Success, risk and changes

The First Stone by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard © Cylla von Tiedemann

How do you define success? Oh brother/sister/mother/lover, really, you are opening with this? 
 
Some days - pour moi - it can be as simple as getting a comma in the right place. Most days it is far more complicated. 
 
Is success something that actually exists?  
 
Yes. I am going to say yes.  
 
But how? 
 
When The Slaight Family Foundation recognizes theatre companies to the tune of 15 million dollars, and included in the list of recipients are some of the heretofore scrappiest companies that turned Toronto on its head in the 70s, the 80s, and in the case of Why Not, Coal Mine, Obsidian, Musical Stage Co and Soulpepper, way more recently than this. Success! 
 
When audiences return to the theatres, when the oboist is allowed to blow, the chorister is allowed to sing, the dancer is allowed to touch. Success! 
 
The National Creation Fund (NCF) was a child born out of the Zeus-like precision of former NAC CEO Peter Herrndorf's lightning bolt toss. He understood that putting significant resources into the hands of Canadian artists, of First Nations, Métis and Inuit artists, would be a game changer. And he was right. Success! 
 
Under the strong leadership of former Executive Producer Heather Moore, the NCF not only weathered COVID and supported artists' spirits and ideas during difficult times, it also allowed breathing room for their invaluable imaginations to do the same. Invaluable work. Truly.  And now the time has come to do more.  
 
When people bring a project to the NCF, they do so according to their timelines, not ours. They have initial conversations with us, we get to know who they are: Relationships. We do our best to be in relationship with the artists for the long term. When they decide to submit a proposal, they do so after conversations with us, and deliberation amongst themselves. When they decide to apply, they respond to our form with prose that tells their story and they provide a budget that does the same. This "administrative-light" approach stems from a desire to be in closer relation to the artists and to the work. Our goal is to be a partner, a collaborator, in the success along the artists' path.  
 
When I came to the Fund, I reviewed the mission, I looked at success and failure, I tried to feel through how what we do truly supports creation. And for me, it boils down to - I want to say fandom - but I actually think it's love. When Revisor wins Britain’s Olivier Award for best new dance production, and when R.U.R. A Torrent of Light, In My Body and Sky Dancers are recognized with multiple Dora Awards, the feeling it conjures is of love. When Tell Tale Harbour brings doctor shortages, Alan Doyle and sold-out shows together, same thing, love. When Un. Deux. Trois. reengages with what being French means across the whole country – love! When The First Stone gets held over due to demand and Against the Grain is able to launch a film because of our support - you get the picture! We all need love. And artists especially because one of their magic powers wrests in their ability to transmit love in all of its dazzling and complex forms. 
 
One of the outcomes of my coming to the Fund is a decision to experiment. In an effort to match creativity and risk with creativity and risk. To that end, starting this year, and for this year only, we are planning on meeting each company that makes it to the second round of our deliberation process with a $5,000 infusion of support. If the NCF decides to support the project, then the support will be included in our investment. If the NCF - for a variety of possible reasons - is not able to support the project, then this $5,000 - we sincerely hope – will have been used to support the ongoing development of the piece, and aid in its eventual success in the world. The National Creation Fund supports risk. And for me, risking requires resources. All of us at the NCF hope that this year-long experiment will bear fruit. We are excited to see. 
 
It was truly wonderful to hear back from so many of you following our last newsletter. Let’s keep it going. sarah.stanley@nac-cna.ca. And if you know people who want to be part of the conversation and are not receiving our newsletters, ask them to get in touch.  
 
One last thing… who is us?  

The NCF Home team is, in alphabetical order, Sarah Conn, Jean-Paul Courtemanche, Chris Dearlove, Anicée Lejeune and me, SGS.   

Our NAC curatorial team is Nina Lee Aquino, Daphne Burt, Heather Gibson, Cathy Levy, Kevin Loring, and Mani Soleymanlou. 

Our National curatorial team is Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, Erin Clark, Shay Erlich, Jiv Parasram, Joyce Rosario and Syrus Marcus Ware.   

Our National Advisory Committee members are Derek Andrews, Mélanie Demers, Christine Frederick, Camilla Holland, Jeanne Holmes, Howard Jang, Christian Lapointe, Natalie Lue, Mike Payette, and Andrew Staniland.   
 
...and YOU. All of you who are reading this. 
 
And like I said above…success is something that I believe actually exists…regardless of some of the unexpected twists and turns the path takes. And risking change is what gets us down that path. We all love the idea of change. Making the change, however small, is where risk comes to call. 
 
Thanks for your time and…Happy October!  

PS: If you or someone you know might be interested in working with us, please get in touch!


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