NWT artists weigh in on first Arts Council revisioning

NWT artists weigh in on first Arts Council revisioning
The NWT Arts Council members and artists tour the Bay 2 Studio in Yellowknife last November.Photo: Ben Nind.

The NWT Arts Council has announced it will undergo a massive revisioning process over the next year and artists in the NWT will be the force behind the first big shake up planned for the 29 year-old organization.

Last fall, a survey was sent out to more than 500 artists and art organizations in the territory asking them to share their thoughts on the mandate, representation and services of the NWT Arts Council.

The results and comments from 145 survey respondents, made public last week, has become the “touchstone” behind the council’s vision for the future, Ben Nind, president of the council, told The Journal.

The NWT Arts Council will be celebrating 30 years in 2015 and in that time has never seen a revisioning.

“The council for the most part has been doing very solid, quiet work in the regions and around the board table, but has been noticing that there has been an enormous shift in the arts environment in the Northwest Territories,” Nind said.

That “shift” has been an influx of new artists, recognized professional artists and the cultivation of more artistic disciplines, he said.

Winnie Cadieux, NWT Arts Council representative for the South Slave region, said the survey was a response to changing needs of the artists and the communities.

“There needed to be more involvement between the council and the communities and the artists in the listening process and responding process,” she said.

At the council’s last meeting in 2013, members decided to jump start strategic planning in order to accommodate the changing art environment in the territory. The first step was to bring the question of change to the artists themselves, Nind said.

Nind said the council was beyond pleased with the survey’s 29 per cent respondent rate, adding that many of the comments were “intelligent and passionate.”

In response to the question of changing the council’s mandate, one respondent said: “Going beyond the ‘promotion’ of NWT art, I would like to see more support for local experimentation and the pushing of ‘Northern’ art boundaries/limits, regardless of the art’s marketability. More community development through arts programming.”

A comment about the board’s representation suggested that youth be added to the council’s board, “to keep us up to date on the trends and technology.”

Last November, after the survey results were collected, the council held a three-day workshop to reflect on the future and brainstorm a plan for the revisioning. A strategic document is now in its final draft and is expected to be released within the year, Nind said.

“It is an exciting document and one that all council members had a role in. All the regional perspectives were taken into account, which very much reflected a lot of what was stated in the survey itself,” he said.

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