Materials for Creation: Leaving a trace of the ephemeral arts

Copies of the published book on a table. The book has a purple and red cover with cutout shapes of animals and the title in three languages - English, French and Algonquin.
The book "Materials for Creation" © Vivian Gaumand
A person wearing a yellow jacket and glasses speaks in front of a National Creation Fund sign.
Sarah Garton Stanley, Artistic Producer of the Fund © Dahlia Katz Photography
Seated audience watches a presentation about the book Materials for Creation.
The book was introduced to an audience of artists at the FTA and at the Luminato Festival. © Dahlia Katz Photography
A person reading an open copy of the Materials for Creation book.
Christian Lapointe, Artistic Director, Carte Blanche © Vivian Gaumand
.Two presenters on stage during the book launch.
Sarah Conn, Senior Manager of Artist Engagement for the Fund. © Dahlia Katz Photography
Two seated presenters and artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory reading from the book on stage.
Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, Multi-disciplinary artist ("Qaumma") © Vivian Gaumand
Three women in conversation during the launch event.
Cathy Levy, NAC Dance Producer Emerita, Rhodnie Désir, Choreographer, Jessie Mills, co-artistic director of the FTA © Vivian Gaumand
Three people in conversation during the book launch event.
Heather Moore, former Executive Producer of the Fund, Chris Dearlove, Managing Director of the Fund © Dahlia Katz Photography

“Creating something beautiful to celebrate the first five years of the National Creation Fund”: that’s what Sarah Garton Stanley (SGS) and Sarah Conn, co-editors of the book Materials for Creation, had in mind a year ago. Launched this month in Montréal and Toronto, the book is also a tangible tool for capturing the scope, scale, beauty and complexity of newly created works. 

“I hoped that it would reflect a cross section of artists, thinkers, leaders who could offer insight into the ways in which ideas surrounding creation strike them,” says SGS, Artistic Producer for the National Creation Fund. “I wanted an artifact that could tell a story of a movement of expression, of reach and charisma that makes the picker upper of the book proud.” 

Mission accomplished. Materials for Creation is an engaging mix of photos of productions supported by the National Creation Fund, and artists’ essays and exchanges celebrating creation. There are also messages in 14 Indigenous languages to honour the linguistic diversity of the shows supported by the Fund. 

The 84-page book, written in both official languages and illustrated by Indigenous artists Mairi and Simon Brascoupé, was introduced to an audience of artists and guests at a launch at the Festival TransAmériques (FTA) in Montréal on June 2, and at the Luminato Festival in Toronto on June 14. “These two events brought together artists supported by the Fund, as well as the broader creative community,” shares Sarah Conn, Senior Manager of Artist Engagement for the Fund. “The publication and launch of the book are sparking vital conversations about creation as something that impacts us all.”

“It’s a wonderful piece,” enthuses Jessie Mills, co-artistic director of the FTA. “The living arts are ephemeral, so the book allows us to leave a trace, to name the elements of artistic creation. The issue of language, of discourse, of articulation, of the meaning linked to creation, is gaining prominence, intimately linked to the creation and presentation of the works.” 

For choreographer and dancer Rhodnie Désir, Materials for Creation really helps quantify the Fund’s impact on the cultural community. “Many artists, associates, creators and administrative support staff appear in it. So to have it captured in black and white, beyond a house program, reveals the full breadth of those who help contribute to the evolution of our societies—because that’s something art and creation also do.” 

Thinking about the creative process 

“When does it start? And why is it so important to support it? Throughout this year I have been spending a lot of think time on this one. And the book we are launching is partly a response to the thinking,” says SGS. 

The book also provides an opportunity to discuss the importance of creation and highlight the work of the Fund, since it was launched in November 2017, to support and sustain creation. 

“For artists, the Fund is another space for their dreams,” notes Jessie Mills of the FTA. “The Fund takes a less institutional approach to projects. We dare to investigate applicants’ desires and doubts, and we encourage the creation of new connections by trying to link them up with as many people as possible who can support them. And that’s the kind of solidarity we need.” 

The Fund invests up to two million dollars a year in the creation of 9 to 11 compelling and ambitious new Canadian works in theatre, dance, music and interdisciplinary arts. The Fund’s investments provide the additional time and resources that bold, ambitious projects need to be successful on the national and international stage. 

“It’s one of the most important creation funds in Canada, helping to amplify the voice of dreams,” says choreographer Rhodnie Désir, who has received support from the Fund. “The powerful dream of developing great ideas, almost unattainable, but that we want to make a reality and know we need to pursue. The Fund gives us that impetus. But the Fund’s team also brings a wealth of knowledge, potential and experience that means we always feel supported.” 

Supporting risk-taking 

“What’s interesting to me,” says Jessie Mills, “is that the Fund takes an artist’s approach into account, so that it can offer them a little help to develop a larger-scale project, conduct more ambitious research, and dare to take risks—an important aspect for both the Fund and the FTA.” 

Indeed, the Fund encourages experimentation and recognizes that creativity and risk go hand in hand. “The National Creation Fund supports risk. And risk requires resources,” says SGS. 

“Accompanying that creative drive is absolutely necessary. We have to dare to support projects that seem impossible, that go beyond our understanding, that take unfamiliar forms. Embracing the unknown, the inexpressible, accepting a degree of opacity in the creative process—that’s what the Fund is for,” concludes Jessie Mills. 

Next season, the NAC will present several projects funded by the National Creation Fund, including New Creation by Kidd Pivot, Symphonie de cœurs by RD Creations (Rhodnie Désir), and Prison Dancer by Citadel Theatre. This season, a number of projects supported by the Fund premiered on Canadian stages, including Forgiveness, Fall On Your Knees, Mahabharata, Rome, Un. Deux. Trois., The Darkest Dark, I Forgive You, and Treemonisha

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