A little more than a year ago, the Metcalf Foundation collaborated with The Philanthropist to curate a series on the public value of arts and culture in Canada. At that time, we were keen to highlight artists’ voices and illuminate the potency and variety of the arts’ contributions to Canada. As long-time cultural funders, we also wanted to highlight the crucial role philanthropy could play both in augmenting remarkable work and in meeting pressing needs within the arts community.
Now, in the midst of the pandemic, there is a new urgency to the challenges facing the arts. While everything raised in the original series remains germane, the issues that now afflict many arts organizations have become existential. If they survive, what form their survival takes, how their art, audiences, and people adapt and shift, and whether some of what went before must be left behind, are some of the wicked questions imposed by COVID-19.
When The Philanthropist’s editors reached out for someone to explore what the pandemic means for the cultural sector, we were quick to suggest David Maggs. Last year, Maggs, artist, author, artistic director, academic, and broad-spectrum thinker became our latest Innovation Fellow. He began convening artists and practitioners across the country in a collective examination of the role and value of art in the 21st century. In his article Art, After Virus: Seven Questions for a Sector on the Edge, Maggs challenges us to see opportunity within the damage – to put aside nostalgia for what is lost for excitement at what might be gained by art and artists finding new ways to connect their vital gifts and contributions to some of our transformed world’s most pressing needs.