Electric City Culture Council (EC3)
Submission for the Ontario Provincial Cultural Strategy Consultation
December 7, 2015
Culture in Peterborough: All Culture is Local
“Culture” across the province is diverse and difference is everywhere. That is why a successful provincial cultural strategy is directly tied to the planning and action of local governments. Peterborough is home to a large and vibrant arts, culture and heritage community. Hundreds of professional cultural workers make their home here, several with provincial, national and international reputations. Their work spans all genres: from dance to visual arts, writing, heritage preservation, music, and media arts. The City has “mapped” 142 arts and culture organizations and over 350 businesses relating to cultural activity. Our “local” cultural scene includes numerous arts professionals who live outside of town, (within a 40-minute drive) and weaves well-trained and experienced professionals together with emerging and amateur practitioners.
The City has an active heritage preservation program and our built heritage includes an impressive inventory of 19th century buildings in the downtown and nearby residential areas, as well as the stunning work of architects such as Ron Thom (Trent University), Ed Zeidler and Raymond Moriyama (Public Library).
Peterborough also has an increasingly diverse population who add their unique voices to this already dynamic mix, including a large post-secondary population through Trent University and Fleming College who study, work and increasingly, choose to settle here upon graduation. The nearby First Nations communities of Curve Lake, Hiawatha and Alderville lend their rich history and traditions to the area as well. Over 4,000 Indigenous peoples from a wide variety of Nations make Peterborough and the surrounding areas their home.
Additionally, Peterborough, and the surrounding Kawartha Lakes region, is home to great natural beauty. Part of the Trent-Severn waterway, the Otonabee River runs through the city, as does Jackson Creek and includes the Peterborough Lift Locks, a National Historic Site. Lakes, rivers and forest surround us, including a small urban lake that offers visitors a chance to camp within walking distance of the city’s downtown attractions. This natural beauty brings tourists from all over the province, the country and from international destinations to our region.
Over the past two decades there has been a shift in the way the City knows and understands its identity as an urban centre. Arts, culture and heritage have taken centre stage in defining the character of the City. While serving an extensive surrounding rural region and proud of its natural attributes, arts, culture and heritage have increasingly taken on a key role in our contemporary lived experience of this municipality. Peterborough has become “a maker place”, with an original and authentic voice. The arts, culture and heritage sector is a clear and distinct city-building entity.
The development of the broader cultural sector, its vibrancy and resilience, is central in every way to who we are and to our vitality as a community.
The Electric City Culture Council (EC3)
EC3 is a new, not-for-profit service organization supporting the arts, culture and heritage sector in Peterborough and the surrounding area. It was created following the city’s development of a Municipal Cultural Plan, approved in 2012. Its role is to provide advocacy and support for individuals and organizations in the arts, culture and heritage sector through professional development, networking and capacity building, resource and knowledge sharing, and leadership. EC3 receives funding from the City of Peterborough and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Ontario Arts Council, and local foundations, corporate and individual sponsors. We have a strong community-based Board of Directors and recently hired an Executive Director. EC3 works with numerous partners and collaborators in a variety of sectors to strengthen cultural infrastructure and production and to engage citizens and visitors in cultural experiences.
EC3 joins the City, the County and the provincial and federal governments in active stewardship of cultural development, working to create the conditions and support systems that will sustain the sector and see it flourish.
Creating this Submission
To prepare for the local discussion on the Provincial Cultural Strategy our Executive Director, Joeann Argue and a member of the EC3 Advisory Council, Katherine Carleton (Orchestras Canada) travelled to Barrie, Ontario to participate in a Town Hall Discussion organized by the Ministry.
In order to ensure the voices of our region were heard as part of the Provincial Culture Strategy consultation, we developed an online survey, sent to all our members and posted on our web site – available to anyone who wished to participate – that contained both the key questions highlighted in the Provincial Culture Strategy discussion paper and questions that pertained directly to arts, culture and heritage in the Peterborough region.
EC3 dedicated one of our regular lunchtime programming events open to the public, a “Flash Forum”, to a discussion on the Provincial Cultural Strategy, to give people additional opportunities to provide input and feedback. Out of the survey and forum results, and taking into account the many levels of discussion regarding arts, culture and heritage that are ongoing in our region, EC3 has developed a list of key observations to put forward to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport as part of the consultation process and on behalf of our community. This submission is just one of many avenues of input individuals and organizations in the Peterborough region are providing to the Ministry.
Understanding Economic Impact
Reading the Ontario Arts and Culture Tourism Profile, commissioned by the Ontario Arts Council in 2012, it is clear that arts, culture, and heritage are strong drivers of the Ontario economy and need to be supported as such in order to continue to aid in growing Ontario’s economy. Ontario needs a strong arts, culture, and heritage sector, one that nurtures and supports arts and culture workers of all levels and experiences as contributors to the healthy social fabric of the province.
There is nothing ‘nice to have’ about the arts… there is nothing tangential, there is nothing soft about any of them… they are absolutely central to our economy, our public life and our city’s health…”
As Peterborough makes the transition from an economy based on small and medium scale manufacturing to one where ideas and knowledge-based endeavours are economic drivers, strategic financial investment from the Province of Ontario is crucial.
Direct Investment in Professional Artists and Heritage Professionals
As the key producers in the sector, professional artists and heritage professionals are the fuel that propels this sector. Agencies and programs that provide direct financial support to the creation of art works and historical knowledge and research are essential. We are acutely aware that a shortage of funds at the Ontario Arts Council has a negative impact on the ability of artists from our region to be successful in those grant programs and to continue to live and work in Peterborough. Similar restrictions exist for smaller museums and independent historical curators.
Funding Distribution and Regional Financial Investment
It is no secret that arts, culture and heritage workers and organizations do incredible things with comparatively little money. Not-for-profit organizations in this sector know how to stretch a dollar and how to work together to make small amounts of money go a very long way. In smaller centres this is doubly so. Funding allocations have traditionally been greater to large urban centres and large organizations. While this has lead to the development of strong national and provincial arts, culture and heritage organizations, smaller organizations and, in particular, most of those outside the large urban centres, have received fewer dollars with which to nurture and develop ideas and creative projects within their regions. Inventive organizational models that cross disciplines and bring communities together in original ways are constantly emerging and evolving in our region. However there is little financial reward from funders for this constant innovation.
Regional Culture Development and Funding Formulas
Operating Grant Thresholds
One of the key issues with regard to financial investments pertains to existing impediments to regional cultural development within current public funding structures. For example, the base operating budgets of local organizations are often too low for smaller organizations to even qualify to enter OAC programs for multi-year operating grants. These small organizations produce high quality work with lower operating budgets, because of their local circumstances and a facility for innovation, but cannot take their work to the next level, because they are ineligible to compete for sustained operating funds. This limits the work that can be produced and drives outstanding creators to the big cities. We think the merit of the work should be the key consideration, not the size of the base budget.
Operating vs. Project Grants
Additionally, while there are local organizations with long-term, stable funding currently, this funding seems under threat as large funding bodies such as the Ontario Arts Council have seemed less inclined to provide ongoing operating grants in recent years. Operating grant funds are critical to small organizations outside large urban centres because of their limited access to diverse revenue sources. Strengthening and ensuring the operating grant stream would alleviate some of the pressure on organizations and allow them to re-direct energy and dollars to supporting arts, culture and heritage workers to produce work and present it to the public.
While it is critical for all non-profit-organizations in the sector to diversify revenue streams and develop their ability to raise funds outside of grant programs, funding formulas that rest on set percentages of funding from non-governmental sources discriminate against smaller cities and impede regional development. Smaller organizations in smaller cities do not have access to the pools of individual financial or corporate wealth that those in larger cities do. Organizations that “punch above their weight class” in creative and management terms in grant competitions, often lose out when formulas are applied to determine grant levels.
Smaller regional centres have been particularly hard hit by the diminution in funding at the Provincial level. Strategically targeted funding in key municipalities would make a significant difference to extending cultural development across the province.
Regional Development and Provincial Investment
The development needs of organizations and cultural professionals working outside of Toronto are diversified and unique. Strategic financial investment that reflects the character of local cultural ecologies and sectoral life cycle development is essential to ensure equitable opportunity for growth and development and for public enjoyment of cultural activities. Such programs and investments should be clear, transparent, be delivered at arms length and rest on principles such as peer assessment and administration by cultural professionals.
Provincial and Municipal Partnerships in Financial Investment
Smaller cities frequently do not have the access to municipal funding that larger urban centres do. Yet, many studies have demonstrated that the municipal dollar is the first in, building confidence and capacity and allowing organizations and individual artists to leverage funding at other levels and in other sectors. Municipal funding is a catalyst for growth and development.
Ontario has invested a great deal of money in Municipal Cultural Planning over the past decade. EC3 believes it is important to know and understand the outcomes and impact of this investment and to determine the next steps to be taken. What have municipalities actually done? Has it made it difference? What needs to happen now?
Local Support for Individual Artists and Heritage Professionals
Next steps that matter would certainly include support for the delivery of grants to individual artists and heritage professionals. This is always the critical piece of the puzzle that moves local culture ecologies forward and attracts and retains professional artists in a particular locale. Public support for organizations and individuals are essential and municipal governments need incentives to do exactly this. The Province, not just the local community, must continue to work to help municipalities understand the impact of these investments and the most effective means of delivering them.
Arts organizations, like all not-for-profits, rely heavily on volunteer support for their success. When artists in smaller communities take time away from their jobs to help out, they are stealing time away from artistic production. Ensuring that there is local support for individual professional artists and equitable access to local and provincial operational funding for organizations is essential to regional development in the sector. Paid work in the arts plays a crucial role in sustaining the volunteer cohort that keeps the cultural machinery running and makes it possible for professionals to live and work here.
Success relies on a robust and equitable partnership between all three levels of government, a healthy volunteer complement and the sustained support of core professional organizations and innovative production and presentation models that can build imaginative and effective partnerships with other sectors.
New investments in strategic regional cultural development could be delivered in cooperation with municipalities, particularly where arms length municipal arts, culture or heritage councils exist and can employ transparent, peer-assessed programs developed by experienced professionals.
Knowledge Sharing and Transparency
Funding for the support of arts, culture and heritage activities in the Province is delivered through a number of revenue streams including the Ministry funding programs, Trillium Foundation grants, Bingo funds and the Ontario Arts Council. While it is easy to find out how OAC funding is allocated across the province, more information on overall funding allocations (levels of financial investments) would assist cultural development planning at all levels.
In smaller communities, high percentages of revenue streams come from Bingo funds and the processes for determining eligibility and the allocation of funding levels is very obscure and lacks professional delivery. This creates a great deal of anxiety and makes effective business planning in the arts extremely difficult. The relationship between the different provincial funders and the roles they play in regional cultural development is not clear to the community and there is duplication in many program areas.
The ability of funders to work closely with communities, provide guidance on grant information, granting processes and applications is also essential to the success of regional cultural development. Resources could be provided to municipal cultural agencies to support this work.
Culture and Inclusion
Equitable access to funding for artists with disabilities is a concern for all Ontarians. In many cases, artists with disabilities who are receiving some form of income assistance find their income assistance cut as a result of receiving an arts grant. This puts undue hardship on them as it negates the impact of the grant to assist in the artist’s ability to produce work. Receiving a grant to produce work should not be seen as replacement income for those who are already struggling.
Another layer has to do with the AODA requirements for not-for-profit organizations. All Ontarians deserve the right to accessibility of service, but the costs to provide such access and services can be quite high. Not-for-profit arts, culture and heritage organizations in smaller cities have limited access to such funds through private sources. This requirement is not built into public funding granting criteria.
Additional revenue sources to adapt physical spaces and marketing and communications tools, and vehicles to help in this regard, would be beneficial not only to the organizations, but to those in the community who need greater accessibility. The political, intellectual and cultural evolution required to enhance inclusion is something we know organizations can accomplish within their existing resources.
Public Awareness, Appreciation and Education
It is hard to believe that a single individual in the Peterborough region is untouched by arts, culture and heritage in their daily lives and yet these are often the first things that are subject to potential and real funding cuts because they are not seen as vital or essential. While economic and social impact studies abound, it is vitally important that we, as arts, culture and heritage leaders, at municipal and provincial levels increase our effort to educate the public on the importance of this sector. Programs such as Culture Days and Doors Open have had a positive impact on general public awareness and engagement in the sector. It is not just about the general public though.
The Province has a central role to play in the regional and municipal sphere by educating Mayors and County officials, Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development and Tourism agencies and DBIAs. Successful regional cultural development will rest on local arts, culture and heritage organizations having support for, and easy access to, effective educational and information resources about the impact of their work.
ACH and Provincial Education
The past 20 years have seen drastic funding cuts to the arts in educational activities in the provincial school system and a reduction to OAC support for artists in the schools initiatives. It is in schools where citizens begin to develop an appreciation of the arts that will carry over into adult life, creating engaged and active audiences, patrons, volunteers and cultural workers. There need to be strong and structured links between the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport and the Ministry of Education to reinstate the arts as a protected part of the core curriculum, as a viable career option and a vital part of the fabric of our society. While individual local schools in Peterborough raise funds and devote staff time and energy to arts education that engages local artists, it is ad hoc and artists volunteer much of their time and expertise.
Developing Young Audiences
Youth need opportunities outside the classroom to engage in the arts and other cultural activities. Many studies have concluded that these types of opportunities have considerable positive impact on youth, giving them a voice through which to be heard in their own right. This impact carries over to families and enhances the understanding of the importance of arts, culture and heritage in peoples’ lives. Formal educational opportunities within the public school system are essential (including at the post secondary level) but so are programs that provide youth access to arts and culture activities outside of schools. The Province could take an active role in Youth Cultural Passports and similar programs to provide more equitable access to arts, culture and heritage activities.
Developing Culturally Diverse Audiences and Arts Practice
Arts, culture and heritage education at all levels also lends a greater opportunity to highlight the cultural diversity of the province and promotes greater understanding and equality in society. Increasingly, immigration is coming from countries outside of Europe, and yet often little is known about the originating cultures of the people who now settle here. Opportunities to provide cultural exchange and to increase the diversity of cultural events programming create exciting educational opportunities for all involved and help to make newcomers feel welcome and at home. Strategic funding programs that support such activities within regions are vital.
This type of development also assists in educating people about the rich history and cultures of Canada’s First Peoples. As has been noted throughout the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, far too little has been taught about Indigenous peoples in the public school system and it is time for change. It is vitally important that Ontarians, and all Canadians, begin to understand how the Indigenous peoples of Canada have helped to shape and grow the province and the country and the arts, culture and heritage sector has an extremely important role to part in this regard.
Support for artistic organizations and the creation and production of culture events by professional artists from indigenous communities need additional Provincial support.
Strong, structured links between the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration would aid in this work
Cultural Tourism and Marketing Support
In 2010, one fifth of all overnight visitors to Ontario came for arts and culture experiences. That is 9.5 million visits. These visitors spent $4.1 billion. As a result, they generated $3.7 billion in gross domestic product, including 67,700 jobs, $2.4 billion in wages, and $1.7 billion in taxes across all levels of government. While this money flowed throughout the economy, some went directly to arts and culture workers. It created a working environment for those professional makers and creators, providing jobs and income. 
Based on these numbers alone, the importance of cultural tourism cannot be understated. It is clear that arts, culture, and heritage are strong drivers of the Ontario economy and need to be supported as such in order to continue to grow Ontario’s economy. Ontario needs a strong arts, culture, and heritage sector, one that nurtures and supports arts and culture workers of all levels and experiences as contributors to the healthy social fabric of the province.
Through the new Ontario Culture Strategy, the Ministry needs to reaffirm culture as an important part of tourism and the tourism economy and provide strategic initiatives to regions outside of Toronto and South Western Ontario (Stratford/Shaw). In particular, increased supports need to be put in place to draw people to events and ongoing cultural experiences throughout the province. Cities like Peterborough need specialized funding support to build partnerships with tourism agencies; not just for big festivals, but also for branding and identifying the overall cultural experiences the City has to offer.
What kind of special events should we invest in? What activities grow the local infrastructure and engage both local and “come from away” audiences? How can we better package ongoing activities and the work of local organizations? How can we bring arts and heritage experiences together? We need both creative and market research and development opportunities. What digital platforms might provide market access for local and tourist audiences? How do we drive consumers to those platforms or deploy those applications?
We have considerable work to do locally so that our dynamic cultural profile has a place on the provincial map. We need provincial financial support to take a professional approach and collaborate effectively across agencies.
Additional provincial supports for marketing, perhaps in the form of local organizations having easier access to provincial and municipal tourism marketing websites, as well as other enhanced digital platforms such as cultural maps and apps would be highly beneficial in bringing more tourism to Ontario and to spreading it out beyond the large urban centres and into smaller urban centres and rural areas.
Collaborations and Partnerships
There are a number of areas where additional collaborations and partnerships could serve to increase the visibility and viability of arts, culture and heritage activities. These include collaborations within the various arms of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, between ministries, such as Education and Citizenship and Immigration, between the Ministry and municipalities, all of which could work together more effectively to support cultural development. Just as important are collaborations and partnerships between and across municipal agencies.
Heritage Preservation and Repurposing of Heritage Facilities
Peterborough and many cities like it across the province are facing a dramatic and tragic decline in their heritage buildings as Churches and schools are experiencing diminished support and shifts in populations and demographics. An essential part of our built heritage is disappearing while ACH organizations and other NFPs struggle to find office and program creation, production and presentation space.
Funding initiatives could help facilitate partnerships between groups such as heritage preservation, arts organizations, religious institutions, social service agencies and private business to ensure the preservation and repurposing of important heritage buildings. Enhanced policies on heritage at the provincial level could work to ensure that our most precious buildings, no matter where they are in the province, are preserved.
The Ministry could also extend support to those organizations that support collaborations, such as municipal arts, culture and heritage Councils, who can provide the organizational support for a collaborative project as well as identify players in communities who might be able to be a part of such collaborations.
Investment in funding for municipalities to boost the implementation of municipal cultural plans, and strengthen the management and development of local cultural resources is absolutely essential to achieving our vision. Advancing the role of our local government in fostering an environment in which arts, cultural industries, cultural heritage, and public libraries thrive in communities by partnering with relevant professional networks and organizations on the creation of new resources and tools, professional training, and knowledge sharing opportunities is a primary goal.
Artists and culture workers come here from many places to take advantage of the natural beauty and lower cost of living that the region offers. In doing so, they also find themselves at a disadvantage compared to those who live and work in large urban centres. The benefit of their presence to the large community does not go unnoticed at home, but it can be difficult to move that notice outside the region. We have the talent, the people, the organizations and the will to become an important cultural hub but we need the support of the Ministry to realize it. To that end we offer the above observations to help bring us to greater prominence and, in doing so, provide an important additional star in the provincial cultural constellation that currently exists.
Our vision of culture in Ontario has a distinctly local identity, supported by all three levels of government and served by vital local arts, culture and heritage organizations in collaboration with a broad network of individual professionals, amateur groups and community partners. It's a world where arts professions can survive and thrive and where diverse publics have real access to vital cultural experience.
 John Kampfer, CEO, Creative Industries Federation, UK
 Ontario Arts and Culture Tourism Profile, Research Resolutions and Consulting Ltd. 2012