By Warren Garrett, Executive Director, CCI-Ontario Presenting Network
As I read the recently released, Interim Report of Findings: The Value of Presenting (www.diffusionartspresenting.ca) I began to wonder about the many [yet] untold stories that reveal the reasons why arts presenters present. As I waded through the report’s respectable statistics that overwhelmingly support and paint a picture of a vibrant and diverse Canadian presenting ecology, I kept yearning for some sort of narrative – any narrative – that would completely convince me and my presenting colleagues why presenting art – art that is relevant and timely for today’s audiences – is important and valued. Then Dee’s story crossed my desk in an email to the Ontario Arts Council.
Dee Adrian is the General Manager of the Capitol Centre in North Bay, an eleven-hundred, seat performing arts venue. She has worked hard for years to maintain the venue, raise funds, develop audiences, manage a large staff, and provide insightful leadership to her board, her audiences, and her community. In early 2007, Dee participated in CCI’s pilot program, The Healthy Arts Leader. I still remember our conversation in July of that year when, through a process of appreciative enquiry, she outlined her artistic vision and, two years later in Vancouver, further described a program that she had in mind that would engage the youth in her community and neighbouring First Nations.
Now, as a result of her active participation in the Ontario Arts Council’s highly acclaimed Ontario Dances program, Dee’s dream of bringing contemporary dance to North Bay has come true. This is her story.
“The final component of our four-year, Ontario Dances program was a four-day residency program with a Toronto group, SuperNaturalz. My goal this time round was to provide opportunities for workshops, Q & A, and showcases for youth and others. SuperNaturalz is a very young (under 30) hip-hop/break dancing/modern group that I felt would have universal appeal because of the music/moves and athleticism.
We did four school workshops including one at Nibsiing Reserve High School, one at a French High School in Sturgeon Falls (a 30 km drive from here) and two, North Bay High School workshops. We also included a public workshop that was absolutely packed to ensure the public had a chance to participate.
Our community opportunity was scheduled at the Town Square in our brand new hospital. More than one hundred administrators, doctors, nurses and patients attended and many of the patients living in the mental health section of the hospital were given a chance to participate in an additional workshop.
We culminated the residency program in a final showcase at the Capitol Centre and included this as part of our 25th anniversary celebrations that have been running all week.
Close to 600 people turned out to see Supernaturalz and not only did they bring people up on stage to do a workshop within a showcase, they remained afterwards to sign hundreds of autographs and participate in photo ops. The success of this venture was overwhelming and I can’t wait to continue in this program. As you know … we have Ballet Creole booked for a Christmas performance.
This residency was absolutely fantastic and we are blown away by the numbers involved. Thank you for your continued support of this program and the Capitol Centre’s participation. The economy in North Bay is not at its best right now but to see this many excited people in one place supporting dance was indeed heaven sent.”
After reading this story, I returned to my reading of the Value of Presenting, re-energized and re-charged. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but somehow there is a well-spring of hope and encouragement that comes from reading stories like Dee’s.
I anticipate that in the coming months as we move into the second year of the Value of Presenting study, more and more stories such as Dee’s will reveal the value and impact of what we do and why we do it.