EQUITY, DIVERSITY, INCLUSION, AND ACCESSIBILITY
The arts build bridges, challenge stereotypes and increase understanding, empathy and resilience. They provide ways to celebrate our city’s rich ethnic diversity, participate in civic life and create a sense of belonging. We envision a Calgary where there is a resilient and sustainable arts sector that is safe and welcoming for all.
Our commitment to equity includes a focus on Indigenous reconciliation, racial equity, disability justice, and gender and sexual diversity.
Our EDIA values are embedded in our hiring practices, our group agreements, our grant investment programs and our community engagement practices.
Our core values — equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility — guide how we conduct our work. We strive to design our policies, practices and programs so that they do not create systemic barriers that are contrary to our values.
Equity. We believe in creating equitable access for Calgarians who have had less opportunity for philanthropic and governmental support due to systemic barriers that exist in our community.
Diversity. We believe in supporting a variety of artists and artistic endeavours that reflect our diverse community and in supporting the work of artists of diverse backgrounds.
Inclusion. We believe in engaging diverse voices and perspectives in shaping and furthering all the work that we do.
Accessibility. We believe in eliminating barriers that prevent people who encounter physical, mental or cultural barriers to spaces, programs, and services from participating in the arts.
Visit the Commitment to Equity page on our website.
2022 was an active year in our Reconciliation journey. Led by Director, Engagement and Reconciliation, Sable Sweetgrass, and Indigenous program specialist Morgan Possberg, with guidance from our Indigenous Advisory, and trusted advisor Blackfoot Elder Saa’kokoto, we were able to increase engagement and build new relationships with Indigenous communities.
Sable Sweetgrass participated on many committees including the Aboriginal Awareness Week organizing committee, Native Info Exchange, Network of Indigenous Funders of Alberta, and the Western Arts Alliance conference Indigenous programming stream. She also attended many conferences and gatherings such as the Forward Summit, powwows and Sun Dance, and worked on Calgary Arts Development’s engagement framework — Iinitsii (the Blackfoot word for Good Relations) — which embraces a Treaty 7 Indigenous world view. Sable also launched a monthly podcast series: Storytelling Podcast Indigenous Stories featuring conversations with Indigenous artists.
The public art team continues to build good relations with the Mohkinsstsis Guiding Circle, the Indigenous Relations Office at the City of Calgary, and has undertaken training on TRC and Indigenous Relations. Along with City Administration, our public art team and leadership visited the St. Dunstan’s site to offer prayers, deepen our learning, commitment and understanding, as we prepare for the research and engagement phases of a public art project in connection to this tragic history and site. We have also been building good relations with Métis Nation Region 3 for a public art project in collaboration with this community and Métis artists.
We continue our practice of delivering land acknowledgements at all our live events with a focus on making them personal and relevant to the work we are doing and the event. We also engage Elders to start our events in a good way by sharing a blessing or a teaching.
One of our commitments is to show up and be actively present at Indigenous arts events and gatherings. In 2022 those included MT7 productions, the opening of the Métis exhibition at Lougheed House, World Stage Design presentation of Iniskim at Barrier Lake, powwows, community gatherings, art markets, fashion shows, art exhibitions and more. We also held a staff retreat at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, also known as Aisinaipii, that included tours, circles and teachings from Saa’Kokoto. We have found that active participation at these events increases our cultural humility and knowledge.
Our 2022 Living a Creative Life congress featured Dr. Leroy Little Bear as the keynote speaker as well as a session on Indigenous Theatre Making led by MT7’s Michelle Thrush and Neil Fleming. Congress is a day for the community to come together to share ideas and new perspectives.
In 2022 we launched a new arts magazine, Create Calgary, which featured many stories of Indigenous artists including the cover story about award-winning artist Faye Heavyshield as well as other stories within the magazine, such as a feature by Jared Tailfeathers about art on the land.
In 2022 Indigenous filmmaker and Tsuut’ina community leader Kevin Littlelight was appointed to our board, ensuring we have Indigenous representation at the highest levels of leadership in our organization.
Throughout 2022, the Strategy and Public Policy Committee of the board worked with the leadership team to develop the 2023-2026 Strategic Framework titled Ákáakomatapoap, the Blackfoot word meaning we are now going to begin. Taking on a Treaty 7 Indigenous world view is another way to recognize and acknowledge the original peoples and this land.
All our granting programs are open to all artists regardless of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, language, citizenship, creed, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, marital status, physical or mental abilities. In addition, some programs are designed specifically for equity-deserving artists. These include Artshare, the Original Peoples Investment Program, Indigenous Artist Microgrants and the Honouring the Children program.
The biggest undertaking in 2022 was completing a third-party equity audit to assess our current EDIA practices and offer recommendations for improvement. The report: Imagine THIS was co-written and co-researched by People of Design and Constructive Public Engagement, with ideas from the lived and learned experiences of citizen artists of Calgary, staff of Calgary Arts Development, and EDIA consultants. The report was shared with us in late 2022 and each team is using that report as a reference to set EDIA priorities and actions for 2023 and beyond.
Calgary Arts Development has both an internal EDIA staff working group and an external EDIA community working group. These groups meet monthly to ensure we are living our values and moving toward our aspiration to support and nurture diverse art and artist-led city building to achieve a truly equitable, inclusive and accessible city where everyone belongs.
Our engagement specialist, Sayonara Cunha, participated in many groups and discussions centred on anti-racism, equity, decolonization, and conflict resolution to ensure we are continuously learning and improving our practices. Director of Community Investment and Impact, Melissa Tuplin, sat at the Anti-Racism Funders table as well as being on the CLIP Council both to share our practices and to learn what is needed in the community and what others are doing.
Artists from all backgrounds and cultures are invited to apply to all our programs and an EDIA lens is applied, including assessor selection and training. The ArtShare program is specifically designed for equity-seeking artists and organizations and the Changemaker grant often involves art for social change as it relates to EDIA issues. We also support community events focused on equity and diversity. Examples include the Ethnik Festival, UNGANISHA, the web series My City Speaks to Me, the Pink Flamingo mural project that culminated with the I Rise concert at the Jack Singer Concert Hall, and the Bringing Power to Truth event led by the Cultural Instigators: Grappling Stolen Land, Lives, and Labour, to name just a few.
In 2022 we began to advance our disability justice learning and actions. We support a disability justice circle whose members are working in community and will act as advisors on our actions and practices. With a much larger staff due to the acquisition of the public art program, we needed to find larger office space and worked with Included by Design when designing our new office space to ensure accessibility. Some staff members took part in sessions like the Generous Futures Advancing Disability Rights session and undertook disability awareness training. We also focused on accessibility at our live events such as the Celebration for the Arts, hosted by Mayor Gondek, and our 2022 Living a Creative Life Congress: Imagining the Future Together.
With our support the Trico Changemaker Studio at Mount Royal University has become the Calgary hub for art for social change. They act as a catalyst to nurture a network of community-based art practitioners and art for social change agents in our city.
The Artist as Changemaker program, which is also managed by the Trico Changemaker Studio, partners artists with community organizations to use art to create conversation and solutions to our communities’ most challenging problems. Changemaker grants fund the artists and projects that emerge from these community connections. In addition, Changemaker grants fund the Creative Green Tools pilot program, which provides carbon output reporting tools specific to the arts and culture sector. Through the Changemaker Grant program we invested in 12 artists plus the Green Tools project.
In 2022 the Artist as Changemaker program began a new two-year artist cohort. The 2022-2024 residency includes sytems change training, collaboration, and working with community organizations on complex problems. Creativity is being listed by some as one of the most important job skills of the future and artists are often at the forefront of creative thinking and practice. The Artist as Changemaker program investigates the ways artists can use their skills to tackle complex problems and sees the power of the arts to contribute to social change. Information about this program can be found here.
Participating artists in the 2022-2024 cohort include:
Barbara Amos (fellow)
Kevin Jesuino (fellow)
Skye Louis (fellow)
Tamar Christian Avonlea Eaker
Art = Belonging. The arts bring us together, reflect our values and tell our stories.
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