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February 2, 2011, by

Toronto culture consultations- you have 4 hours to talk to the big guns

UPDATE: EYE WEEKLY is reporting that “The City is actually holding 11 consultation sessions on the culture plan, seven of them in downtown neighbourhoods.” Additionally, that “incomplete information had been circulated to some organizations “. Safe guess that’s the document below. Assuming the math stays the same – you now have 22 hours to talk to the big guns.

Click to enlarge

Similar to the recent city budget consultation process under Mayor Rob Ford, Toronto’s just-announced culture consultations will have no downtown meetings -holding consultations from 2pm-4pm on February 9th in Etobicoke and February 10th in Scarborough.

Titled, “Creative Communities Public Consultations”, these will presumably form some basis for recommendations made to City Council somewhere down the road.

So what is going on here?

There are three co-chairs of a lightning-fast pair of consultations done outside of the downtown core that will be used to inform a re-imagining of Toronto’s culture plan:

  • Robert Foster – an investment banker who specializes in mergers and acquisitions.
  • Karen Kain – Canada’s Prima Ballerina and Artistic Director of The National Ballet of Canada.
  • Jim Prentice* – a recent Alberta MP and Harper government Environment Minister.

This panel will have two “special advisors” separate from five other advisory council members from arts and business: Richard Florida – a controversial U of T theorist and pop culture guru who has postulated that Canada’s Social Compact should be replaced with a “Creative Compact”, and Jeff Melanson – the National Ballet School’s Executive Director and Rob Ford’s Arts and Culture Advisor.

For some more context on why this could get interesting in a hurry, read this recent CBC article on a panel held by the Canadian Conference of the Arts, attended by arts advocates from across the country in Ottawa. Titled, “Artists: Powering the Creative Economy?” it rejected the Martin Prosperity Institute proposed “creative economy” logic to advocating for arts funding. The centrepiece of the article: Richard Florida’s own statistician laments, “It’s been a trap.”

RSVP quickly if you would like to participate as spots are likely to fill up fast.

*Also the subject of a classic Yes Men action to highlight Canada’s inaction on climate change.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Goldsbie, Praxis Theatre. Praxis Theatre said: Toronto culture consultations- you have 4 hours to talk to the big guns: Similar to the recent city budget consu… […]

  2. Bridget says:

    As someone who works at a municipality, I cannot stress enough how vital it is for those involved in/who care about arts and culture in our City to attend these public consultations. I encourage us all to promote the dates far and wide so that our sector is well represented and our thoughts shared at these consultations. The fact that the consultation time are during the day make it much more difficult for cultural stakeholders to be represented so it is even more important to spread the word far and wide.

    Municipal policy creation of any sort is a pretty regimented process and although there are great people on the steering committee who share the belief in the importance of arts and culture, the public consultation piece is one of the few opportunities we as a community of cultural practitioners will have in helping to shape the City’s revised Culture Plan. If we wait until the City releases the revised plan (months from now) it will be too late. What the City eventually released will be Council approved and it would be another lengthy process to amend/add to it. The time to act and share your thoughts is now.

    Public consultations, such as this, are usually run by a City staffer who will play a central role in synthesizing everyone’s ideas and inspirations into what will become Toronto’s revised Cultural Plan. The steering committee will also work alongside City staff to ensure that City staff understand our “issues and aspirations, hear [our] concerns and listen to [our] ideas” Make no mistake, if this plan is approved by Council it will become the City’s official guideline for supporting arts and culture in this City. Every resource, every dollar, every initiative will be held against this plan to ensure alignment so it is in our communities best interest to ensure that what we want for our sector is captured in this document. The City staffer will also be responsible for writing the report to Council that will accompany the revised Culture Plan. This consultation will be an opportunity for us to meet the report writer and other City staff who will see this report through to Council.

    Again, there are great people involved and I’m not saying that what will end up being created will be flawed but as artists, creators, lovers of arts and culture etc., this is a prime opportunity to be engaged and to contribute to the policy piece that will support and nurture arts and culture in Toronto.

    Do spread the word.

  3. Here’s the Facebook Event Page for the consultations.

  4. Brandon Moore says:

    A quick technical suggestion? You need to start a “filed under” for Jeff Melanson.

  5. Hey Brandon,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I will likely get around to that, but not until Jesus Chrysler opens at Rhubarb on the 16th as digital housekeeping is pretty far down the list im staring at right now. Perils of an artist-run website.

    I also wanted to call attention to this post on the city-run (i think?) livewithculture blog. It states that this website is the place to watch for further updates about this panel and also should act as a digital hub for citizen feedback and discussion in the comments to blog posts.

    I left a comment already.

  6. Looks as if there has been a massive error by someone on the city end of things as more consultations seem to be in the works but were not included in the original notice. More info on Ed Keenan’s amended eyeweekly article:–map-toronto-s-arts-workers-vs-toronto-s-arts-consultation

  7. was just at a City initiated consultation meeting today that happened at Jarvis and King. lots of people around the table who have the arts as their top priority.

  8. Hi Darren

    Good to know. Glad you were there. Are you allowed to give out details? Like who was there? Who invited you? What was discussed? Was there an agenda? Will there be more city-initiated meetings that someone wouldn’t necessarily know about?

  9. read Simon Brault’s No Culture No Future. he’s the CEO of the National Theatre School and vicechair of the Canada Council. it’s cautiously optimistic. and talks about montreal’s recent consultation process and stragetizing with the public.
    Most interesting points he makes (and i’m expanding it here and maybe embellishing) is that professional artists and their associations are often threatened by an evolution of culture that is outside of rigid conceptions of their various disciplins and particular notions of professionalism and rigour. the times they are a changing.

  10. Steve says:

    Jeff Melanson indicated to me in our recent interview that there were a series of these consultations coming over the next two months. These two in Scarborough and Etobicoke were just the first two scheduled; more will be announced, and the majority will be in the metro area.

  11. Darren. That was a very skillful avoidance of my very specific questions. I trust you though so I assume this secret meeting must remain so for good reason.

    Funny you should bring up Simon Brault in relation to this as I wrote a piece earlier this month that noted Melanson seemed to adopting alot of Brault’s language and ideas.

  12. Bridget says:

    Mike, Steve and Darren,
    Thanks for the info/insights.

  13. it was a bunch of folks who run culture organizaitns: me, tim jones, roy mitchell, cameron baily, lynda hill, claire hopkinson, danis goulet, dude from the opera, guy from TPW. sally hahn was there from the city. and it was run by Masslbp.

    i was invited by Rita Davis’ office, I think. I’m sure you could get invited.

    below is a text of the invite, and all the prep stuff they sent, which outlines the agenda etc.

    January 28, 2011

    Dear Colleague,

    As a valued member of the cultural community, we invite you to work with us to develop an
    action plan for the City of Toronto’s cultural sector. Councillor Michael Thompson, Chair of
    the City’s Economic Development Committee has announced the formation of the Creative
    Capital Initiative. The initiative is a partnership between the City and the arts and culture
    community to provide expert advice and recommendations to update the City’s 2003 Culture
    Plan for the new term of Council.

    The Co-Chairs of the Creative Capital Initiative, Robert Foster (CEO Capital Canada),
    Karen Kain (Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Canada), and former federal Cabinet
    Minister Jim Prentice (Vice-Chairman, CIBC) are joined by an Advisory Council which
    includes: Nichole Anderson (President and CEO, Business for the Arts), Cameron Bailey
    (Co-Director, Toronto International Film Festival Group), Claire Hopkinson (Executive
    Director, Toronto Arts Council), Che Kothari (Executive Director, Manifesto Community
    Projects) and Gail Lord (Co-President, Lord Cultural Resources). The Creative Capital
    Initiative will also be advised by Richard Florida (author and Director of the Martin
    Prosperity Institute) and Jeff Melanson (Special Advisor to the Mayor – Arts & Culture).

    You are invited to attend a meeting on Thursday, February 3 from 8-10:15 a.m. at St.
    Lawrence Hall – 157 King Street East (at Jarvis), Great Hall – 3rd floor, to give your
    input to the plan. You will be forwarded some material and questions to consider before the

    This plan will not sit on a shelf. It will set the direction for the City. A new administration
    affords us the opportunity to assess where we are and set new goals. With the support of City
    staff, we would like to meet with you to understand your issues and aspirations, hear your
    concerns and listen to your ideas.

    The 2003 Culture Plan recognized that great cities of the world are all Creative Cities whose
    citizens work with ideas, are intensely mobile and insist on a high quality of life. Since its
    adoption, the Culture Plan has successfully shaped the City’s cultural strategy and fostered
    the growth of the cultural sector. To date, 87% of the Culture Plan’s 63 recommendations
    have been implemented. Much has changed since the 2003. Cultural infrastructure
    investment has had a huge impact on Toronto’s major institutions. New events such as Nuit
    Blanche and Luminato attract thousands of visitors and build community. Established
    festivals such as Pride and Caribana continue to flourish. While the global economy has
    faltered, Toronto’s creative community has continued to develop and grow.

    Building on the opportunities presented by this vibrant sector, we will further the work of
    creating a global creative city where culture is the sharp edge of our competitive advantage.

    Please confirm your attendance by replying to at the City of
    Toronto, or by phone at 416-392-4012 before Monday, January 31 at 3 p.m.

    We look forward to hearing from you.

    January 28, 2011

    here’s text from the prep info:

    In June 2003, City Council adopted the Culture Plan for the Creative City, a 10-year plan for the
    then recently amalgamated City of Toronto. The Culture Plan aimed to increase the role of
    culture in the economic and social development of the city and it contained sixty-three
    recommendations to promote the development of the city’s arts, culture and heritage assets
    with a goal of positioning Toronto as a globally competitive Creative City.

    Recommendations focused on all aspects of cultural development from public art, museums
    and community arts to strategies for financing growth, investing in the future and harnessing
    the economic power of the cultural sector. Progress Reports were issued in February 2005 and
    November 2008.

    To date, 87% of the Culture Plan’s sixty-three recommendations have been implemented.
    Major accomplishments since 2003 include:
    • A 41% increase in funding to the Toronto Arts Council and Major Cultural
    • Toronto’s designation as the 2005 Cultural Capital of Canada
    • Over $3M invested in TO Live with Culture, promoting Toronto’s brand as a creative
    and dynamic city and creating a legacy of cultural promotion in the city
    • The creation of Nuit Blanche, a free, all-night contemporary art even, now in its 6th
    • The establishment of a 6 year CultureBuild grant program which provided almost
    $2M to small and mid-sized arts organizations to help their facilities achieve a state
    of good repair
    • A Toronto Community Arts Action Plan, adopted by Council in 2008

    Although the city has taken great strides forward, the major outstanding recommendation is
    the commitment to raise Toronto’s per capita cultural investment to $25; the current level is
    $18 per capita. In August 2010, Council reaffirmed its commitment to continue to target the
    Culture Plan cultural investment goal of $25 per capita by Operating Budget 2013. (For more
    information see:

    Overall, the Culture Plan recognized that great cities of the world are all Creative Cities whose
    citizens work with ideas, are intensely mobile and insist on a high quality of life. Such cities, and
    their citizens, have an overwhelming impact on the economies of their countries and compete
    with one another directly for trade, investment and, most of all, for talent.

    The Culture Plan’s main aim is to enhance Toronto’s place as a leading international cultural
    centre and to increase the role of culture in the economic and social development of the city.

    A copy of the 2003 Culture Plan and its 2005 and 2008 Progress reports can be found here:

    here’s the agenda:
    Municipal Investment in the Arts
    Issue: Toronto’s investment in culture and the investment required to compete internationally;
    increasing access to cultural activity and improving affordability

    Main Discussion Tables

    Measuring and Valuing Culture

    The 2003 Culture Plan contains 11 metrics by which the City measured the health of the
    Creative City (per capita investment in culture; funds leveraged by City grants; # of culture sector jobs;

    impact of culture sector on Toronto’s GDP; Toronto’s ranking on Florida’s Creativity Index; # of and
    attendance at city-funded cultural events; # of and attendance at city-funded cultural programs for
    youth; # of new arts organizations funded; # of designated and listed heritage properties; # of location
    permits issued for film and TV productions; and number of visitors to Toronto). Which do you feel are

    or are not appropriate? Which do you feel better reflect the health of the Creative City?
    How do you measure the value you create in your organization and what have you learned
    through this process?
    How, in going beyond targets, can we best capture the value of culture?

    Access, inclusion and arts education

    How can we ensure all citizens, particularly youth, benefit from public investment in culture?
    Are there any tools or services that the City could provide that would help you to improve
    affordability and access?
    How can we increase the accessibility and appeal of culture to low income families and new

    Toronto’s position as a Creative Capital

    What should Toronto be focusing on in the next five years to raise its profile as a Creative
    Capital and what are the greatest challenges to accomplishing those goals?
    Culture is a major contributor to Toronto’s prosperity. What is the best way to make this case?
    Toronto is hosting the Pan Am Games in 2015. What are the opportunities and challenges of
    this event?

    Big Opportunities Ahead

    How can the City encourage new cooperation and collaboration among artists and cultural
    groups across the GTA and what could be accomplished? How can the City enhance
    collaboration between the arts and other city sectors?
    Where can municipal investments in culture make the biggest impact?
    What are the big opportunities that could define culture in the city in next 5 years?

    Quick Wins & Urgent Messages

    If you could make one recommendation to the Mayor and Council regarding culture in
    Toronto, what would it be?
    What are the greatest challenges facing your sector today as you see it?
    What are some easy things City Hall can do to support your work and the value you create?

  14. ps: hey michael, ya douche, i didn’t see your request for information. are ya off your meds?

  15. and, pps, i posted all that info **immediately** after seeing your request, before seeing your other comment. remember: Assume makes an Ass out of U and Me.

  16. Brandon Moore says:

    Hi Michael,
    Wait a second, you can’t create art and write about creating art at the same time? No rush. Looking forward to Jesus Chrysler.

  17. Michael Wheeler says:

    @ Darren – sorry no not off my meds  – just being a shit disturber. Wonder where I learned to do that? Admittedly a little douchey upon rereading though. Fired that one off from my iPhone on a crowded rush hour streetcar. Sorry. Makes more of an ass of me than you.

  18. darren says:

    i posted a whole bunch of info about the meeting. but i don’t see it here anymore.

  19. darren says:

    should i repost?

  20. Hey Darren, as you can see it is posted now. It got scooped by the spam filter. I think this happens whenever there is more than one url in a comment as that is how the spambots usually operate. Man – there has been a lot of miscommunications facilitated by the internet on this topic.

    Thanks for posting that info. Every one of those questions seems important to address to me.

  21. […] week in this space, we told you about the Toronto culture consultations.  The first of those public consultations is today from 2pm to 4pm at the Assembly Hall in […]