Photo from State of the Arts “TEXTURES” by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin.

ELAN’s ArtistsInspire Grants project is in full delivery mode this month, after months of promoting the new opportunity to schools, registering experienced artists, developing the website, and creating an entire administrative process in collaboration with LEARN. ArtistsInspire Grants is the largest project ELAN has ever undertaken, designed to send artists into every one of Quebec’s 300 English-speaking public for each of the next four years.

Project manager, Christie Huff, designed and developed ELAN’s ACE (Arts, Communities and Education) project, and for the past four years has been recruiting qualified artists and networking with educators.  ELAN now has an ArtEd department to coordinate ACE projects and ArtsInspire Grants. It is too early to estimate how these projects will effect artists, educators and students, but our entire team is stimulated by the impact that is already being witnessed.

Many ELAN members, past and present, have contacted us to offer congratulations on ELAN’s 15th anniversary, and to thank us for support that ELAN has provided over the years. Some of the benefits have been direct, personal and tangible but much of the work that ELAN does, particularly in the realm of advocacy and community development, is hard to measure and easy to overlook. It is only over a span of years that change becomes apparent. A 15th anniversary is a splendid opportunity to take stock.

Guy Rodgers

Executive Director

Image from ELAN’s 2016 AGM: Front row, centre: Bettina Forget; second from left: Kristelle Holliday. Back row, second from left: Amy Macdonald; fourth from right: Fortner Anderson.

This month ELAN is saying farewell to Amy Macdonald, who has worked with ELAN for six years. Arriving shortly after a near-death financial crisis in the summer of 2013 had reduced ELAN to a single part-time employee, Amy helped me rebuild the organization on a solid foundation, taking charge of all membership and communication duties. During the past couple of years, as ELAN has multiplied the number of projects we manage and added new full-time employees, she has been instrumental in helping ELAN navigate challenges with team-building, communication, and creating synergy between in-house staff and external project teams. As Amy sets off to pursue her burgeoning career as a musician, she leaves ELAN in immeasurably better shape than she found it. On behalf of ELAN’s staff, board and members I want to thank Amy for her contributions to ELAN, and wish her well in the exciting new adventures that lie ahead.

This month we are also bidding adieu to three dedicated board members who have reached the end of the six-year terms prescribed by ELAN’s by-laws. Bettina Forget has been an ELAN member from the beginning, and president since 2015.  No organization could hope for a better ambassador and leader. Bettina was always available for ELAN despite pursuing her own busy career as an artist, running a gallery, and studying for a Master’s Degree followed by a PhD.  Kristelle Holliday has been treasurer for three years. As administrator for le Théâtre des Petites Lanternes in Sherbrooke, Kristelle spearheaded a series of Made en Estrie schmoozers that increased connections between English- and French-speaking artists in the Townships and le Conseil de la culture de l’Estrie. Kristelle is also the only treasurer I have known who can make the AGM financial report as entertaining as a stand-up routine. Fortner Anderson, a well-known spoken word artist, has collaborated closely on ELAN’s CRTC interventions for many years, and he also represented ELAN on the board of Culture Montréal and the Consultative Programming committee of MAtv.

I invite you all to attend ELAN’s 15th anniversary AGM on August 26 to say goodbye and thank you to the outgoing board members, and to elect their successors. It will also be an occasion to wish Amy well in her future adventures and meet her successor, who should be hired in time for the AGM and the big 15 party at the Rialto Theatre.

Guy Rodgers

Executive Director

It has been a long time since a law has divided Quebec as deeply as Bill 21.  One of the most reliable indicators to distinguish those who support the law from those who don’t is a sense of personal vulnerability. Given the direct correlation between vulnerability and minority status within Quebec society, it is not surprising that many ELAN members feel uncomfortable with Bill 21, and the way it was adopted.

When I was a child, my parents used a very simple method to teach fairness. One child would cut desert into equal portions.  Then the other children would choose first, the cutter last. It was an object lesson in functional democracy.

Issues can be democratically decided by a majority vote when they affect all citizens equally. Issues that affect citizens unequally require a more even-handed, far-sighted approach. If one minority’s freedom can be restricted today, tomorrow a different minority will suffer.  Someday, on some issue, we will all be in a minority situation, and when that day comes it is painfully clear why the people cutting the cake should not have a monopoly on choosing who gets the biggest pieces.

Mercifully, we live in a society where even contentious issues can be debated respectfully because we all, in a very real way, can identify with being part of a vulnerable minority. Wishing you all a splendid summer.

Guy Rodgers

Executive Director

Guy Rodgers, Christie Huff, Paul Knowles and the AIG team at the ArtistsInspire Grants launch in Laval on May 23.

I am pleased to introduce ELAN’s new Administration Manager. Deborah Forde is already well known to many of you. Previously Executive Director of the Quebec Drama Federation, she brings ELAN a wealth of knowledge about grant writing, budgeting, financial management and HR. Deborah’s addition to the team will allow me to have more time to work on the exciting new project I shared with you last month. All of ELAN’s staff and board join with me in welcoming Deborah to the team.

I also want to congratulate Christie Huff on the extraordinary work she has done with ELAN to connect Arts and Education. Christie worked closely with me for many months to write the initial grant application that launched the ACE (Arts, Communities and Education) Initiative. This year, thanks to new funding from the Secretariat for Relations with English-speaking Quebecers, twelve schools and communities around Quebec connected with artists to co-create learning experiences that participants told us were extraordinarily meaningful. On May 23, after celebrating an innovative ACE project with artists Jason Selman & Melanie Garcia at Laval Senior Academy, ELAN launched a new project funded by the Government of Canada, called Artists Inspire Grants (AIG).

The largest project ELAN has ever undertaken, AIG is designed to distribute $1,500 micro grants to hundreds of schools serving English-speaking communities in each of the next four years so that thousands of students can have inspirational experiences with artists. To coordinate ACE and AIG, ELAN has created an ArtEd Team, managed by Christie Huff, in collaboration with consultants Jennifer Cooke and Paula Knowles, and ELAN’s Program Manager Amy Macdonald. This work is challenging and exciting. You will be hearing much more about it in the years ahead.

Guy Rodgers

Executive Director

Guy Rodgers with Rahul Varma (Teesri Duniya), Catherine Cahill (Playwrights Workshop Montréal), Hugh Mitchell (Quebec Drama Federation Board Member), Elsa Bolam (Geordie Theatre). 1989.

As many of you know, I had planned to leave ELAN this year because the 15th anniversary seemed like a propitious moment for a leadership transition. That plan was put on hold when the Secretariat for Relations with English Speaking Quebecers funded a new project that is dear to my heart. I first became an arts activist, straight out of the National Theatre School, back when it was seriously challenging to be an English-speaking artist in Quebec. There were many reasons for that, ranging from language barriers to a lingering myth that Anglos were wealthy and did not require public funding. Most of those conditions have changed, but surveys confirm that English-speaking artists still feel closer to Canada Council and the Conseil des arts de Montréal than to CALQ. SODEC is perceived to be less welcoming than Telefilm.

This project, which we have named Québec Relations, will devote the next two years to identifying all provincial sources of funding that could benefit cultural workers, from regular arts programs to support for employment, infrastructure, regional and economic development. In parallel to this, we will document community needs, and then help connect needs to support. I have hired Sophie Croteau (we will introduce Sophie in next month’s ELANews) as Research Coordinator, and have opened a new office for this project.

ELAN’s new neighbours on the 9th floor at 460 Ste Catherine are QDF and Teesri Duniya Theatre. My first major venture in arts activism was the creation of the Quebec Drama Federation, where I was the founding executive director. Rahal Varma had recently created Teesri, which became a QDF member, and Rahul became a friend. Each time I walk past their offices, I feel a sense of completing a full circle. I am energized to spend my final couple of years with ELAN working on a project that brings decades of arts advocacy to a logical conclusion, and will significantly improve access to funding for Quebec’s English-speaking artists.

 

Guy Rodgers

Executive Director

Guy Rodgers, Kristelle Holliday, and Ziv Przytyk of ShazamFest at “Made en Estrie”, Sherbrooke QC.

April is the beginning of the new financial year. Projects from the previous year are wrapped, but their impact continues to resonate. State of the Arts was the largest community dialogue that ELAN has engaged in since 2011. Part of the value of bringing people together to share ideas and information, plans and dreams, is simply to make connections, like a multitude of new synapses forming between neurons. The creative power of the brain resides in its remarkable plasticity. The same is true of a healthy community.  Some of the connections made during State of the Arts will evolve into collaborations between artists and cultural workers, and ideas that emerged during the past months will influence ELAN’s projects for many years to come. We will be sharing the final SotA report with you in the coming months; for now, you can visit the project page for more information.

April is also a time to launch new projects. ARTS2U has completed two research phases and is now entering a developmental phase, thanks to funding from Canada Council’s Digital Strategy Fund. The research has been highly technical but the idea is simple enough. How can artists and cultural producers make use of the digital universe to better connect with audiences, and to retain control of their own data? ELAN is also preparing to launch a major project made possible by the federal Action Plan for Official Languages. The goal of the Artists Inspire Grants is to send artists into every English-language public school in Quebec over the next four years. It is large and ambitious, but we have a splendid team working with us. You will be hearing much more about the Artists Inspire Grants in the coming months.

I was in Ottawa on March 11 when Melanie Joly, Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie, launched a public consultation to modernise the Official Languages Act, which turns 50 this year. Much has changed in Canada and Quebec since 1969 so the Act needs to be updated, but it remains of great importance to minority language communities. ELAN will be actively involved in the dialogue to modernize the Official Languages Act, which strengthens Quebec’s English-speaking community, and its artists, in many ways.

Guy Rodgers

Executive Director

Guy Rodgers presenting at the 2019 State of the Arts Activation Conference 

Photo by Sufia Duez 

ELAN is celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2019.  The world around you will have changed little or much during that period depending on your age and personal milestones. One benchmark that most of us share is Facebook, which also came into existence in 2004.  It is surprisingly difficult to remember the “pre-FB” world, back when we were still using message boards and fax machines. I am not going to claim that ELAN’s impact is comparable to Facebook – for better or worse – but our local environment has changed dramatically in several ways.

ELAN was created as a network for English-speaking artists whose main issue was language. One pragmatic ELAN objective was to build bridges with our French-speaking neighbours. A more daunting but less tangible problem was a country neatly divided into English Canada and French Quebec. ELAN devoted its first decade to documenting an English-language cultural renaissance in Quebec, to making English-speaking artists visible outside Quebec, as well as making the case that we could be both proud Quebeckers here at home and important ambassadors for Quebec culture.

Many of ELAN’s younger members see language as a minor issue or a non-issue, which is a testimonial to how far we have progressed. Part of this change was possible because our world is becoming much more receptive to diversity and inclusion. As ELAN becomes less preoccupied with language issues, we have turned our attention to broader issues of diversity and inclusion, which have been the focus of our State of the Arts project. Many of you have already participated in State of the Arts activities, and are welcome to participate in additional upcoming events in March. More information about those events will be shared in our future newsletters, our website, and through our social media channels. As we celebrate ELAN’s accomplishments over the past 15 years, we are also charting a new course for the decades that lie ahead.

 

Guy Rodgers

Executive Director

Guy Rodgers with John Hobday (Independent Arts Consultant who has worked for Canada Council for the Arts, the Samuel & Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation, CBC, and more) at State of the Arts in 2011. 

Photo by Dimitri Nasrallah

Fifteen years ago, the Quebec Arts Summit brought together 150 artists and cultural workers to take stock of an English-language cultural renaissance that had become noticeable after the referendum of 1995. The rapidly growing number of English-artists choosing to live and work in Quebec was a revelation, and the inspiration for ELAN’s creation. Seven years later, in 2011, ELAN organized State of the Arts, a three-day gathering of artists and cultural workers from all disciplines and from many regions of Quebec. Principle activities took place at la Société des arts technologiques (SAT), where 100+ community leaders discussed challenges and opportunities, debated strategies and brainstormed innovative ideas. Satellite activities took place at Centaur Theatre, the launch of the book Minority Report: An Alternative History of English-Language Arts in Quebec, and a series of thought-provoking panel discussions at la Maison du Conseil des arts de Montréal.

In February and March, ELAN is hosting a new edition of State of the Arts. The emphasis is on diversity and inclusion. At our 2011 event, our priorities were to connect with younger artists, newly emerging disciplines, and artistic communities outside Montreal. In 2019, project manger Farah Fancy has expanded the consultation format to include small group discussions and personal consultations around Quebec to engage a more diverse group of people in the conversation. With the assistance of Emily Enhorning, ELAN’s Membership Coordinator, Farah has also prepared two short surveys that we encourage you to take. One of the surveys is for individual artists living in Quebec and the other is for arts and cultural organizations. Each survey will only take a few minutes to complete.

The English-speaking arts community in 2019 is distinctly different than it was 15 years ago.  ELAN was founded by artists whose references were rooted in 20th century issues of official languages and historical tensions between the two solitudes. That has been a significant part of our mandate and we have made significant progress. The 21st century has brought new challenges and opportunities. This edition of State of the Arts signals a turning point for ELAN, in part a generational transition, and in part a valuable updating of ELAN’s mandate and mission for current and future members. We hope you’ll be part of it.

Guy Rodgers
Executive Director

Guy Rodgers with Aaron Salomon, Andrew Tay, and Caroline Lussier at ELAN’s 2014 AGM!

Photo by: Sandra Belanger

The beginning of a new year is a natural time to reflect on the past and imagine possible futures. ELAN had its busiest year ever in 2018. Arts Alive! Québec, managed by Anne Clark, co-produced multidisciplinary festivals in Hudson, Knowlton, Huntingdon, Wakefield and Quebec City, as well as a series of music and words events in libraries. Christie Huff and her ACE Initiative team launched a new series of Arts, Communities and Education projects to take artists into schools all around Quebec. June Park produced more than two dozen workshops in Montreal and the regions to enhance the skills of performing artists who aim to develop their professional careers, while Emilia Alvarez and Mariam Assaf arranged showcases in Canada, the USA, and the UK.

ELAN’s increased activity necessitated the creation of a fifth full-time staff position. Jackie Stamp Smeaton joined us in December as our brand new Administration and Human Resources Manager. Jackie brings a wealth of Admin and HR experience to ELAN, as well as an artist’s sensibility. We also hired Lital Khaikin as Membership and Communications Assistant under a six-month Emploi Québec contract. Lital will work with Sufia Duez and Emily Enhorning to improve ELAN’s Communications and Membership services.

The immediate project on the horizon for 2019 is State of the Arts, managed by Farah Fancy, with staff management by Amy Macdonald. ELAN was founded after a multi-disciplinary gathering of artists in 2004. In 2011, we met with the community again, which led to the development of many of the projects ELAN has worked on since. State of the Arts 2019 is designed to engage with artists and organizations we have collaborated with in the past, and to make new connections with artists and organizations who wish to collaborate with ELAN in the future.

In 2019, ELAN will celebrate its 15th birthday. A few of you have been with ELAN from the beginning. It has been quite a journey and there is much to celebrate. We look forward to sharing memories with you, and exploring new possibilities.

 

Guy Rodgers

Executive Director

Guy Rodgers introducing the Minute Market

Photo by Kinga Michalska

The decisions by Ontario’s Ford Government to abolish the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner and to renege on a promise to establish a French-language university were unanticipated and shocking. Then came news that Ottawa’s Nouvelle Scene theatre would not receive expected provincial funding. The combined cuts sounded like a deliberate reversal of decades of positive measures in support of Ontario’s French-speaking minorities. Francophone communities across Canada rallied in support of their vulnerable comrades in Ontario.

English- and French-speaking Quebeckers added their voices in support, albeit for slightly different reasons. French-speaking Québécois identify with franco-Ontarians as a vulnerable French-speaking minority within a continent and a world dominated by English. English-speaking Quebeckers identify with franco-Ontarians as a vulnerable minority.

Since its creation, ELAN has worked closely with French-speaking artists across Canada, and particularly with the Ottawa-based national network, la Fédération culturelle des canadienne-française.  The situations for English-speakers inside Quebec and for French-speakers outside Quebec are very different, but we all need to feel like full citizens within our home provinces.

The Quebec government’s creation earlier this year of a Secretariat for Relations with English-speaking Quebeckers sent an encouraging signal. It is easy to appreciate that the abolition of minority language services would be demoralising. Due to the outcry, the Ford government has begun to reverse its ill-advised cuts, which produced small financial savings at a high social cost. This is a victory for the better angels of our human nature.

 

Guy Rodgers

Executive Director


Further Reading

The Star (ENG)
https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2018/11/23/cuts-to-french-language-services-hurt-us-all.html

#ONFR (FR)
https://onfr.tfo.org/crise-linguistique-dix-jours-et-dix-moments/

Journal de Montreal
https://www.journaldemontreal.com/2018/11/22/le-message-de-cet-anglo-ontarien-en-soutien-a-ses-concitoyens-francophones-devient-viral-en-ontario