WORDS: TAYLOR BASSO
IMAGES: ARTS MILTON (PHOTOS BY SARAH ARFAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
The town of Milton, Ontario was one of several communities that participated in the Culture Days Innovation Lab project this past year. We asked all the Innovation Lab Partners to reflect on our 2017 research findings, conducted by independent research firm Maru/Matchbox, and to choose one statistic that helps inform their participation in Culture Days. Here, organizer Kaitlyn Webb Patience considers successes and areas for growth in Milton's Culture Days programming.
In 2017, from September 29 to October 1, more than 2 million Canadians experienced arts and culture via over 6,000 activities across the country. There was something on offer for everyone – but even by these impressive standards, the organizers of Culture Days in Milton went above and beyond. Over the course of Culture Days weekend, Arts Milton treated the community to 70+ activities for all ages, encompassing music, dance, theatre, fine arts, craft, technology, language and literature. It was a cornucopia of culture, and everyone was invited to the table.
Milton is a city with a population of over 110,000, and a strong taste for culture. “The arts community and all of its various groups are extremely supportive of one another, and very excited for the [general public] to get to know them,” says Kaitlyn Webb Patience. Kaitlyn works for Arts Milton, an organization that seeks to help make those connections: to bring together artists within the greater Milton community in the spirit of facilitating creative expression and cultural enrichment. Culture Days is critical to that mission: “Culture Days encourages participation and thus the participant can't help but develop an intimate relationship with the new experience.”
Kaitlyn has seen first-hand the positive impacts of these experiences. She has a laundry list of standout memories from the event, many revolving around families eagerly exposing their children to new arts, crafts, and performance activities. And the effects aren’t limited to local Miltonians – visitors travel from as far as an hour away to learn and participate. “In 2016, Milton Culture Days was visited by a young homeless man who travelled by public transportation to our city because he loves dance, and heard that we were putting on a number of performances during Culture Days,” Kaitlyn recalls fondly.
A critical part of organizing such a rich and comprehensive suite of activities is noting who’s coming out to play, and being reactive to that data. Kaitlyn was surprised by the national Culture Days statistics that indicated Culture Days events were more likely to be attended by individual adults than families with children, at a rate of 80 percent to 20. “We experience a very high percentage of families, and a low percentage of individual adults,” she explains. “We will always cater to families, but in response to 2016 feedback forms, one of our goals for 2017 was to create and host more activities which were adult oriented, or adult exclusive – such as upcycling, Latin karaoke, salsa dancing, and macramé.”
Milton Culture Days also attracted a large number of culturally diverse families, which is reflected in its 2017 program: “We made every effort to contact local cultural groups and we ended up with a great representation – including a number of South Asian activities. The South Asian fashion show presented by the South Asian Mommies of Milton group began as a small imagining, and turned into a very successful family oriented event. Mothers and children walked the runway together in matching outfits representing the various provinces of India.” Efforts didn’t stop there – events on offer for Culture Days 2017 included programming around Latin culture, Highland dancing, a kung fu exhibition, and ASL and Braille workshops, ensuring visitors got a true sample of Milton’s many cultures.
Though Culture Days 2017 is in the rear view mirror, Arts Milton stays as busy as ever. Its current initiative is The Friendship Project, which connects 30 newcomers to Canada with volunteer hosts from the community to experience arts and culture activities. That project runs until March, and then it’s full steam ahead planning for Culture Days 2018. In preparing for this year’s festivities, Arts Milton will balance observations at a local level, along with national data, to ensure the events appeal toculture-hungry audiences. Says Kaitlyn: “Regardless of what we think we know about local Culture Days attendees, having statistical data is important because it reminds us to aim programming in the right direction, and also to strive for more.”
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