As most of you know, Artsweek is Peterborough’s “festival of the arts”, a ten-day extravaganza of music, literary and spoken word arts, puppetry and kid’s programming, media arts, visual arts, theatre, dance, and performance of all kinds, unfolding in public spaces and established art venues across the City. Artsweek brings new work to new audiences in unexpected ways, supports original creation by local artists, and celebrates Peterborough as an innovative, creative community with a vibrant arts scene. These were some of the goals put forward when Artsweek was first established by the City of Peterborough in 2005 as a 100th anniversary project.
In 2014, Artsweek ran into serious programming and administrative difficulty and the City of Peterborough asked EC3 to take on the final administrative tasks of the 2014 event and the planning, management and delivery of the next Festival. The Board agreed to do so on a “pilot project basis” and has produced Artsweek for the last two years. Producing an annual arts festival was not in the original mandate of the fledgling cultural service organization. We are very proud of the many improvements made to Artsweek in that period and so grateful to all the people who helped make it happen.
EC3 has raised an additional $15,000 or $20,000 for Artsweek each year (beyond the $25,000 provided in an annual grant from the City), increased the amount of money paid out in artist fees and greatly increased the number of projects, locations, business sponsors and community partners involved. Audiences have been larger and many more artists are involved, – but not enough to realize what many see as the full potential of Artsweek. In order to achieve these developments, EC3 has subsidized Artsweek providing cash, management and operating services and facilities that cost approximately an additional $20,000 each year. At the same time, producing the event has drawn personnel and resources away from EC3’s core mission and mandate, impeding our ability to deliver the year-round programming and services required to meet our primary obligations as an effective arts, culture and heritage council. The question for EC3 became not only how to improve the financial and human resources available to Artsweek and advance the performance of the Festival, but how to do so while maintaining ongoing programs and initiatives for which commitments have been made to a variety of key funders and stakeholders.
EC3 undertook a full review of previous Artsweek events that included: an internal review of the 2016 festival (exit interviews, audience surveys, board assessment and staff analysis), a review of previous evaluations, and two focus groups that included Artsweek participants, partners and audiences as well as subjects not currently engaged with the festival. There was a striking and consistent similarity in all the feedback about Artsweek in terms of what artists, audiences, curators, and funders wanted to see. It all made sense, was thoughtful, exciting and would take even more time and resources to accomplish. We also conducted “best practice” interviews with similar organizations who produced similar festivals.
Based on the evaluation/review outcomes, the Board was determined to develop a new way of working that would preserve the integrity of both the Festival, allowing it to meet participants’ dreams and expectations, and that of EC3 – without exploiting the staff, volunteers, curators, program coordinators and artists involved. The Board took on the responsibility of finding a method and means of more effectively managing the existing human and financial resources essential to producing Artsweek well and creating an event that was attractive to other sponsors and funders, as well as artists and audiences. There needed to be a clear pathway to do this (with City funding frozen at current levels) and maintain EC3’s core vision and mission. The Board is confident that a new approach will make it possible to improve Artsweek and ensure that it delivers its goals and objectives in a feasible way.
EC3 will continue to produce Artsweek, but on a biennial basis. This will allow the 2017 funding from the City ($25,000, which has remained the same for 12 years) to be combined with the 2018 funding to support a more robust Artsweek in the fall of 2018, while allowing EC3 staff the time needed to maintain the organization’s core programming, projects and services and plan a large scale public event.
In the fall of 2017 we will hire an artistic producer, engage curators, define programs, issue a call for proposals and seed key projects for presentation in 2018. We will also rebrand Artsweek and commission a new web site. The $25,000 EC3 received from the City for 2017 will be used for those purposes.
A biennial festival will allow both artists and EC3 more time to raise additional funds and develop significant new projects that involve multiple partners, create innovative collaborations and ensure that marketing and communications plans have adequate lead times. Many similar events have found a great deal of success with the biennial model and we are excited about the potential it poses for a much more dynamic Artsweek Peterborough.
However, we are aware that this is an experiment; following the 2018 festival we will assess the results to see how well this model worked, how the community responded and if our goals and objectives were achieved, only then will we know if the biennial model is the right one for us. If we don’t give it a try we will never know, and it is in that spirit of experimentation, a spirit that goes along with all great artmaking, that we hope our artists, audiences, volunteers, sponsors and supporters will join us in going down this new road. Many thanks.
So, stand by for more Artsweek news in September.
For further information call:
Su Ditta: 705 749 9101
Bill Kimball: (705) 745-1788