On Monday, August 26, ELAN (English Language Arts Network) will be celebrating 15 years of serving the English-speaking arts community of Québec!

“ELAN is an organization for artists, by artists, and as a result, our projects and advocacy work address the real needs of our community.”

ELAN Board Director Bettina Forget.

During the past 15 years, ELAN has offered hundreds of professional development workshops in Montréal and many regions of Québec, and has produced showcases for artists in Montréal, across Canada, in the US, and in the UK. ELAN’s advocacy work with CRTC, in collaboration with the Québec English-language Production Council, has contributed to bringing millions of dollars in new production to Québec. ELAN has established itself as the leading advocate and interlocutor for English-language artists in Québec.

“ELAN has steadily attracted members, partners and resources that make it possible to do things we could only dream about fifteen years ago.”

ELAN founding Executive Director Guy Rodgers.

 

View full press release:

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Image from IETF Hackathon, by Dan Webster.

Working to improve the discovery and circulation of arts events on the internet, ARTS2U took part in the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) Hackathon 105, held in Montreal on July 20-21. IETF Hackathons encourage developers to collaborate and develop utilities, ideas, sample code and solutions that show practical implementations of IETF standards.

Click here to learn more about the IETF Hackathons!

ARTS2U Project Manager Dan Webster presenting at IETF Hackathon.

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

 

Alexandre Schmitt (Vice President, Alliance des radios communautaire du Canada); Lily Ryan (President, Quebec Community Newspaper Association); Mélanie Joly (Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie); Francis Sonier (Association de la presse francophone); Guy Rodgers (Executive Director, English Language Arts Network) and Hugh Maynard (representative on behalf of English-language community radio in Quebec).

 

The Official Language Community Media Consortium has been working for the last two years to raise awareness of the urgent necessity for government support for media in a minority language situation.

Through the federal government’s Action Plan for Official Languages 2018-2023, a $14.5 million investment toward community-based, minority language media has already been initiated, made up of $4.5 million over five years to create 100 internships, and $10 million toward the Minority Media Fund to provide financial assistance for projects that contribute to the maintenance of official-language minority radio and newspapers. The Consortium met with Minister Joly on July 11, 2019 to update on the progress of the support measures and to talk about progress on a Harmonized Interdepartmental Action Plan to Support Official Language Community Media, especially a proportionate share of federal government advertising in official language minority media.

As an organization serving the minority-language community of English-speaking Quebecers, ELAN strongly condemns the implementation of Bill 21 and Justice Michel Yergeau’s decision last week to reject an appeal from civil rights organizations to suspend this law. We support the newest actions of the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association who now seek to appeal the Quebec Superior Court’s decision.

We therefore join our voices in solidarity with the Canadian and Quebec organizations that have condemned Bill 21, including the Canadian Council of Muslim Women; Fédération des femmes du Québec; Justice Femme; the Public Service Alliance (MUNACA); the Quebec Writers’ Federation; the Council of Canadian Muslims; the Canadian Civil Liberties Association; the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA); and the municipal governments across Quebec that have declared that they will not enforce Bill 21.

Read the full statement below:

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Board strategic planning meeting.

ELAN celebrated its third year with more firsts! While this stage was still early on in ELAN’s development, our strategic focus turned to questions about the diversity and vitality of our membership. We wanted to know how we could be more effective in diffusing, promoting and improving the work and lives of our members.

To kick off the year, we hosted our first Schmoozer on Valentine’s Day in the single heated room at the Empress Theatre (in NDG). The schmoozer included a guided tour of the once-glamorous, long-abandoned, tragically-dilapidated, and bitterly-frigid shell of a theatre that community partners had ambitious plans to resurrect.

 

Schmoozer in Old Port: Elizabeth Woodyard (staff), Vince, Derek Yaple-Schobert, Sandra Belanger (staff).

Schmoozer in Bily Kun (Plateau): Sandra Belanger (staff), Anne, Erin, Valerie Buddle (who would become ELAN VP (2015-18), Stephanie.

As a great way for members to meet other artists in and outside of their disciplines, Schmoozers became a regular part of our programming. Scores of artists have initiated friendships and professional collaborations at ELAN Schmoozers.

We’ve hosted events around the province, including Quebec City, the Eastern Townships (Knowlton, Sherbrooke, Sutton, North Hatley), Morrin Heights, and Gatineau (Wakefield and Chelsea). Some of our most popular Schmoozers over the years have been partnerships with Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF), Quebec Drama Federation (QDF), the Fringe Festival, the Montreal Film Group and the McGill School of Music.

New office on the Lachine canal. Staff: Aimee Velle, Elizabeth Woodyard.

Office view of the Lachine Canal.

During the previous year, ELAN moved from a corner of Quebec Writers’ Federation office in the Atwater Library to a shared office at the Lachine Canal Complex, complete with sparkling views of passing pleasure craft and paddling kayaks.  We didn’t get a lot of drop-in visits from members on the canal but the office was close to the McAuslan Terrace, which was home to many memorable schmoozers

A key strategic issue for us at this stage was securing ELAN’s stability as an organization. This meant thinking about funding and planning for the long term, understanding the capacity of ELAN’s staff and resources, and defining the roles and responsibilities of our board. With a growing membership, it was also important for us to develop a deeper understanding of members’ needs that would shape our services.

Between 2006-2007, we surveyed ELAN members to identify key areas of interest for professional development and the perennial need for artists’ access to funding. We developed an online job board, hosted Artist Talks that shared practical expertise, and collaborated with YES Montreal to offer business training and entrepreneurial skills for young artists. In October of 2007, we hosted a day-long Grant Writing Workshop that was organized with Canada Council and was attended by 100 people.

Launch of the Arts Services Kit.

It was clear that ELAN could become a valuable resource for members by making documents, guides and research widely available for English-speaking artists in Quebec. We made workshop notes from the Canada Council grant writing workshop available to the public, and constructed an Arts Services Kit (ASK) that was incorporated into our website. Over the years, we have continued to share guides and tool-kits through our Documents archive, a small sample of which includes the Getting Media Attention Workshop Summary (2015), ACCORD Artists Toolkit (2016), the Visual Arts Market Access Panel Summary (2016).

Based on interviews and focus groups with ELAN members and allies, we produced a Strategic Plan that would guide our programming and identify key areas of concern for artists in Quebec, which, in 2019, continue to guide our work. We wanted to ensure that the French-speaking community saw us as a partner in the creation and promotion of the arts in Quebec. We understood that there was important work to do in strengthening the ties between arts and education⁠—work that would lead to successful projects like ACE Initiative and Artists Inspire Grants.

One of ELAN’s major roles was, and continues to be, to give a clear voice to the concerns of our members and to be a catalyst for promoting multicultural and multidisciplinary exchanges. ELAN has been a member of the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) since 2005. Along with the QDF, ELAN has promoted artists and the arts as an important part of the English-speaking community. QCGN played an instrumental role in helping ELAN write to major applications that would result in Recognizing Artists, Enfin Visible! (RAEV).

During 2006-07, ELAN’s Advocacy Group prepared briefs for the reorganization of le Conseil des arts de Montréal, the Standing Committee of the CBC, the Standing Committee on Official Languages, and the CRTC. ELAN was increasingly approached by government bodies to give the English-language arts community representation in public consultations where our community was previously unrepresented.

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

“Indigenous rights include Indigenous language rights. Indigenous languages are irreplaceable foundations for individual, community and Nations’ identity, sense of belonging to a place, and well-being.”

Via Kanehsatake Voices / Kanehsatà: ke Kontinónstats ne Kanien’kéha (Mohawk Language Custodian Association, Inc.)

MLCA Position on Quebec’s Indigenous Cultural Policy (2016)

 

This year marks the United Nations’ observance of the International Year of Indigenous Languages. As we in turn mark National Indigenous Day today in Canada, we’re thinking about the weight and cultural essence of language. The National Inquiry’s MMIWG Final Report, released earlier this month, recognized that assaults on Indigenous cultures were “the starting points for other forms of violence Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people experience today.” The National Inquiry found that the most appropriate term to encompass the breadth of violence imposed by the Canadian state on Indigenous peoples was indeed genocide. The Truth and Reconciliation Committee had also reported,

 

“It seems logical to conclude that Canada’s actions in forcible transferring Aboriginal children from their racial group to another in order to eliminate or destroy their cultures and languages – and therefore their racial group – could at least amount to a legal wrong cognizable in Canadian law because of Canada’s acceptance of it as a legal wrong in international law.”

 

With Canada’s acknowledgement of the magnitude of the state’s colonial violence and its generational impacts, grows the urgency for cultural revitalization. Language shapes our essential world-view and our understanding of the impacts of human activities. It is intrinsic to forming identity. How do different languages change the ways we understand our own experiences? What do our languages permit us? What do we not see because we lack the words?

 

“English doesn’t give as many tools for incorporating respect for animacy. In English, you are either a human or a thing. Our grammar boxes us in by the choice of reducing a nonhuman being to an it, or it must be gendered, inappropriately, as a ‘he’ or a ‘she’. Where are our words for the simple existence of another living being?

One afternoon, I sat with my field ecology students by a wiikwegamaa and shared this idea of animate language. One young man, Andy, splashing his feet in the clear water, asked the big question. “Wait a second,” he said as he wrapped his mind around this linguistic distinction, “doesn’t this mean that speaking English, thinking in English, somehow gives us permission to disrespect nature? By denying everyone else the right to be a person? Wouldn’t things be different if nothing was an ‘it’?”

From Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

 

During our State of the Arts Activation Conference this past February, we heard from Nadine St-Louis (Executive Director of Sacred Fire Productions) who led a teach-in, “From theory to practice: reclaiming Indigenous narratives within colonial spaces”. Nadine spoke of a shift in awareness of both the contemporary colonial history of Canada and the histories of First Nations before colonization. An essential thread of hope and progress is the resurgence of Indigenous voices reclaiming the stories and languages that are integral to this land.

 

“Making room for the use of Indigenous languages is forward-thinking.” Nadine St-Louis.

Indigenous Women’s Turn to Take the Talking Stick

“By highlighting the richness of Indigenous languages as a means of expressing living cultures, the FNQLSDI hopes to contribute to strengthening a sense of belonging and pride among First Nations people, young and less young.”

 

In response to an audience question on the connections between colonization and climate-change, Nadine St-Louis said, “The Indigenous worldview is: land, community, family. You as an individual are at the bottom. Capitalism and colonialism is the reverse. Money, me-myself-and-I, and the land at the end. … The most important ethic is your responsibility to the land. We need to change how we view wealth, how we invest, how we do ‘development’.”

 

We recommend: Turtle Island Reads

The Turtle Island Reads initiative is a partnership between CBC Montreal, LEARN, Quebec Writers’ Federation, CODE NGO and McGill Faculty of Education as well as McGill University’s Social Equity and Diversity Education Office.

 

In 2006, ELAN’s second year in existence was one of significant growth and strategic partnerships. Our emerging place on the web began with the creation of our first website with funding from Canadian Content Online. This way, we were able to create space to spotlight our community of members by adding the Artist’s Showcase and the Events Calendar. The Artists’ Showcase has now evolved into our Member Directory, and the ELAN Events Calendar has grown to include our new Community Calendar, which showcases member-submitted events!

We also published the first issue of ELANews, which today has roughly 2500 subscribers. The first edition was published by our then part-time staff member Nadia Myre. Nadia has since gone on to become an award winning visual artist and in 2019 was appointed a companion in l’Ordre des arts et des lettres du Québec (joining ELAN’s Executive Director Guy Rodgers, who was appointed in 2015).

(Left to right: MAAP II team:  Louise Campbell (who became ELAN’s vice-president 12 years later), Simon Wayland, Jonathan Lindhorst  and Sarah Wendt)

ELAN’s MAAP (Minority Anglophone Artists Projects) I & II

During its first year, ELAN worked in close partnership with our sister organizations, the Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF), the Association of English-Language Publishers of Quebec (AELAQ), and the Quebec Drama Federation (QWF). These close partnerships allowed us to quickly understand the landscape for English-speaking artists in literature and theatre, but we had no formal connections to other artistic disciplines.

ELAN’s first projects were focused on research to find out: how many English-speaking artists were living and working in Quebec, what they knew about resources available to them, and what additional support they desired. MAAP 1 (2006) examined Visual Arts, and MAAP II (2007) examined Music and Dance.

(ELAN members in working groups at AGM held at Kola Noté)

Le Regroupement des artistes en arts visual du Quebec (RAAV) was the official representative of visual artists in Quebec (in parallel to CARFAC across Canada). Many English-speaking artists did not know of the existence of the RAAV prior to MAAP, and very few were members.  RAAV was interested in knowing how it could attract and serve English-speaking artists.

RAAV served visual artists’ essential needs for equity, labour rights, and representation in Quebec, and give a voice to the unique needs of English-speaking visual artists in our province.   Working with RAAV was ELAN’s first significant collaboration with French-speaking service organizations.

Through this project, RAAV became a close partner of ELAN, electing an English-speaking visual artist to their board and planning its first ever bilingual workshops. We also helped them translate parts of their website, making the significant work of RAAV that more accessible to English-speaking visual artists. It is a common (mis)perception that language is irrelevant to visual artists. Contracts must be negotiated, grants must be written, information must be obtained and understood. All of these business activities require language skills and can be a challenge for English-speaking artists living and working in Quebec.

   

(ELAN members at AGM held at Kola Noté)

Some of you might remember the phone-calls we made during our annual membership drive this past winter, during which we asked you about your feedback and needs on ELAN membership. Back in 2005, we contacted over 600 English-speaking visual artists in Quebec to poll them on current activities, goals, aspirations, and obstacles. Of these, 140 detailed surveys provided data that would help us develop a better understanding of artists’ needs in the province, and shape a clear path of actions that would help our community reach its needs.


What were some of the responses to our MAAP surveys?

Some of the needs raised by artists we surveyed still resonate today. Here’s a snapshot of our MAAP Visual Arts survey:

Translation: access to translation services to make the work of English-speaking artists available to French-speaking audiences; employment and availability of English translators and revisors within French-speaking artist-run centres and institutions.

Resources: lack of affordable housing forces artists to live in their studios; artists are caught in the mandate to make a profit and can’t claim expenses otherwise; lack of equipment sharing.

Language: ability to network, participate in events, and communicate in French.


(Left: Staff members Guy Rodgers and Monica Majewski. Right: Staff member Sandra Belanger)

This was a highly successful project for us in ELAN’s early years. Our outreach sensitized the English-language visual arts communities of Quebec to ELAN’s recent formation and purpose. We also saw a rapid increase in our membership from 80 at the start of the MAAP project, to 150 by the end.

Today, ELAN’s community consists of over 350 members with 127 identifying as visual artists, some of whom you might find featured in our recently initiated Artists Illuminated blog! Building on the work we started in 2005, we would continue to work with the English-speaking visual arts community of Quebec through our Visual Arts Market Access project. The action plan we developed through this project enabled us to also apply these outcomes to the dance and music sectors. In the years to come, ELAN would see this cross-pollination come to fruition when we launched the Performing Arts Market Access project

Founded in 1981 by Rahul Varma and Rana Bose, Teesri Duniya Theatre is one of the very few culturally-inclusive companies in Canada. It is also one of its kind in Quebec due to our production of plays by visible minorities, First Nations, as well as dominant cultures.