Reframing The Cultural Policy Dialogue
The Arts Advocate
Metcalf Foundation
Ontario Arts Council
Business for the ArtsPublic Policy ForumSoulpepper

8 June 2015

Young Centre for the PERFORMING Arts

Reframing the Cultural Policy Dialogue was a thought-provoking investigation and discussion on cultural policy in the context of current government priorities. Participants explored options and opportunities to strengthen the cultural sector’s engagement with governments at all levels.

We heard from speakers central to arts and creative industries advocacy efforts in the United Kingdom and seasoned and senior public servants and policy practitioners in Ontario and Canada.

The day concluded with dialogue where artists, cultural thinkers and creative industry leaders imagined a future where the cultural sector is at the table where policy decisions are made in Canada … great ideas and observations emerged.

Reframing the cultural policy dialogue was a 20th anniversary initiative of The Arts Advocate, presented with partners Business for the Arts, the Toronto Arts Council, Soulpepper and the Public Policy Forum.

The report can be found here.


The Blog

Stay in the loop with recent news and discussions.

First reflections

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Last week’s symposium, Reframing the cultural policy dialogue set a high bar. Our goal was to provide a forum for participants, in-person and online, to explore fresh perspectives around cultural policy development in Ontario and Canada and provide an enriched understanding of cultural policy development. We’re encouraged that the preliminary response of participants to the ideas and themes that emerged is positive.

At The Arts Advocate, we’re still synthesizing and reflecting on the outcomes of the symposium and will be writing on these more in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, a thanks and a shout-out to Susan Annis, Executive Director of the Cultural Human Resources Council who provided her perspective on Reframing the cultural policy dialogue in a blog post earlier this week.

Building a robust case for business investment in the arts, and the connection to public support

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The following post is by Nichole Anderson, President and CEO of Business for the Arts and one of the partners in this symposium.  She provides a perspective on corporate views of why they invest in the arts, and the connection of their support to public funding.  BfA research shows that 100% of large companies say that public investment in the arts is important, but only 23% say they would increase their support should there be cuts.

I was in Ottawa and Montreal this month to present Business for the Arts’ latest research on business investment in the arts, and in Winnipeg and Calgary last month, as part of a cross-country conversation with government and business around what it will take to build a robust case for business investment in the arts. The findings are a result of a study we commissioned from the Strategic Counsel to help us understand the level of engagement in the arts by Canadians, why they engage and what they value about the arts, as well as feedback from businesses in Canada on why they do or do not invest, what it would take to increase that investment and how they value public sector funding as part of funding mix. Read More

The cultural policy disconnect

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Response from policy makers and cultural leaders to the upcoming symposium, Reframing the cultural policy dialogue, has been strong. With a sold-out in-person audience, and a growing list of live-stream registrants, this event appears to be timely for the sector.

How do average Canadians feel about cultural policy though?

A recent survey by the Angus Reid Institute gauged Canadians’ attitudes to our culture. In their words, “most consider Canadian culture to be unique, worthy of, and critically in need of protection to survive.” Seventy percent of Canadians say that Canada still needs specific protection policies and support from government for Canadian culture to survive.

Why then is cultural policy rarely on the public radar, let alone debated?

In a 2011 Nanos poll conducted for The Arts Advocate, respondents were asked how important a party’s arts and culture platform was to their vote.: Only one in ten Canadians said it was important. Five in ten Canadians said it was neither important or unimportant, while fully four in ten Canadians said it was unimportant. There is no reason to believe these numbers would have changed much.

When you contemplate the implications of these unique surveys together, it’s clear why decision-makers will say that support for culture is a mile wide and an inch deep.

How does the cultural sector change this? Our goal is that Reframing the cultural policy dialogue will explore some options in this regard.

About Us

The Arts Advocate

The Arts Advocate Report was founded in 1994 to strengthen the engagement of Ontario’s arts and culture sector in public policy.

The Report offers objective, non-partisan information and analysis about policy, events and trends that affect Ontario’s cultural sector. It is published six times a year and is complemented by E-Bulletins, when information and events warrant.

On occasion, The Arts Advocate Report will publish special reports or convene briefings exclusive to subscribers that focus on issues of specific relevance to the cultural sector.

Metcalf Foundation
Ontario Arts Council
Business for the Arts

Founded in 1974, Business for the Arts is Canada’s only national charitable association of business members who support the arts. We are constantly witness to the wonderful things that  can be achieved when business partners with arts and culture.

With 40 years of experience in facilitating connections between the private, public and cultural sectors, Business for the Arts is dedicated to strengthening arts and culture in Canada by:

  • connecting arts organizations to business patrons and volunteers through our artsScene and boardLink programs
  • by stimulating investment in the arts through matching incentives and sponsorship training for arts organization with artsVest
  • by communicating the value of investing in the arts through advocacy and research
  • by providing a platform for arts organizations to celebrate their outstanding business partners in the arts with our Canadian Arts and Business Awards
Public Policy Forum

The Public Policy Forum is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of government in Canada through enhanced dialogue among the public, private and voluntary sectors. Established in 1987, the Forum has earned a reputation as a trusted, nonpartisan facilitator capable of bringing together a wide range of stakeholders in productive dialogue. Its research program provides a neutral base to inform collective decision-making.


Located in its multi-venue home the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto’s Distillery Historic District, Soulpepper is one of Canada’s largest urban theatre companies. Founded and guided by artists, under the leadership of Artistic Director Albert Schultz and Executive Director Leslie Lester, Soulpepper has an integrated mission which includes: industry-leading youth outreach initiatives; the Soulpepper Academy, Canada’s only multi-year paid professional training program for theatre artists of all disciplines; and a year-round diverse repertory season which is grounded in the classics and committed to the creation of new works, new forms and innovative practices.

Toronto Arts Council (TAC) is the City of Toronto’s funding body for artists and arts organizations. Since 1974, TAC has played a major role in the city’s cultural industries by supporting a very broad range of artistic activity. From the emerging artist to the most established, from celebrated institutions to arts that challenge convention, TAC is typically the first funder to offer support. Today, TAC grants lead to exhibitions, performances, readings and workshops seen annually by over 7.5 million people. Through our ongoing funding, TAC cultivates a rich engagement between artists and audiences. We are proud to reflect Toronto’s vibrancy through the diversity of artists, arts communities and audiences that we serve.


Meet Our Speakers

Related Publications

Angus Reid Institute

Report on Culture

The Arts Advocate

Business for the Arts

Building the Case for Investment in the Arts
PPTX (PowerPoint) – 700 kB

Government of Ontario – Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport

Greetings from Micheal Couteau
PDF – 158kb

Public Policy Forum

Remarks from Peter Herrndorf, President and CEO, National Arts Centre on occasion of Public Policy Forum 28th Annual Testimonial Dinner and Awards April 16, 2015
PDF – 46kb

Toronto Arts Foundation

Toronto Arts Facts
PDF – 180kb

The Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value


With Moderator and Host: Author Terry Fallis

9 AM – Introduction and Welcome

Public policy and support of the cultural sector is a critical element in the success of Canada’s $50 billion cultural sector. The ideas and principles that drive these policies derive from the last century though. Increasingly, there is widespread belief that public arts, heritage and creative industries policy is not meeting the needs of either the sector or the public

As Canadians head into an election and the Ontario government embarks on the development of a cultural policy, there is an opportunity for the cultural sector to engage with governments and decision-makers differently. In the rapidly evolving public policy environment, what are the options and opportunities for the cultural sector to engage with government more effectively?

9.10 AM –  The View From Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport

Confirmed speaker:
Kevin Finnerty (Assistant Deputy Minister, Culture Division)

9.30 AM – Reflections from the United Kingdom

Matthew Taylor, CEO Royal Society for the Arts, will share his perspective on how the cultural sector in the United Kingdom is seeking to engage with policy makers in a more effective, constructive way. Drawing on recent experience from the 2015 Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value and a proposed new contract for arts and culture in England that will put forward a set of “asks” and “offers” to government (an initiative of the RSA and Arts Council England), Matthew will discuss the opportunities that have been created and the anticipated challenges ahead.

10.15 AM – Health Break

10.30 AM – Bringing it home: Perspectives from leading Canadian policy practitioners

Engage in a conversation with a panel of distinguished Canadian policy practitioners on the realities and challenges of policy development and decision-making in the complex arena of federal and provincial governments. Learn about the interplay of competing pressures decision-makers grapple with on a daily basis. Hear from them ideas on how the cultural sector could more effectively engage with governments, leading to better results for the sector and the public.

Confirmed speakers include:
David Lindsay (President and CEO, Forest Products Association of Canada)
Joanne McNamara (Executive Director, Strategic Projects, University of Western Ontario)
Bob Richardson (Executive Vice-President, Edelman, National Practice Lead, Public Affairs)

Moderated by:
Fahim Kaderdina (Former-politico, now web-series producer)

11.30 AM – Perspectives from Canadian Heritage

Confirmed speaker:
Rachel Wernick (Assistant Deputy Minister, Canadian Heritage)

12.00 PM – Health/Lunch Break

12.30 PM – Sneak peak: Canadians value companies that support the arts

Business for the Arts has released new research that shines a light on the complex interworking of arts funding in Canada. While Canadian businesses are increasing their investment in the arts, those surveyed emphasize that government support of the arts is essential and only 23 per cent of large companies stated that they would increase support if government cuts occur.

Confirmed speaker:
Nichole Anderson (President and CEO, Business for the Arts)

1.00 PM – So what does it all mean: A response from artists and cultural leaders

In the context of the previous sessions, a panel of artists and cultural leaders will come together to explore the opportunities and challenges of reframing the cultural sector’s dialogue with government. It will explore questions like “are there different ways to engage with government to better achieve our objectives?”

This will be an interactive session, with opportunity for dialogue and Q & A.

Confirmed speakers include:
Karen Bachmann (Timmins Museum)
Zan Chandler (Foresight Analyst, KerrSmith Design)
Ella Cooper (Neighbourhood Arts Network)
Christa Dickenson (Executive Director, Interactive Ontario)
Eric Dubeau (Singer-songwriter)
Vikas Kohli (Executive Director, MonstrARTity)

2.15 PM – Wrap-up

Confirmed speaker:
Claire Hopkinson (Director & CEO, Toronto Arts Council)

2.30 PM – On your way!

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