National Creation Fund’s new Artistic Producer encourages bold artistic dreams

Sarah Conn, Artistic Producer of the NAC's National Creation Fund. © Kayla Yestal

Sarah Conn loves dreaming with artists.

“Listening to artists share early whispers of creative dreams is one of the most beautiful things,” she says. “Often these whispers are cryptic clues – a question, a feeling, an image, a sound.” 

The newly-appointed Artistic Producer of the NAC’s National Creation Fund thinks back on early conversations with artists of Creation Fund-supported shows such as Symphonie de cœurs, an innovative work by choreographer and artistic director Rhodnie Désir that is set to premiere in Montreal in April 2024, followed by a presentation at the NAC in May.  

“During our first meeting, Rhodnie offered her deep curiosity about the heart,” says Sarah. “After many months of development, that idea is growing into a bold new large-scale production featuring musicians and dancers transforming the stage into a beautiful beating heart, bringing to life Rhodnie’s extensive research, including time in operating rooms.” 

Sarah heard similar “early whispers” from incredible artists such as HAUI, Margaret Grenier and Nicole Brooks. “Often, these early ideas are so ephemeral, so tender that I can’t quite grasp it cognitively, and so I rely on my heart to follow. It’s a gift to dream with someone, to offer what-ifs and let’s keep going.” 

Acclaimed productions

One of the NAC’s major national initiatives, the National Creation Fund invests up to $2 million a year in the development of compelling new creations in the performing arts. Fuelled by donors, the Fund has invested more than $13 million in projects over the last six years. The 88 projects supported by the Fund since its creation in 2017 include the acclaimed productions of Why Not Theatre’s Mahabharata, Mani Soleymanlou’s epic Un. Deux. Trois., Kidd Pivot’s Revisor, and Kid Koala’s The Storyville Mosquito

Sarah Conn is an award-winning performance creator, producer and curator. She has been part of the National Creation Fund team since it started and has been the Fund’s Acting Artistic Producer since the departure of Sarah Garton Stanley at the start of the 2023-24 season.

Sarah has played a leadership role in developing relationships with artists and companies across the country since the opening of the Fund. From initial conversations to collaborating with creators and producers in the months leading up to opening night, Sarah has shared her passion for creation, deep experience in creative development, and extensive network to support the hundreds of artists and dozens of ambitious projects that have received Fund investments.

Read: Sarah Conn’s biography

Making the impossible possible 

Sarah says she will never forget hugging Nicole Brooks after the premiere of her show Obeah Opera, described as “a hand-clapping, foot-stomping, spirit-lifting, magical musical sensation”. Like all the artists supported by the National Creation Fund, Nicole Brooks had “breathed life into those early whispers and made the impossible possible.” 

“As I remember where each creation started and see where it arrived, I can’t help but be moved by the incredible tenacity of artists,” says Conn. “The conditions for creation are not easy. The capacity to follow through on these dreams takes immense courage.”

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