Reimagined to engage and delight despite uncertain times, Culture Days 2020 was a year unlike any other. Extending beyond the traditional 3-day celebratory weekend, the festival morphed into an interactive and accessible 4-week run taking place indoors, outdoors, and online across Canada. While being safe and respecting regional regulations on social distancing and staying apart, our communities came together to celebrate arts and culture with virtual concerts, live shows, self-guided exhibitions, digital demonstrations, hands-on workshops and more. This page is a round-up of Culture Days 2020 highlights, including exemplary initiatives and can’t-miss programming, as well as shout-outs to communities that topped the charts with impressive rosters of events and activities.
With additional expanded initiatives by Alberta Culture Days and Les Journées de la culture in Québec, over 5,000 arts and culture experiences were offered in nearly 500 cities, towns, reserves, and rural areas across the country!
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the various regulations put in place across the country, the definition of what constitutes a Culture Days Event was expanded in 2020. Organizers had the option to develop traditional In-Person events (if it was allowed in their municipality), move online with Livestreams and Digital Recordings, or create Self-Guided activities for the public to participate in at their own pace.
You can still access hundreds of digital programs here.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians believe that arts & culture benefits them in the following ways:
Communities with the most events in 2020
*Please note: 2020 celebrations in Alberta took place starting September 1st, in alignment with Alberta’s Month of the Artist. As such, total events in Alberta are not reflected in the above.
Highlights from across the country
BC Culture Days officially kicked-off the 2020 celebrations with a virtual launch hosted by the City of North Vancouver, and featuring an exciting lineup of BC artists and creatives.
Back for another year with a talent-laden roster, the Ambassador Program invited five emerging artists from BC to present a community-based art project for Culture Days. Meet the BC Culture Days 2020 Ambassadors!
I like making castles because I imagine that there is magic there, and they are strong and beautiful. I like thinking of all the things that happened there, and in the forests around them, and fairy tales. I like the pink sunset, the power in the sun and the light.
-Susie Meredith, Artist from Indefinite Arts
Overflowing with arts and culture to share, Alberta Culture Days began on September 1st, running in tandem with the province’s Month of the Artist, and showcased many great projects. Susie Meredith’s work was a part of cSPACE King Edward’s 20/20 Wavelength exhibition—an exciting multi-disciplinary art show that asks and answers, “What Matters Now?”—featuring music, dance, visual art, and video from local Alberta artists.
With over 1,000 activities and events from more than 70 communities across the province, Ontario had an exemplary 4-week run of Culture Days. Tune in to their Festival Rewind video below to see some incredible highlights.
Ontario Culture Days worked with the Sault Ste. Marie Indigenous Friendship Centre (IFC) and the Art Gallery of Algoma to produce a fashion show and photo shoot featuring the Ribbon Shirts and Skirts made by members of the IFC. Learn more about the program: Ayaangwaamazin – “Be Determined, Be Careful” Anishinaabe Resilience Through Fashion and Design.
Find even more Ontario Culture Days highlights here.
What is Artful Isolation? This series was developed by Common Weal Community Arts as a way to encourage creativity and connection while observing physical distancing recommendations in Regina. Some of the activities featured include Haiku postcards, sound riddles, creative movement, DIY zines, and more.
Prince Albert-based Métis Artist Leah Dorion and her apprentice Danielle Castle held a painting workshop at the Mann Art Gallery for Culture Days Saskatchewan where participants created pieces inspired by Métis culture and values.
The Yukon Arts Centre promotes artists and cultural practices in the local community and put together another amazing series of activites for Culture Days in 2020.
Elder Margaret Douville is helping to keep the moose hide tanning tradition alive across the Yukon territory. During Culture Days in Whitehorse she invited participants to gather along the banks of the Chu Nínkwän for a riverside chat where she shared her journey tanning moose hides.
Culture Days celebrations happened across the Maritimes, from New Brunswick to Newfoundland.
Throughout the run of Culture Days, The Rooms organized a weekly concert series—a beautiful setting for listening to live music, overlooking Saint John’s harbour.
Nuit Blanche Winnipeg is a major part of Culture Days in the province every year, and again in 2020, even if Manitobans were unable to gather downtown for the usual overnight celebration. Art’s one night stand shifted to a month-long soiree with an array of arts and culture events made accessible both in-person and online.
ArtsJunktion took full advantage of the concept of self-guided activities, handing out kits for Winnipegers to work on from home to colour and collage on these drawings of Maribeth Tabanera dancing. Matea Radić then created a fun animation for Nuit Blanche, check it out here!
Together with our friends at CBC Arts, Culture Days asked artist Laura Dawe to lead a participatory Masterclass. Laura, who previously helped us get through the pandemic with her scrapbooking COVID Residency, challenged us all to put our phones down and pick our brushes up for a still life painting class.
Throughout the run of Culture Days, we encouraged Canadians to get creative at home. Our series of Creative Challenges presented the public with some fun self-guided activities to take on in their own space, like repurposing single-use plastics into artworks or showcasing your creative space with photography. You can re-watch all of our challenges in our saved stories on Instagram!
In September, Culture Days and CBC Toronto hosted “State of the Arts: Impacts of 2020”—a panel discussion examining how the Canadian arts sector has been upended by COVID-19, confronted by calls for greater inclusion and equity, and presented with opportunities in recovery as the industry faces new futures. Hosted by Ismaila Alfa and featuring a panel of industry leaders. Watch the panel below:
Unexpected Intersections Blog Series
In 2020 we produced a special blog series featuring writers and creatives from across Canada with stories that both highlight and celebrate Culture Days’ 2020 theme of Unexpected Intersections. Explore these intersections below:
- Theatre x Sport: Until the Lights Go Out by Taylor Basso
- Indigenous Storytelling x Digital Media: “People are Finally Listening”–Indigenous Animation Rises Up by Chris Robinson
- Academia x Creativity: Building 21: Make zines, not research papers by Greta Rainbow
- Poetry x (Natural) Environment: Listen to the River: An Ode to the Columbia River by Saba Dar
- Teahouse x Activism: Chinatown’s Living Room: The gathering place for a budding activist community by Anto Chan
- Traditional Craftsmanship x Youth Outreach: At the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, They Build More Than Boats by Aleen Leigh Stanton
- Visual Arts x Science: What happens when you mix an artist, a scientist and a very bright light? by Vivian Orr
- Book Clubs x Digital Landscapes: Strangers and Fiction by Anne Logan