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.

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

ARCCO would like to thank Danielle St-Amour for planning, organizing and executing the Summit, Alex Noreau for assisting with the recording and organization of the panels, and Kay Pettigrew for providing live transcription throughout the summit.


Labour and Wages

Mod – Anne-Sophie Grenier

Michael Maranda (AGYU)
Laurence Dubuc (CRIMT/UdeM)

Digital Strategies

Mod – Anne-Sophie Grenier

Yan Wu (City of Markham)
Craig Fahner (York/Ryerson) + Neal Moignard (UO)
Lindsay Fisher (Creative Users Project)

Regional and Rural - Part 1

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

Regional and Rural - Part 2

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


READING THE ROOM: ARCCO Members Summit Response Paper

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.1
— 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.2
— 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.3
— 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.”4 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 Floyd5, 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. 

Primary Discussions

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 inequity6. 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 communities7. 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 communities8.

Key Considerations

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 members9.

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.

Concluding Thoughts

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 equity10.

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”11. This opportunity to transform and change in meaningful and robust ways must be seized. It is an imperative for ARCCO to follow suit.

Annotated Bibliography: By ARCCO Summit Contributors

Digital Platforms

Craig Fahner / Neil Moignard

Blockchains & Cultural Padlocks Research Initiative

A three-year digital strategy initiative by 221A that researches, develops sectoral capacity, and implements blockchain technology for cultural, social and ecological use-cases

An Artist Run initiative that explores the possibilities of distributed computing for the purposes of organizational activities, archiving, and the distributed administration of funds and contracts. This sort of initiative shows the promise of innovative artist-run digital infrastructures in terms of their potential to reorient hierarchical organizational structures into distributed models.

HOFFNUNG 3000 Handbook

HOFFNUNG 3000 is a web-based platform on which participants organize the festival themselves by offering and sharing and using everyone’s abilities / potentials / gear / skills.

Hoffnung 3000 is a festival platform that distributes the hierarchies that typically separate audience, performers, curators and support staff. Participants in Hoffnung 3000 are invited to list what they can contribute, and the platform generates events based on which resources, performers and audiences are available at certain times and in certain spaces. This software demonstrates how arts organizations could be transformed through platforms that have values of collectivity built into their core.

Platform Capitalism
Nick Srnicek

Srnicek’s book presents the new political and economic conditions presented by the dominance of platforms like Facebook, Uber and Amazon, which conflate the domains of the public sphere and the generation of capital. Srnicek proposes a new theoretical framework for examining these conditions through a close examination of the strategies of major power brokers within the platform ecosystem. Srnicek argues that platforms mirror existing methods of rent extraction, with the accumulation of valuable data standing for traditional monetary exchange. Srnicek deploys a Marxist account of platform capitalism, highlighting that the platform economy is lacking in sustainable surplus value to maintain the appearance of an equitable public sphere. As platforms have recently demonstrated their tendencies towards becoming “premium services” for a luxury class, Srnicek proposes the collectivization of platforms as a possible solution.

Bump Television

Bump TV is a Toronto-based platform that publishes artist content in the same manner as a public access TV station. The platform is community-oriented, and is mandated to provide a space for artistic expression outside of the commodifying reach of major platforms like YouTube.

Yan Wu

Net Art Anthology

Devised in concert with

Rhizome ‘s acclaimed digital preservation department, Net Art Anthology aims to address the shortage of historical perspectives on a field in which even the most prominent artworks are often inaccessible

Three recent encounters that helped to shape my thoughts on the digital public art project I am currently working on:

Rhizome’s anthology on early net art sheds light on the notion of site-specifity in terms of the unique process of digital sphere.

Pandemic Objects: Google Street View
Victoria & Albert Museum

Pandemic Objects is an editorial project that reflects on objects that have taken on new meaning and purpose during the coronavirus outbreak. During times of pandemic, a host of everyday often-overlooked ‘objects’ (in the widest possible sense of the term) are suddenly charged with new urgency.

I have been following V&A’s blog on pandemic objects since our turn in life in March. In a way, I think its intention is to transform our daily experiences in lockdown into museum experiences and these blog entries somewhat act as didactic panels that we can carry around, a kind of framing mechanism. This one on Google Street View shows me a possible way to mediate a digital spatial experience of our urban environment with the general public.


MOIRE is an artist publication established by Liza Eurich, Ella Dawn McGeough and Colin Miner  in 2012 that focuses on artistic practice through the production of texts, interviews, images, and collaborative projects.

Last one, Moire’s Issue 5 on Ken Lum: and space, Across time. It came in as a surprise, magically bringing all the keywords together at one place – public art, google street view, bodily experience, digital simulation, critical views, and of course, Ken Lum.

Lindsay Fisher

On the Complexity of Cripping the Arts
by Christiana Myers
for Canadian Art Magazine
February 12, 2019

“It’s time for inclusion to mean more than checking a box. A recent symposium showed why.”

On the complexity of Cripping the Arts outlines some of the key conversations and activities that occured at last year’s Cripping the Arts symposium. The article is a great reflection on where Disability Arts and issues of access are today in relation to representation, research, and practice.

We Are the Original Lifehackers
By Liz Jackson
For The New York Times

We Are the Original Lifehackers talks about the vital role disabled people play in challenging conventional ways of doing things towards building spaces and tools that actually benefit all of us. This, I think, is a timely article which reminds us that, as arts workers needing to do things differently, we can benefit by listening and learning from disabled people who are inherently problem solvers.

Give Us Permanence—Ending Anti-Black Racism in Canada’s Art Institutions
By Syrus Marcus Ware
For Canadian Art Magazine
June 2020

Syrus Marcus Ware, a member of the Performance Disability Art Collective and Black Lives Matter Toronto, writes about the critical work of Black artists and curators, and ways to achieve lasting change

Give us Permanence, Syrus Marcus Ware talks about the importance of hiring Black leaders in the arts and the need for arts organizations to do more than post public statements about anti-black racism.

The Regional and the Rural

Lucas Cabral

Inclusion 2025: A Practitioner’s Guide to Inclusive Museums

Toolkit organized by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, Ontario Museum Association, and Royal Ontario Museum that case-studied arts administrators attempts to address and correct inequity in museums.

Rihkee Strapp

Give Us Permanence—Ending Anti-Black Racism in Canada’s Art Institutions
By Syrus Marcus Ware
For Canadian Art Magazine
June 2020

Syrus Marcus Ware, a member of the Performance Disability Art Collective and Black Lives Matter Toronto, writes about the critical work of Black artists and curators, and ways to achieve lasting change 

Living in the North, my connections are often built through social media. I follow Syrus Marcus Ware, a member of the Performance Disability Art Collective and Black Lives Matter Toronto, on Instagram and loved their perspective on racism in the arts.

Cancel Art Galleries

Highlighting instances of racism and other forms of discrimination, exploitation, and abuses of power in the commercial art world. Submit stories here 

Cancelartgalleries – another Instagram connection – is an unapologetic account of experiences of colonial anti blackness, racism, white supremacy, sexism, homophobia, transphobia in art institutions.

Jenna Faye Powell

decentre: concerning artist-run culture
Published by YYZBOOKS


decentre is a book about artist-run culture; the effleurescence of projects, spaces, events spawned by artists at their own initiation. Artists and others working in artist-run spaces were asked to write short texts addressing the issues faced in this milieu, distilling down the essence of the concept “artist-run,” and looking into the future.

The following two books were gifted to me during my tenure as Director at Forest City Gallery. Both books present a collection of texts that address “the performance and promise of contemporary global artist-run centres and initiatives within the historical contexts that saw their emergence”.

Folio Series: Institutions by Artists: Volume 1
Edited by Jeff Khonsary and Kristina Lee Podesva

Institutions by Artists: Volume One presents a collection of texts addressing the performance and promise of contemporary global artist-run centres and initiatives within the historical contexts that saw their emergence.

Give Us Permanence—Ending Anti-Black Racism in Canada’s Art Institutions
By Syrus Marcus Ware
For Canadian Art Magazine
June 2020

Syrus Marcus Ware, a member of the Performance Disability Art Collective and Black Lives Matter Toronto, writes about the critical work of Black artists and curators, and ways to achieve lasting change

Syrus Marcus Ware’s recently published article “Give Us Permanence” (via Canadian Art) looks to the future of the North American art world, offering stark and concrete examples of how to counter anti-Black racism on an institutional level.

Writing About Indigenous Art with Critical Care
David Garneau
March 2020

This article by David Garneau tackles exactly what the title states, how to write “about Indigenous Art with Critical Care,” illuminating strategies to deepen discourse as approached by settler-writers and Indigenous-authors.

Labour and Wages

Michael Maranda

Canada’s Galleries Fall Short: The Not-So Great White North
by Alison Cooley Amy Luo and Caoimhe Morgan-Feir
April 2015

What do the demographic breakdowns of solo shows at Canadian public institutions look like? Not the most diverse.

A few books and articles on the notion of Winner-take-all economics (the Rihanna piece sums it up nicely; the Franks and Cook take the deep dive) juxtaposed with a few pieces on the economics of the Canadian art scene, as seen through an economy-of-exposure lens (where exposure and reputation are inextricably linked, and there is actual trickle down to economic success).

Diversity Counts: Gender, Race, and Representation in Canadian Art Galleries 
Anne Dymond
McGill-Queen’s University Press

Despite the common belief that art galleries will naturally become more gender equitable over time, the fact is that many art institutions in Canada have become even less so over the last decade, with female artists making up less than 25 per cent of the contemporary exhibitions of several major galleries.

he Winner-Take-All Society: Why the Few at the Top Get So Much More Than the Rest of Us
Frank and Cook
Penguin Books

During the last two decades, the top one percent of U.S. earners captured more than 40 percent of the country’s total earnings growth, one of the largest shifts any society has endured without a revolution or military defeat. Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook argue that behind this shift lies the spread of “winner-take-all markets”—markets in which small differences in performance give rise to enormous differences in reward.

The Economics of Rihanna’s Superstardom
by Alan Krueger
For the New York Times 
June 2019

The music industry can tell us a lot about our winner-take-all economy

Hard Numbers: A Study on Diversity in Canada’s Galleries
Michael Maranda
for Canadian Art
April 2017

The bigger the gallery, the fewer women in power. And the less money a gallery receives, the more likely its leadership is Indigenous.

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures
Merlin Sheldrake
Random House, 2020

In Entangled Life, biologist Merlin Sheldrake shows us the world from a fungal point of view. By examining fungi on their own terms, Sheldrake reveals how these extraordinary organisms—and our relationships with them—are changing our understanding of how life works.

Finally, a suggestion for a field to look to to maybe skew our metaphors a bit, working against neo-liberal market-oriented thinking and towards a new communion of beings. Sheldrake’s book is but one of a range of recent books that look at rethinking various ecologies with different underlying assumptions than competition as the motivating force.

Laurence Dubuc

Are Artist Run Centres Still Relevant?
Nicholas Brown + Jaclyn Bruneau
For Canadian Art Magazine

In the 45 years since Canada’s first artist-run centres (ARCs) were established, they have grown into a network of institutions unto themselves. Over 30 years ago, A.A. Bronson published  The Humiliation of the Bureaucrat: Artist-run Centres as Museums by Artists, which delineates the intentions, processes and forms of ARCs across Canada. But how would this article read if it were written today? It’s time to take stock of ARCs in our present moment, questioning their function within an increasingly connected, digital era.

Canadian Art survey on contemporary ARCs culture conducted with a few artists and arts workers. These two short articles underline how institutionalization processes are both resources and constraints for ARCs and how they transformed their capabilities over time.

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.


ARCCO would like to thank the Ontario Arts Council and ARCA for their funding and support.