A Pandemic Year: Behind the Scenes

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In March 2020, we abruptly closed the NAC’s doors to the public, as did stages and performance venues across the country and around the world. Our artistic team immediately asked themselves: How can we continue to bring art to Canadians, and support the performing arts, a sector in which so many have suddenly found themselves deprived of work, opportunities to tour and perform, and income?

It was from this question that the #CanadaPerforms initiative quickly arose, presented in partnership with Facebook Canada and several private partners who came on board. The project’s primary goal was to remunerate Canadian artists for live performances on social networks. Between March and May 2020, the project paid fees to no fewer than 700 Canadian artists.

Behind the scenes, the NAC was engaged in a broad reflection on how, beyond the urgency of this crisis, to deal with this new reality for the performing arts community. How might we help artists, how might we maintain the essential contact between artists and their audiences, how might we support arts workers?

While the situation presented numerous pitfalls, it also gave us an unexpected opportunity to take a fresh look at our ecosystem and rethink it. The circumstances challenged us to develop projects to keep in touch with you, to come up with activities that would bring you solace and take your mind off things.

And so, while we continued to develop the #CanadaPerforms initiative through new online performance series, we partnered with arts organizations and venues across the country to support the performing arts in Canadian communities and also launched a new cultural offering developed by the NAC’s various artistic disciplines.

NACO Lunch Breaks, short performances by National Arts Centre Orchestra musicians on social networks, delighted thousands of subscribers, and the Orchestra’s Home Delivery series of streamed audio concerts provided an opportunity to rediscover exceptional NAC Orchestra programs. The brand new live series #DanceForth showcased dancers from across the country. Projects such as Grand Acts of Theatre, featuring performances by Canadian companies across the country; Prologue(s), a series of short outdoor theatre performances in front of an audience; Ersatz, a web-based platform inspired by theatre for young audiences; and Our Stories: Indigenous Book Club, a monthly virtual literary gathering, were designed specifically to keep us connected with you in a pandemic context.

Your enthusiastic response to all these projects has given us a lot of hope. Once again, you have shown us how important the performing arts are, and how they can bring a little emotional respite and light into days that are often difficult.

One year later, we’re still here, fulfilling our mandate to promote and present the performing arts across the country, and we would like to thank you for your generosity and boundless passion. We couldn’t have done it without you. We would especially like to thank the Government of Canada for their ongoing support, and the donors who have so generously supported the projects developed during this year unlike any other: The Gail Asper Family Foundation, The Azrieli Foundation, BMO Financial Group, Alice & Grant Burton, Facebook Canada, Elinor Gill Ratcliffe, C.M., O.N.L., The Jenepher Hooper Fund for Theatre at the National Arts Centre, The Leacross Foundation, Mark Motors Group, The Janice and Earle O’Born Fund for Artistic Excellence, Power Corporation of Canada, The RBC Foundation, Rogers Communications Inc., Dasha Shenkman, OBE, Hon RCM, Sirius XM Canada, The Slaight Family Foundation, TD Bank Group, Robert Tennant, VIA Rail Canada, and The Hon. Hilary M. Weston & Mr. W. Galen Weston. Thanks also to our many other supporters across the country.

Please don’t hesitate to share your news with us. Keep following us and enjoying our online shows and activities if you can. Together, let’s nurture the vital flame of the performing arts, which inspire and transform us.

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