We see great benefits to helping create conditions for Calgarians to live their most creative lives, including opportunities to develop the creative economy, increase the vibrancy of downtown, enliven neighborhoods, and enhance quality of life.
The pandemic caused a lot of people to reexamine what’s important to them, and to start to imagine a better future for our city. Having safe ways to gather with others, to celebrate, and to express ourselves are important to Calgarians, and throughout 2020 the arts community was incredibly adaptable, providing many opportunities.
There were hundreds of safe arts experiences offered after the onset of the pandemic in 2020, some live but most online. Here is just a handful of examples of how the sector adapted:
The Downtown Strategy states that, “A thriving downtown means a thriving Calgary. The success of our city relies on our downtown being a place where people want to live and be, and where businesses want to set up shop, now, and for decades to come. Downtown must transform toward a vision of a resilient and vibrant downtown for everyone, with welcoming neighbourhoods, active streets, and well-used public spaces.”
Calgary Arts Development has been participating in many sessions about the downtown strategy, as have artists, arts organizations, and festivals. The arts sector’s ability to offer vibrant experiences and welcoming spaces is of great benefit to re-imagining Calgary’s downtown.
At the end of 2020 there were 192 signatories to the Living a Creative Life strategy. The Storytelling Project is one of the ways we share stories and podcasts about Calgarians who are living creative lives, and in 2020 we launched a new web series with the intention of digging deeper into the rich diversity of stories about creative Calgarians.
Calgary Arts Development is one of the leading proponents and supporters of Rise Up, which includes input into a creative economy strategy (to be published in 2021); promoting events that are safe, local and collaborative; and hosting RISE UP Relaunch Lunches.
It has been extremely helpful in gauging the public’s concerns as well as their motivations, behaviours, and pent-up desire to return to in-person gatherings. The learnings from this work will help guide arts organizations as they plan for re-opening when the time is right.
We supported the Alberta Music Industry Ecosystem Report (October 2020) studied the Edmonton and Calgary music industries and made recommendations of key changes to make Alberta an internationally recognized music hub. The creative industries are key to diversifying our economy and this research helps advance Calgary as an emerging music city.
The arts and culture infrastructure ecosystem supports all disciplines in the sector, including dance, film, literary arts, music, new media, theatre, and visual arts, as well as heritage and other cultural practices. It supports community and professional arts and culture and education.
Spaces can be developed and operated as for-profit or not-for-profit. Arts and culture spaces support the career trajectory of Calgary’s artists and cultural workers and arts and culture organizations including incubator space for emerging practices and could include affordable housing or live-work spaces for artists and cultural workers and their families.
COVID-19 was really hard on spaces and many arts spaces were severely underused, or even empty, during the pandemic.
In 2020, the developers behind SpaceFinder announced that they were wrapping up this continent-wide online space-matching platform. Alberta was the most successful SpaceFinder in all of North America in terms of space listings per capita. It was an effective way to connect venue operators with short-term renters all over our province, animating venues and helping renters find the perfect space. 2020 gave us the opportunity to thoughtfully investigate a more accessible platform, especially during this time when demand for space was very low due to the pandemic.
Collaborating with other organizations from Alverta and across Canada, Calgary Arts Development is leading the investigation of a new platform that continues to build community and provide the rich data generated about supply and demand for creative space in our city. In the meantime, space-seekers can find a directory of available spaces on our website and support is available through firstname.lastname@example.org.
To understand more about what guides our work regarding arts and culture spaces, read our 2017 Arts and Culture Infrastructure Strategy: Building on our Momentum.
Calgary Arts Development envisions a Calgary where arts and culture infrastructure supports the right of all citizens to live a creative life. Accessible, appropriate arts spaces play a huge role in increasing vibrancy throughout Calgary.
cSPACE was created in 2011 as a subsidiary of Calgary Arts Development in partnership with the Calgary Foundation to strategically address a critical demand for creation, production, presentation and rehearsal spaces that are affordable, sustainable and collaborative. cSPACE King Edward opened in 2017 as their flagship project, delivering 47,500 sq. ft. of arts hub, innovative event venue and coworking space in Marda Loop. The facility has remained 100% leased since opening and boasted an average of 4500+ weekly visits to the facility in the months before the pandemic.
While use of the Studio Theatre and other community events were greatly diminished throughout 2020, exhibitions and community facility rentals continued as health restrictions permitted. cSPACE remained active in their creative placemaking efforts and engaged with the arts and local community with the 20/20 Wavelength Project. This profiled the creative practices of Calgary artists through exhibitions within the building, on digital platforms and with public artworks on the grounds. cSPACE King Edward was also recognized by the Alberta Chapter of the Green Building Council with an honourable mention for its green building efforts and the creative community of tenants were supported with rent assistance during a difficult year.
In 2021, cSPACE will pilot its Creative Incubator Initiative to support artists whose practices are responding to the pandemic in innovative ways.