Written by: Johanne Tremblay
Edited by: Lara Evoy
Mount Allison University is located in Sackville, a small but vibrant community with a population of 5,500, located in southeastern New Brunswick. The town was designated “Cultural Capital of Canada” in 2008, and has a rich Mi’kmaq, Acadian and Loyalist heritage, which co-exist alongside the contemporary arts.
In 2010, Dr. Rosemary Polegato, Professor of Commerce at Mount Allison University, developed her first Culture Days project entitled “Everyday Expressions,” an original endeavour that engages Sackville businesses, residents and university students.
Culture Days in Sackville, New Brunswick
Established in 1839, Mount Allison University has the oldest university art gallery in Canada, and is considered to be one of Canada's top undergraduate universities. Approximately 2,500 students join its ranks every year to pursue their post-secondary education in Arts, Commerce, Fine Arts, Music and Science.
The Culture Days activity organized by Dr. Polegato takes Mount Allison students off campus to meet with the residents of Sackville in community spaces by connecting the student projects with local businesses. Student artists and performers are invited to showcase their creativity during an event organized by Commerce students at ten business venues in downtown Sackville: Fog Forest Gallery, Jean Coutu, Joey’s Pizza & Pasta, Mel’s Tea Room, Canada Post, Royal Bank, Save Easy, Scotiabank, Tidewater Books, and the Salvation Army Thrift Store.
Students report people dancing to the music or parking to linger within earshot. I have encountered people choosing strategic locations on park benches. Employees of the participating businesses also very much enjoy the events,” says Dr. Polegato
The concept, as described by Dr. Polegato, is “to provide a context for student artists and performers to share their talent and creativity with the people of Sackville as they shop, eat, do their banking, and pick up their mail.”
The projects are implemented within an Arts and Culture marketing course, offered by the Commerce Department, which starts in September every year. They are perceived as a novel way to foster cultural engagement at the local level and have received positive media attention locally, provincially, and nationally.
The course brings together Commerce students and students from the Departments of Drama, English, Fine Arts, and Music. Professionals are also invited to join in. The goals of the course are to build a sense of leadership, an appreciation of culture and an understanding of business as it relates to both: “to know how the sector works, to appreciate the roles of artists and their agents, to advocate for arts education in their future communities, and so on.”
Click on the video link to listen to Dr. Polegato present the projects she developed for Culture Days in New Brunswick:
Financial and institutional partners also contribute to the event’s success, such as the Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies, the Marjorie Young Bell Fund, Renaissance Sackville, and the Departments of Drama, English, Fine Arts, and Music at Mount Allison University.
To this group, Dr. Polegato emphasizes the contributions of the Culture Days national office, the Culture Days New Brunswick Task Force and national sponsors as the projects “tap into their goals for awareness, accessibility, participation, and engagement of all Canadians in arts and culture.”
Culture Days is such a wonderful context in which to learn! My course is about Arts and Culture Marketing, but I can see wonderful projects being developed in Anthropology, Canadian Studies, Sociology, the sciences… actually any discipline depending on the learning desired,” says Dr. Polegato.
The Culture Days Project in Action
Each year, students create a unique event under the Culture Days umbrella. Entitled Everyday Expressions (2010), infus10ns (2011), and infinite (2012), projects were organized and implemented by the students themselves. A project will also be developed in 2013.
Dr. Polegato recruits the volunteer artists and performers through the heads of the Departments of Drama, English, Fine Arts, and Music at Mount Allison University in order to put together an “amazing line-up” of creative talent. Furthermore, she explains that all marketing and planning required for the event is the students’ responsibility.
The Culture Days Projects present a context for experiential learning, that is, learning by doing. The events are real; the artists and performers are real; the money is real. Issues are real: how to protect the integrity of the art, what censorship is, that we are not censors, how to engage the community, etc.,” explains Dr. Polegato.
How does it work?
The students in the Arts and Culture marketing course collaborate across four work pods to plan, design, and implement the project:
- Media pod
- Marketing Communications pod
- Operations pod
- Production Management pod
Students take on the responsibilities of one of the four work pods. Students within each pod designate a coordinator to ensure good communication among the pods, and between the professor and the pods. Two of the groups, the Media and Marketing pods, approach community partners and work with local businesses.
Click on the video link to watch the students developing their projects:
This project builds students’ capacity to organize arts and cultural events in their present and future communities,” notes Dr. Polegato.
Dr. Polegato receives funding from several university and local sources. Funders are acknowledged on promotional materials such as posters and banners. A budget of around $1,000 is provided to students to be spent at their discretion, with regular reports to Dr. Polegato and the entire project group.
Students learn about promotion, timelines, budgets, unique needs of the arts and cultural sector, community values, municipal by-laws, corporate restrictions, public interaction, and so on,” says Dr. Polegato.
With a few minor exceptions, all expenditures are made in Sackville. According to Dr. Polegato, a budget is necessary for the project to succeed; the students learn about budgeting processes in an arts sector context. The following expenditures were made in 2012:
|Gift certificates for presenting students, Atlantic Save Easy||
|Printing (e.g., posters, stickers, programs/maps), MTA Bookstore||
|Sackville Tribune ad (Thank you to businesses & sponsors), Sackville Tribune Post||
|Billboard Sign (space rental), Town of Sackville||
|Supplies (e.g., stickers, chalk, tape, t-shirt supplies)||
|Banner Stuart Ryan (student)||
Students not only experience how to allocate funds; they also learn to interact with each other for “asks” for specific activities, to realize the value of each dollar spent, and to monitor expenditures. They interact with vendors, take responsibility for receipts, and learn to spend as a reflection of community values (for example, shop local, recycle, etc.). Virtually all expenditures are made in Sackville,” explains Dr. Polegato.
The project also provides valuable practical skills that allow students to be hired for jobs or internships following their Culture Days experience.
Communities are classrooms where one can best learn lessons about identity, citizenships, and stewardship,” says Dr. Polegato.
The projects “bring the town and campus together in a positive way,” says Dr. Polegato, “especially because we take the events to the community, not the other way around.” Through the Culture Days projects that she has developed, Dr. Polegato aims to train new leaders in the cultural sector, and hopes that students will bring that “can-do attitude” to future commitments.
Dr. Polegato believes that by participating in the projects, students learn “that they are able to build a connection and make these things work. They can make a big contribution to arts and cultural activities and even to the values of engagement in their small community.” She would like to see other Provincial Task Forces across Canada encourage local universities and schools to develop projects for Culture Days in their communities. She is also an advocate of building relationships between the arts and culture and local businesses. Based on her experience in Sackville and on what she knows is possible to accomplish in a small community, Dr. Polegato exclaims that this would be “truly awesome.”
What inspiring projects do you see in your community that bring together education and cultural engagement?
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