A vibrant arts scene is extremely important to attract talent and business to our city, to attract visitors, and to make Calgary a great place to make a living and a great place to make a life.
A powerful way to leverage support and develop the arts sector is by ensuring that artists and arts champions are included in important strategies, conversations, and events in our city. Calgary Arts Development works hard to develop reciprocally beneficial relationships with orders of government, civic partners, community organizations, foundations, associations, committees, and individuals in Calgary and beyond.
Some of the key work undertaken in 2022 included participation in the following:
We aspire to a future that includes arts and creativity as part of our city’s DNA.
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 neighbourhoods and enhance quality of life.
Living a Creative Life, Calgary’s arts development strategy, encourages everyday creativity for all Calgarians. At the end of 2022 there were more than 225 signatories to the Living a Creative Life strategy.
The Storytelling Project is one of the ways we share stories about Calgarians who are living creative lives, including written stories, podcasts and our web series, which highlight the rich diversity of stories about creative Calgarians.
Calgary Arts Development staff participated in a number of conversations and contributed to City strategies such as the Festivals and Events strategy and Calgary’s Greater Downtown Plan.
Calgary Arts Development continues to participate on the Fine Arts Advisory for Calgary Board of Education to gain a better understanding of what arts companies are doing in schools and what schools are doing to ensure young people have the greatest access to arts experiences and learning. We also have interactions with the Calgary Catholic School Board, U of C, MRU, AUArts, SAIT, Bow Valley College and Ambrose University.
Despite overwhelming research that supports the long-term benefits of arts education and the role it has in youth development, learning, community building and employment, these benefits are not widely recognized by key stakeholder groups. To better understand this disconnect, Calgary Arts Development funded a benchmark survey undertaken by Arts Commons through research consulting firm Stone-Olafson in spring 2022. More information about this research can be found in the Research section of this report.
cSPACE was created in 2011 as a subsidiary of Calgary Arts Development (CADA) 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 the flagship project, delivering 47,500 sq. ft. of arts hub, innovative event venue and coworking space in Marda Loop area of South Calgary. The facility provides artists and not-for-profit users with below-market rents through a cost recovery business model.
The arts community benefits from office and studio space, plus shared amenities such as meeting, event and exhibition space throughout the facility. The multi-use purpose RGO Treehouse hosts board meetings, strategic retreats and small events. The Studio Theatre supports every manner of live event and performance you might imagine — music, theatre, dance, cinema and more.
In 2022, cSPACE partnered with several organizations to support the return to in-person events. Highlights include Casa Mexico’s Celebrating Life; The People’s Portrait Prize with nvrlnd and Contemporary Calgary; and an eco-scenography hub for several hundred artists, designers, technicians and architects from around the world celebrating stage design with the University of Calgary’s World Stage Design 2022 conference.
While community events diminished throughout the pandemic, venue rental activity since the Spring of 2022 has now been recovering to pre-pandemic levels. Increased arts programming and the return of the Farmers and Makers Market and quarterly Showcase Series events have restored vibrancy to our community.
cSPACE remains active in creative placemaking including a mural entitled, We are all Treaty People that exemplifies the commitment to our reconciliation journey — through art. This collaboration between artists Doug Driediger and Nathan is a precursor to other actions such as the renaming of our Marda Loop hub in 2023 and our IDEA Commitment.
In art space development, cSPACE initiated the Meanwhile Lease Pilot to research the viability of partnering with commercial landowners to activate vacant space with use by the arts and culture community at affordable costs. The pilot continues into 2023 with support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation and CADA.
cSPACE has also undertaken the operations of a Neighbourhood Hub in the historic Eau Claire and Lumber Company Building. These space opportunities are in keeping with our mission to develop creative places for our city’s artists while enabling their creative enterprises to thrive within vibrant city neighbourhoods and provide places where artists, cultural and community groups can gather and create. cspacekingedward.com
Calgary’s downtown continues to be the cultural heart of our city and a vibrant arts scene is crucial to creating vibrancy for those who work, live and visit downtown. 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 are of great benefit to re-imagining Calgary’s downtown.
The arts create jobs and help diversify the economy.
Total number of artists hired
Total full-time equivalent workers
Total revenue of arts organizations
Total direct economic output
In 2022 we continued to build on the research that was done in 2021 around the creative economy, to invest in the projects that support economic diversification and cultural tourism, and to participate in discussions and strategies centred on the creative economy including:
The Cultural Activation Fund is part of our city-building strategic priority, and in 2022 we centred more than $664,000 in investments on 40 projects that helped Calgarians re-engage with the arts post-pandemic. The Cultural Activation Fund supports projects that align with civic partner and City of Calgary strategies, priority areas and initiatives that contribute to a vibrant downtown including support for projects like Chinook Blast, Rise Up and the Authentically Indigenous Art Market to name a few.
Calgary Arts Development has been one of the main drivers and supporters of RISE UP YYC, an open-source collaboration with other city-builders such as Tourism Calgary, the Calgary Hotel Association, Calgary Economic Development, the National Music Centre and Theatre Calgary. RISE UP YYC was created to kickstart the arts industry’s recovery, connect Calgarians to safety-conscious live experiences and events, and support local artists and businesses struggling through and beyond COVID-19.
In 2022, additional funding was received from the City of Calgary to be allocated towards grants and sponsorships through the Rise Up Downtown Vibrancy program. At the outset we recognized the opportunity to address various community needs through this program. The three main needs were:
This program played an integral role in bringing presenting partners downtown. The prohibitive cost of rental space in downtown Calgary can deter arts presenters and grassroots art groups from presenting in this area. The investment provided by the City of Calgary to artists to perform downtown allowed many local performers and organizations to display their art in a community they might not typically consider, while enlivening Calgary’s core communities.
The Rise Up Downtown Vibrancy program supported 61 events, with 33 of those free to the public. Events occurred across the downtown area including the Downtown Core, Downtown West, Eau Claire and Chinatown, representing the diversity of Calgary’s creative ecosystem with cultural shows, live art demonstrations, a comedy show, festivals, art installations, a fashion show, dance performances, poetry readings, a film festival, an augmented reality project and a unique dinner series incorporating film.