The Metcalf Foundation is delighted to announce the five companies selected to participate in the 2017 Creative Strategies Incubator (CrSI). Aluna Theatre, Canadian Opera Company, Toronto Fringe, Le Théâtre français de Toronto, and Young People’s Theatre will spend the next three years exploring strategies around engaging audiences and/or building communities.
“It’s our fifth year for this program and for the first time ever we will be working with one of Canada’s largest performing arts institutions, the Canadian Opera Company,” says Michael Trent, Metcalf Foundation Performing Arts Program Director. “To date, participating companies have come from small and midsized backgrounds. However, no matter your size, all organizations wrestle with profound questions around audience and community.”
Each of the five companies has identified separate projects to undertake. Some are interested in developing deeper relationships with underserved communities such as francophone youth, Spanish-speakers, newcomers, and Indigenous people. One company is concentrating on how to better serve people with visible and invisible disabilities. And another still is wondering how to take an underutilized space and transform it into a vibrant cultural hub. The critical role technology can play to expand audiences and create new communities will also be explored.
CrSI is designed to help professional performing arts companies both find and implement new strategies for addressing longstanding sectoral issues. While the focus of the research varies from year to year, the program’s overall mandate is to nurture individual organizational change and to foster a culture of shared learning amongst peers. At the end of the three years, each cohort presents their findings to the sector at large, sharing stories of what worked and, also, what didn’t.
Because the Creative Strategies Incubator takes place over a three-year period, it gives companies time to try out multiple strategies, quantify and qualify their efforts, and to provide support and critical feedback to each other along the way. For Trent the process is critical. “This allows you to measure, modify, and carry on.”
“We have completed two cohorts now and we’ve seen participants develop strategies that have been hugely successful. But this doesn’t mean that people should be afraid if things don’t go according to plan,” says Trent. “Just because something doesn’t work out, doesn’t mean it failed. Often what doesn’t work is more instructive than easy achievement. It can point you in the right direction.”
“Our 2017 companies all have completely different research questions, which makes for a really dynamic group,” says Trent. “Given the scope and ambition of their projects, we are really looking forward to seeing where they end up in 2020.”
Aluna Theatre develops, produces, and presents culturally diverse performance work with a focus on Latin Canadian and women artists. In recognition of the unique barriers, needs, and potential of the Latin Canadian community of artists and audiences, Aluna Theatre will develop three new artistic outreach ‘channels’ designed to engage its communities and grow its audience base in person, online, and on the radio.
The Canadian Opera Company (COC) is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the foremost opera companies in North America. The COC will look at animating their currently underused space, located at 227 Front Street East. In addition to becoming the home of an expanded Academy, this new cultural hub will showcase activity beyond the COC’s main stage. It will also allow the COC to mentor emerging artists and opera companies, and to develop new audiences. Targeted projects include expanding the COC’s company-in-residence program and delivering a more varied and robust calendar of events, culminating in an Opera Music Festival.
Producing two important festivals every year – The Toronto Fringe Festival and Next Stage Theatre Festival – Toronto Fringe has become Ontario’s largest theatre festival, welcoming over 105,000 patrons and over 1,200 artists annually. Building on their work to provide better access for deaf and disabled artists, the Toronto Fringe will continue to investigate ways to include people living with both visible and invisible disabilities, including producing signed videos, large print program guides, Braille, access to scripts, and signed, audio described, and relaxed performances.
Established in 1967, Le Théâtre français de Toronto is a professional French-language theatre company that produces and presents classical and original plays to Toronto francophone and Francophile audiences. Their initiative aims to meet the needs of a younger and diversified new audience base and, in particular, ethnically diverse communities, new Canadians, and Francophiles of all generations.
The oldest professional theatre company in Toronto, Young People’s Theatre (YPT) has been a national producer and presenter of theatre for young audiences, often partnering with other Canadian and international arts organizations. YPT’s initiative focuses on the research, design, and implementation of a program of community engagement with newcomers and Indigenous people, through a lens of cultural exchange and reconciliation.