area.
Presentations by Cabral and Strapp also emphasized the gaps in museum collections, such as an LGBT+ archive, and the limited number of opportunities for Indigenous artists in Northern Ontario. Whereas the Cabral’s involvement in the “Totally Outright”, a leadership project with ACT and the Robert McLaughlin Art Gallery created a space for an LGBT+ archive at the RMG, Strapp noted that the space for Indigenous artists continues to be a challenge. In this regard, the combined challenge of white saviorism, both overt and subtle microaggressions in communities, as well as access to funding, that is usually “twice stolen” as the result of appropriation of the land and the exploitation Black labor— have all played a significant, detrimental role in maintaining creative spaces for Indigenous communities . Along with this comes the issue of data collection, as Strapp notes, “in order to receive the money, the obligation often centres around data collection”, which also extracts and keeps information from communities .
All of the conference panellists expressed numerous interrelated issues currently facing arts organizations in Canada. This included the need for ARCCO to play an advocacy role that focuses all levels of funding and policy initiatives, provide a platform for consistent check-ins with membership and host alternative online collaborative models. Furthermore, the uncertainty of the current COVID-19 period, which has the potential to continue into the following two-to-three years, will necessitate more online experiences among ARCCO members .
A few things must be said about collaborations: concerns of performative allyship— rather, the presentation of empty gestures (i.e. tokenistic online statements, hashtags, one-off events, etc.)— do not foster the fundamental structural changes needed within artist-run centres. Key questions, as raised by many of the summit participants included, how can artist-run centres decentralize their resources and programming? What are the means that can be used to achieve this? And have individuals within organizations reflected on their roles and the relationships they have built within their communities? As Lindsay Fisher stated, those working in arts organizations must ask themselves, “who is there?” and “who has been left out?”
During the conference roundtable, a number of comments referenced the lack of funding for artist-run centres. While this is an ongoing and constant conversation to be had among arts organizations, there is also a need to articulate and strategize what increased funding will achieve. Questions to ask include: What exactly will increased funding accomplish? Can programs be reconfigured so that they are sustainable rather than continuing a treadmill of events or exhibitions for the sake of audience numbers? How can resources be shared among other arts organizations to alleviate human resources and financial burdens? In addition to programming, any increased funding must also address succession planning, staff and board professional development, and an accessibility strategy.
There is little doubt that arts service organizations such as ARCCO have an important role in the development of best practices and advocacy for its membership. This is a significant time for alliance building and the sharing of resources for arts service and artist-run organizations. However, such changes must be borne through a consultative process. I am also cautiously optimistic that ARCCO will take on and act on the challenges that face society at-large today. A re-energized ARCCO should be an organization that looks for input and alliances from youth, LGBT+, BIPOC-led organizations and other relevant marginalized communities to develop practices and strategic plans that are grounded in abolition, harm reduction, ethics of care and equity .
As an art professional that began their career at an artist-run centre in Toronto, I am deeply indebted to the community of artists that have shaped my insights and politics on art. However, during my time working at an artist-run centre (both as a board member and programmer), I was unaware of the role of ARCCO or its membership. Outreach and consistent communications is critical, and the development of long-term plans with membership will be key.
A return to ‘normal’ or rather, a return to the ways society has conventionally operated – despite the dire consequences borne to marginalised communities as a result, is not a feasible option. To conclude, I return to the words of Dionne Brand’s words: “Everything is up in the air, all narratives for the moment have been blown open— the statues are falling— all the metrics are off, if only briefly” . This opportunity to transform and change in meaningful and robust ways must be seized. It is an imperative for ARCCO to follow suit.
1. Fisher, Lindsay. “On Design, Distribution, and Digital Strategy.” ARCCO Members Summit, July 25, 2020.
2.Moignard, Neil. “On Design, Distribution, and Digital Strategy.” ARCCO Members Summit, July 25, 2020.
3. Syrus Marcus Ware, “Give Us Permanence—Ending Anti-Black Racism in Canada’s Art Institutions,” Canadian Art, https://canadianart.ca/features/give-us-permanence-ending-anti-black-racism-in-canadas-art-institutions/ (accessed: 7 August 2020).
4. Dionne Brand. “On narrative, reckoning and the calculus of living and dying,” The Toronto Star https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/books/2020/07/04/dionne-brand-on-narrative-reckoning-and-the-calculus-of-living-and-dying.html (accessed: 7 August 2020).
5. Much more can be said here, however the murder of George Floyd is sadly but one of many examples of police brutality. For details, see: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52861726
6. For details on the survey and its methodology, see: Art Gallery of York University, http://agyu.art/project/wc2017/
7. Strapp, Rikhee. “On Regional, Rural and Urban Collaboration.” ARCCO Members Summit, July 26, 2020.
8. Strapp, Rihkee.
9. Jones, Ryan Patrick. “Physical distancing, mask-wearing could be in place for 2-3 years even with vaccine, Tam warns”, CBC Online: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/covid-19-vaccine-tam-1.5673729
10. A number of organizations and collectives exist in Ontario: Nia Centre for the Arts, South Asian Visual Arts Centre (SAVAC), Tangled Art + Disability, Sur Gallery, Aboriginal Curatorial Collective Collectif des commissaires autochtones (ACC – CCA), and ad-hoc groups and collectives such as BadSociety.ca and the Indigenous Youth Residency.
11. Dionne Brand, 2020.
THE REGIONAL AND THE RURAL
LABOUR AND WAGES
From passionate labour to compassionate work: Cultural co-ops, do what you love and social change
By M. Sandoval
For European Journal of Cultural Studies
This article focuses on the relation between work and pleasure in the cultural sector.
As ARCs have been losing their standing as political entities, this article brings up the idea of reconnecting with a cooperative organizational model in order to empower artists communities and foster social change outside of capitalist dynamics. The redistributive nature of activities and methods have the potential to give back autonomy to collectives and allow them to build sustainable community-based organizations.