As part of its “Vitrine sur l’admin” mentorship program, the National Arts Centre (NAC) had the pleasure of welcoming two enthusiastic mentees this spring: Shannon Lacroix and Kevin Monchaux. The aim of the program, set up by the Association des théâtres francophones du Canada (ATFC) and the Université de l’Ontario français, and with which the NAC is associated, is to provide ongoing professional development in the field of arts administration in order to build cultural organizations’ management capacity. Launched in August 2022, the program also offers participants an optional 25-hour mentorship with a cultural organization.
“Meeting people who work in a foundation like the NAC’s and seeing how things operate with larger budgets was really beneficial for me,” explains Kevin Monchaux, communications manager at the ATFC and coordinator of the ATFC Foundation. “I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and a new vision of philanthropy.”
For Shannon Lacroix, Communications Manager at the Conseil culturel fransaskois in Saskatoon, it was also “a golden opportunity” to improve her skills. “In the minority cultural sector, there’s a lot of support for artists and communities, but not always for the organizations behind these projects,” she points out. “So a program like this one also helps artists gain professional skills. And that’s what makes the difference between a great project and an extraordinary one.”
Focusing on three areas (funding, communications/marketing and human resources management), “Vitrine sur l’admin” gave Shannon and Kevin the opportunity to meet a number of Francophone and bilingual staff members from several NAC departments (Communications, Marketing, Audience, Engagement, Arts Alive and National Creation Fund, French Theatre and Zones théâtrales, as well as the NAC Foundation). The meetings were both diverse and complementary, giving the mentees the opportunity to discuss a broader range of topics.
At the NAC, Shannon says she met solid teams with whom she was able to explore more complex issues while remaining grounded in reality. She feels it was a successful mentoring experience.
Kevin agrees. “I feel better equipped to talk to and lead my team, and I’ve also learned the right approach to get the board of directors more involved,” he says.
He adds that the program’s human side is also a strong point of the experience. “Before you get there, you think everyone will be super busy because it’s such a beehive,” he says. “So when people like Robert Gagné from French Theatre took time out from their busy schedules—French Theatre’s show Rome was opening at the time—I was really touched.”
“And everything Jean-Paul Courtemanche [Program Manager, Professional Development] did beforehand was incredible,” adds Shannon. “He managed to put us in touch with the right people and guide us all the way through the program. Everyone we spoke to was extraordinarily generous.”
Both participants agree that the meetings were relevant to their professional development and gave them a new perspective on their work. “The NAC is a big machine and you get the impression that everything is always perfect. But there are a lot of challenges and elements to overcome in order to get all this work done,” says Shannon. “And when you realize that, you feel less alone, and that gives you a second wind.”
“And the NAC’s intimidating side gradually faded,” adds Kevin. “What’s more, since the NAC and the ATFC have projects in common, I now have a different view of our relationship and the impact we can both have on those projects.”
Both communications specialists came away with a stack of advice in their suitcases, and the rewarding experience also gave them more confidence. “I realized that I’m up to the task of promoting Fransaskois art and culture,” says Shannon.
Besides contributing to the participants’ professional development, “Vitrine sur l’admin” is a networking opportunity. With the aim of being multidisciplinary, the program is also intended to be a meeting point for isolated organizations across Canada