The Power of Partnerships

The Power of Partnerships

Research and community engagement tell us that the arts are important to people for a variety of reasons — as a means of expression; to feel connected to oneself, to others, and to place; to bring meaning to our lives; to offer opportunities for shared experiences with friends and loved ones; to connect to our emotions; to tell our stories; and to engender a sense of belonging.

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.

Throughout 2021, in a spirit of collaboration, we continued to partner with other organizations and agencies who have a shared vision for Calgary. Members of our leadership and managers teams were active participants in a variety of roundtables, collaborations, and workshops whose work centred on the ideas of shared prosperity, inclusion, and social cohesion.


Some of the key work undertaken in 2021 included participation in the following:


  • Network of Indigenous Funders of Alberta
  • CLIP Council (Calgary Local Immigration Partnership)
  • Calgary Anti-Racism Funders Table
  • Fine Arts Advisory Council for Calgary Board of Education
  • The New Experience Economy longitudinal study
  • The Case for Basic Income for the Arts
  • Creative Cities Network
  • National Hubs for Art for Social Change
  • City of Calgary Event Advisory Committee
  • Calgary Arts Coalition
  • Alberta TriLevel Arts Funder meetings
  • Municipal funders from across Canada
  • Indigenous Advisory on our Original Peoples Investment Program
  • The City’s Guiding Circle on public art protocols and engagement
  • Pink Flamingo Black Lives Matter murals project
  • Shaw Pride murals project
  • ACTIVECity Network
  • Lanre Ajayi’s web series My City Speaks to Me
  • Authentically Indigenous Art Market
  • Arts Commons research on arts and youth in our city, which will be completed in 2022
  • Racial Equity in Art Funding workshops conducted by Grantmakers in the Arts
  • Panels related to equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility for the Impact 21 Festival in Ontario
  • A national conversation with artists hosted by Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario


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.


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 is important to Calgarians, and throughout 2021 the arts community was incredibly adaptable, providing many opportunities.

The arts sector provides arts experiences for Calgarians in all wards of the city.


Total number of arts experiences produced by grantees


Number of arts activities for youth 


Attendance at education activities of children and youth 

Everyday Creativity

Living a Creative Life, Calgary’s arts development strategy, encourages everyday creativity for all Calgarians. At the end of 2021 there were more than 200 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 our web series highlights the rich diversity of stories about creative Calgarians.


Accessible, appropriate arts spaces play a huge role in increasing vibrancy throughout Calgary and we would like to ensure that neighbourhoods throughout the city are infused with creativity through accessible and vibrant spaces. SpaceFinder Alberta was discontinued in 2020 and Calgary Arts Development undertook community engagement led by J5 to investigate the best way forward. Their recommendation is to promote a variety of space-matching platforms in the market instead of creating a new one.


Our Spaces Consultant, Joni Carroll, has participated in a number of conversations, plans, and strategies around space and how vibrant spaces contribute to a vibrant community, and members of our staff 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.


cSPACE King Edward, which is a subsidiary of Calgary Arts Development, continues to contribute to the vitality of the Marda Loop neighbourhood. It has been housing a variety of tenants at full capacity since opening day and had been averaging 4,500 weekly visits to the facility pre-COVID. Occupied with tenants ranging from individual artists and collectives to non-profit organizations and local creative enterprises, the space has become a vibrant community hub that features an outdoor market on weekends during the summer.

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’s first creative hub near Marda Loop in SW Calgary — a revision of the historic King Edward School — opened in 2017 as their flagship project, delivering 47,500 sq. ft. of arts hub, innovative event venue, and coworking space. The facility has remained 100%  leased since opening and remains an important anchor for arts, culture, and the community.


Throughout 2021, community events were intermittent due to the pandemic but in May, outdoor programming returned with the Farmers and Makers Market and live music events.


cSPACE remained active in their creative placemaking efforts and engaged with the arts and local community with the 20/20 Wavelength Project. This project extended into 2021 and profiled the creative practices of Calgary artists through exhibitions within the building, on digital platforms, and with public artworks on the grounds. A live event in November showcased Dr. Leroy Little Bear with performances and an artist panel with Andy Moro, Kelly Hampton, Brenn Royal, James Watson, Daniel Pelton, and Wakefield Brewster. A banner project with artist Billie Rae Busby engaged Montessori children and local seniors while animating a vibrant new playspace. A partnership with BUMP saw the collaborative creation of a new mural entitled We are all treaty people by Doug Driediger and Nathan Meguinis.


cSPACE also piloted its Creative Incubator Initiative for 11 artists with peer-learning in branding and communications to support artistic practices responding to the pandemic in innovative ways.


Collaborating with a diverse group of stakeholders, cSPACE also defined its IDEA Commitment to guide governance and operations of the organization and its work to develop safe creative places for the community.

Vibrant Downtown

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.

Creative Economy

In 2021 we continued to support cultural tourism and economic diversification through the arts.


Total number of artists hired 


Total full-time equivalent workers 

$ 0

Total revenue of arts organizations 

$ 0

Total direct economic output 

The Cultural Activation Fund emerged from City Council’s November 2018 motion with the intent to connect to economic and tourism indicators and outcomes. As part of our city-building strategic priority, we centred 2021 investments on opportunities that helped Calgarians continue to connect with the arts in safe ways during the pandemic. Many of these events also aligned with Calgary’s Music City Strategy, Downtown Strategy, Winter Strategy, and the Creative Economy Strategy. The result was $979,002 being invested through grants and $75,170 in sponsorships to 64 projects. Some of the projects funded through this program included Chinook Blast, Pink Flamingo’s public art Black Lives Matter mural project, and RISE UP YYC Weekends. A full list of all programs funded in 2021 can be found here.


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 COVID-19.

RISE UP YYC has been a powerful initiative, with remarkable results in 2021 including:


  • RISE UP YYC Weekends — 31 events over 17 weekends in the summer of 2021 and an additional 20 events in fall/winter.

  • Over 100 submissions to the RISE UP YYC song contest with Emily Triggs winning.

  • 20 Pop-Up Performances; summer of 2021 providing over 45 hours of free family-friendly programming in communities around the city with more than 40 communities applying to participate. This program received additional support from The City of Calgary, the Friends of the Federation of Calgary Communities, and the Calgary Foundation.

  • Hotels Live — there were 33 Hotels Live events in 2021 featuring 124 artists and selling over 1,650 hotel rooms, with 5,013 attendees and $328,300 in gross ticket sales.

  • 7 Relaunch Lunches with over 300 attendees discussing how to keep the creative economy rolling with drive-ins, micro festivals, hotel events, and more.

  • A COVID-19 Protocols Handbook specifically created for the live experience economy.

  • Leadership on the CreativeCITY Steering Committee with a variety of community members including Mount Royal University, AUArts, CED, Arts Commons, and many more, and the development of an Ecosystem Report about Calgary’s Creative Economy published in June 2021. A creative economy strategy will be released later this year.



Over and above the RISE UP YYC collaboration, we continued to experience the benefits of working together with other agencies who share a strong vision for Calgary. Throughout 2021 members of our leadership and managers teams were active participants in a variety of roundtables, collaborations, and workshops whose work centred on the ideas of shared prosperity, economic diversification, and downtown vibrancy.


Some of the key work undertaken in 2021 included participation in the following:

  • Business Sector Task Force hosted by The City of Calgary
  • Business Advisory Committee led by The City of Calgary
  • City Partners Connect — marketing group supporting LoveYYC, Buy Local, and a number of other local initiatives
  • Chinook Blast Executive Committee and marketing sub-committee
  • Innovation District focus groups
  • The New Experience Economy — multi-phase research conducted by Stone-Olafson on the live experience economy and public perceptions on the effects of COVID-19
  • Experience Economy panel
  • City of Calgary Event Advisory Committee, Festival and Events strategy, Microgrant Assessment Panel, and Downtown strategy
  • Creative Calgary
  • Non-profit resilience lab
  • Capacity Builders meetings