2023 is dedicated to experiments. Here’s 12. One for each month. Why? Because that’s really what it’s all about. Experiments! Happy New Year! (And…in true storytelling style I am saving the most exciting news – about our latest investment – for the end).
1. Previous Track Record. You need a lot of practice hours to excel. This couldn’t be truer for a flutest, a dancer, or a technical director, but the case for excellence is less clear when thinking about creation. There’s no question that an actor, a singer, or a designer gets more skilled over time, but strangely, more skill doesn’t always lead to more creativity. The artistic explosions of youth or the surprise of brilliance often shows up in untried corners. It’s one of the reasons we are experimenting with the removal of "proven track record" from our list of criteria. Will we still invest in companies who have a proven track record? Absolutely! Is it a prerequisite to apply? No. Why? Because track record can act as an unintended barrier to greatness.
2. Be the hammer. Mohammed Shaifulbahri (Shai), a Singapore based creative producer and arts educator, recently remarked in a discussion at ISPA centred around borders, that we have the choice to be a wall builder or to be a hammer that takes walls down. The Fund is a gatekeeper dedicated to opening the gate wide and wider, removing barriers of all kinds, with the belief that this will make all of the work stronger. This year we are doubling down on all our methods, reviewing and transforming our curatorial processes all with the goal of being (sorry, can’t help myself) SMASHING! Why? Because the cultural well-being of our country depends on it.
3. Changing the lens. We are reimagining how access is incorporated into our submission processes and conversations. Last year, an in-depth cultural consultancy was initiated by former Creation Fund head, Heather Moore, in tandem with Artistic Associate Sarah Conn and curatorial consultant Shay Erlich. Now we dig more deeply into the responsibility non-disability-led projects have to all audiences in their producing plans. We are also looking at the resources disability-led projects need for equitable dreaming and scheming. Why? Because it will make all the work we invest in interdependent and fuller. NCF has a role to play in brokering interdependence, and in so doing change the lens through which we understand all that’s required to make astounding works of creation.
4. The Creation Lounge is a small and time-based experiment in which two groups of creators will be offered the opportunity to approach the making of things from entirely different directions. There will be two lounges. One will be largely virtual for a curated group of Creatives from across this land and one will be an in-person encounter for Creatives who work at the NAC. Why are we doing this? Because creation houses a lot of barriers and hidden challenges. The lounge offers a unique opportunity to match the empassioned "what" of creation with the urgency of "how". It brings a creative producer’s sensibility to the early puzzle of making great things. These are small experiments that I hope will grow into larger "labs" over time.
5. Less is more for the win. We are investing in fewer shows this season: between 9-11 instead of 12-15. Why? Because we want to have room to ensure that we are offering more integrated and dedicated support for each project. We want to deepen NCF’s capacities to collaborate and we want to broaden the conversation around the reasons for creation. How? By supporting companies in bravely leaning into the realities of our climate, access, language, and systemic barriers to ensure the best chances for success for work. Our impact depends on this.
6. A Fund for all seasons. We are adding a performance calendar to our website. You will be able to visit our site and see what our season of investments looks like. We hope you will plan your performance going around these dates! We are transforming the language on our website too. This work has already begun. More to come. Why are we doing this? We are aiming to meet the creativity of the phenomenal folks we get to invest in with a creative reach of our own.
7. Bookmaking. Increasing the odds for success is central to our mission. Making a book to have and to hold is part of that gamble. We are in discussions with artists and agencies and are aiming to launch the publication in June 2023. Why? Because we want to offer something beautiful that provides more insights and delights into the incredible work the Fund has invested in over its first five years. It’s innovative. It’s smart and it’s a risk. Pre-order now by sending us an email.
8. Dog lovers. Artistic Associate Sarah Conn was working on this project when I arrived. I charged her with getting the brilliant folks she was in contact with to come up with a name we could remember (that I could remember). The Dog Lovers were born. We are committing resources and ingenuity to thinking about and acting on the ever-present issues facing our delicate and bountiful earth. The Dog Lovers is a consortium of three environmentally active thinkers/doers in Canada (Centre for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, Conseil Quebecois des evenements ecoresponsables, Écoscéno). We commissioned a plan for how the Dog Lovers would integrate environmental innovations into a Creation Fund show. The plan is almost done, once complete we aim to try this plan with one Fund project. The world is barking mad, let’s be dog lovers and help soothe the stress and the strain.
9. An Orchard. We aim to offer companies who apply to the Fund, the fullest and most generative outcomes possible. Late last year we instituted a $5K micro-grant for projects that were moving more deeply into our submission process. This money allows companies time and resources to dig into the "how" of their ideas and offers financial support for this work. Our next move is to work with accredited Critical Response Process (CRP) leader and member of our curatorial team, Joyce Rosario, to tailor a more responsive curatorial process that we hope will offer more generative feedback to companies. Joyce is currently in the conception phase and we intend to try it out with one project before the end of our fiscal year-end in August. Why? The Fund aspires to be a fruitful place for artists regardless of whether or not we are – in the end – able to invest in their shows.
10. Connecting the Dots. One way to improve everyone’s chances for success is to help build conditions for it. For us, this means working within the performance milieu to strengthen our producing concepts, and by extension our producers. The Fund is doing this work in tandem with the NAC’s Professional Development, led by Chris Dearlove and Jean-Paul Courtemanche. This past fall we worked together on two significant pilot projects: ThisGen, an emerging producer and director assembly, in collaboration with Why Not Theatre, and a gathering of a group of National Creation Fund producers who were inspired by one another and a trio of invited international producing leaders. This second event was done in collaboration with Toronto Metropolitan University and was curated by Sarah Conn and Owais Lightwala. We intend to continue these experiments in the coming year.
11. Collaborating with you. Artistic Advisory Committee member, Howard Jang (SALT SPRING ISLAND CREDIT) recently suggested the audience as collaborators. I fully agree. Yet the Creation Fund is staring down a reality… that an audience dedicated to the ideas, and excitement for creation is not – ahem – large. We need to change that. How? Good question! For me it is being explicit about what we, at the Fund, want. We want people who are hungry to experience the complex possibilities of this land. We want people who are willing to support this hunger by supporting us. We want people who will have our backs as we work to widen our shared concepts of transformational performance. We want people who will celebrate with us as we celebrate the incredible work on our country’s stages. We need and want your philanthropic support and we want to make the case as to how it will directly impact the future of creation work in this land. We need you. I am just putting it out there. It’s true. We want to collaborate with you. I would love to hear from you. Why? Because it lets me know you are there, that you care and that you have an opinion or an idea to share. We need you. It’s hard to collaborate alone.
12. You tell us. What should a next experiment be?
We are so excited to announce our second investment of the year: Raven Mother from Dancers of Damelahamid.
And Creation Fund shows onstage now: in Toronto, Halifax, Ottawa and London, Ontario Fall On Your Knees, and in Vancouver and Calgary, Forgiveness.