The first phase of the EAT Group was a series of three discussions over the summer of 2020. During these, a group of local grassroots artists, cultural workers, and activists were invited to share their vision for the future of the local arts sector. These visions interlaced, regrouped at places, and faced the same direction. Through sharing experiences, barriers and dreams, it was clear that there was a shared vision, and collective priorities soon started emerging.
From the discussion minutes, we were able to divide these priorities within 3 different categories:
Making money, making art
– Funding needs to be accessible to grassroots, community-based artists and emerging artists;
– Funding needs to be distributed more equitably within the arts sector;
– Funding needs to encourage risk taking and pay artists for their creative exploration;
– CERB proved that Basic Income would allow artists to make a livable wage, have more time to make art, and finally afford the freedom to explore new creative models, take risks, and innovate;
– Artists do not want to return to normal.
– Public, free and community-based art need to be prioritized at this moment;
– Grassroots models of collaboration and community-led initiatives need to be valorized and adopted;
– The traditionally valorized frameworks are not working and are reproducing various systems of oppression (colonialism, racism, classicism, sexism, ableism, ageism);
– Heritage and tradition cannot be the guiding principles for the arts sector.
Artists are Essential
– Art can be a comforting, inspiring, or transcendental experience and makes for a healthier, tighter community;
– Art is necessary for our collective well-being, artists must be supported accordingly;
– There needs to be more resources and accessible spaces dedicated to community-oriented art projects.
Screenshots of presentations from the Fall 2020 discussions.
[Image Description: Six screenshots from online presentations. The top left screenshot shows an orange and green graph entitled “During CERB”. The top middle screenshot shows some purple numbers underlining a funding model. The top right screenshot shows artist Kemi King as she introduces her presentation. The bottom left screenshot shows a graph about leadership made out of three blue and green circles. The bottom middle screenshot shows a definition of “grassroots” typed on a green background. The bottom right screenshot shows three photos of political street art (peace not war, George Floyd memorial, Donald Trump beheading the Statue of Liberty) and a capture from the Handmaid’s Tale.]
In the Fall, we decided to invite new people in the room and focus on expanding on the priorities and materializing what implementing this vision could look like. We invited local artists from the summer discussions, as well as “visiting” speakers, to do 12 minute presentations during our meetings. The presentations served as case-studies to prompt further imaginings. We followed the categories from the first phase and invited artists to the following three discussions:
1. Artists making a living: How to move towards a just economy
Presentation from visiting artist Laure Catalan: The “Intermittence du Spectacle”.
Presentation from local artist Eric Williams: CERB’s Impact on a Grassroots Collective.
Key quote: “Artists should have the freedom to take risks.”
2. Collectivity and abundance: Can the arts reframe our relationships?
Presentation from visiting artist and KAC consultant Laurel Green: Radical Friends, Lateral Mentorship and New Models of Leadership.
Presentation from local artist Kemi King: Will you accept my invitation of Nepantla ?
Key quote: “It is time we move from an ‘ego-system’ to ecosystem”
3. Artists are essential: A discussion around collective well-being
Presentation from visiting artist Shannon Brown: Art in Community, a Discussion on Wellness.
Presentation from local artist Jill Glatt: Tending to the Grassroots; Community-centred Art as Collective Care and Empowerment.
Key quote: “Ask your community what it needs. How can art serve others? How can we work together to make art we all need?”
The framework from this Summer having been populated by the imaginings of the Fall, we decided it was time we share the artists’ vision with the rest of the community! We hosted a public event on December 4th, entitled Artists are Essential: Voices from Kingston’s Arts Community where Essential Arts Thinking Group Members Eric Williams, Kemi King and Jill Glatt presented their findings from the Fall in front of the whole community.
During this event, we asked you to finish the sentence “Artists in Kingston are…”. Here’s what we heard:
Artists in Kingston are:
Relentless and necessary; Cooperative; Awesome; Important!; Undervalued; Underpaid; The future; Inspiring; a force!; Indomitable; Together; Need support; Transformative; Kinda cute..;… resourceful, talented, and very determined; Solidarity; SCRAPPY; Amazing; Struggling; Resilient; Vital; BRAVE; Stars!; A force; *cute* :D; Inspiring!; Full of surprises!; ESSENTIAL.
Erin Ball, Craig Berggold, Terri-Lynn Brennan, Maureen Buchanan, Liam Cole, Barb Danielewski, Liam Fenton, Jillian Glatt, Niq Gryphon, Tracey Guptill, Vicki Hargreaves, Mariah Horner, Sue Moore, Ramneek Pooni, Eric Williams, Aida Sulcs, Brandon Liesen, Deena Jacobs, Emily Steele, Rachel Shaen, Connor Price-Kelleher, Kemi King, Selina Chiarelli, Kelsey Pearson, Kristen Leboeuf, Paul Smith, Maureen Barnes, Tyler Quincy Yan and William Carroll. Visiting artists were Laure Catalan, Laurel Green and Shannon Brown.