WORDS: Taylor Basso
The Bloor Street Cultural Corridor in Toronto, Ontario was one of several sites 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.
Heather Kelly, Director of the Bloor Street Cultural Corridor, was interested in how participating organizations partner together to develop Culture Days programming.
The last time we checked in on the 20 organizations that comprise Bloor St. Culture Corridor, “Toronto’s most diverse arts and culture district,” they were in the throes of preparation for Culture Days 2017 – polishing up at the Bata Shoe Museum, pressing the blouses ahead of the Estonian fashion show, and tuning up instruments at the University of Toronto in an attempt to break the world record for most bassists playing at once. Now, the dust has settled, and as expected, their collaboration paid off: Culture Days was a success.
“Culture Days is always an amazing weekend, [and] last year was great,” enthuses Heather Kelly, Bloor St. Culture Corridor founder/director. “The University of Toronto Faculty of Music's Bass Day was a big hit. It was awesome to see people having so much fun with the activities at the Gardiner Museum and the Bata Shoe Museum. The Royal Conservatory’s free talk and concert were packed, and they were all wonderful experiences for people. Everyone had a fantastic time!”
If it’s not clear from the roll call of organizations Heather listed, the Culture Corridor is intimately familiar with the value of working together. In fact, as a collective of organizations spanning diverse genres, disciplines and cultures, collaboration is a part of the group’s DNA. “Collaboration is at the very core of everything we do,” says Heather. “[It] strengthens our organizations’ individual audience development, our attractiveness together as an arts district, our programs and events, and the professional lives of our culture workers. By working together, we can [also] positively affect our attendees and our communities.”
It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that community organizers nationwide prize Culture Days as a springboard for collaboration. When asked if they felt positively about the opportunities generated to collaborate with other artists and arts organizations beyond Culture Days weekend, a combined 68% of organizers across Canada described themselves as either “very” or “extremely satisfied,” with the remaining 32% reporting as “somewhat satisfied.”
Heather isn’t surprised by this outcome: “Having the framework of an established event, with some public promotion and event-finding resources for the public makes it a bit easier for organizations to say, ‘hey, let’s do something together to be part of this great national celebration of arts and culture.’” From there, continued collaboration post-Culture Days becomes a natural endpoint. “One of the things that this [statistic] highlights is how much of an opportunity Culture Days can be to be the anchor or the spark to form new collaborations and to strengthen or augment existing ones, with an eye to continuing the collaboration in the future.”
As for the Bloor St. Culture Corridor, continued collaboration is inevitable. It’s simply the organization’s way of life. “As a network of organizations, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” says Heather. “The impact we can have together is greater than the impact we would have separately.” And she hopes that other organizations seize the benefits of working together beyond Culture Days. “There are so many opportunities to collaborate all the time,” she enthuses, noting that these opportunities simply require “some creativity, some goodwill, and some proactive action.”
Oh, and in case you were wondering? Yes, the University of Toronto did break that world record, as over forty bassists came together to play “The Elephant” from Saint-Saëns’s The Carnival of the Animals. Chalk it up as another victory for collaboration.
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