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, communities came together to celebrate arts and culture through a variety of 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!
2020 Theme: Unexpected Intersections
In 2020, Culture Days invited event organizers and the public alike to view arts and culture programming and participation through the thematic lens of Unexpected Intersections—encouraging creative and outside-the-box thinking to reveal new avenues of discovery, learning, and expression. As we were all forced to face the unexpected, this theme inspired new ways of collaboration, interaction and communication through arts and culture.
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.
Whether online or in-person, Culture Days once again saw an amazing array of events in many disciplines and presented in many different types of spaces.
You can still access hundreds of digital programs here.
COVID-19 and the arts
COVID-19 had a huge impact on how we celebrated Culture Days in 2020 and has affected the entire arts and culture sector across the country. In order to understand this impact in greater depth, we used our annual survey campaign as an opportunity to ask Culture Days attendees, as well as the Canadian general population, how much and in what ways the pandemic has affected their participation in arts and culture.
While Canadians are asked to reduce their physical contact with others, online initiatives become increasingly important and have become the story of arts and culture since the Spring of 2020. Online activities have helped us access arts & culture in new and creative ways. They were a pivotal part of the Culture Days celebrations in 2020, giving organizers new avenues for engaging their existing audience while allowing them to reach new ones.
Throughout the year, the Culture Days blog allows us to explore different facets of arts and culture in Canada by bringing together different perspectives from across the country. In 2020 we produced a special blog series featuring an array of writers and creatives with stories that both highlight and celebrate Culture Days’ 2020 theme of Unexpected Intersections:
- 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
Media and Marketing Campaigns
Culture Days’ national media partners are Pattison, Cineplex and CBC. They played a major role in encouraging participation in a year where we had to adapt the ways we organized, engaged with and talked about arts and culture. The Culture Days marketing campaign delivered a total of nearly 450 million impressions.
As always, these efforts are complimented by local initiatives spearheaded by Culture Days organizers who make use of customizable marketing templates that include posters, t-shirts, tote bags, digital graphics and more.
Maintaining a sense of community online was crucial to our well-being more than ever last year. Throughout the festival, millions of people across a national digital network, participated, created and engaged together!
During the festival run, alone, combined online impressions passed 9.9 million.
Inspired by Culture Days activities happening in different communities across Canada, Culture Days introduced the Creative Challenges to encourage at-home participation and celebration! The challenges ran weekly for the duration of the festival through the hashtag #CultureDaysAtHome and invited nation-wide audiences to participate in a variety of do-it-yourself activities created in collaboration with organizers from each province.
- “Repurpose single-use plastic and make some art”, in collaboration with community-based group, ArtsJunktion from Winnipeg, MB.
- “Share a photo of your creative space” challenge with Arts Milton, ON.
- “Share those words, pictures, notes of support, etc. that have made you feel good throughout this challenging year” inspired by the City of Richmond’s Art Tour Challenge for BC Culture Days.
- “Pick an artistic medium and tell us what culture means to you” inspired by Prince Albert’s Community Chalk Canvas, Prince Albert, SK.
As the festival wrapped up, audiences across Canada had the chance to stay connected and engaged online through more interactive activities such as Trivia Tuesday, Mood Boards, and Did You Know. These continued to spotlight the incredible work the Culture Days network produces year-round.
Partnership with the CBC
In collaboration with our long-time media partners at the CBC, Culture Days presented some special programming leading up to the 2020 celebrations.
We 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.
We also wanted to further explore the impact of COVID-19 and a changing social climate on the arts. 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.
Culture Days webinars provide insight, skill development, and knowledge to help strengthen public engagement in arts and culture, featuring guest experts presenting current best practices and inventive new ideas. As we adapted to the new realities of 2020, the focus of our webinar series shifted to address challenges Culture Days organizers might face:
- Breaking Attendance Barriers: Why People With Interest Do Not Visit with Colleen Dilenschneider and Jim Hekkers (April 21, 2020)
- #GetCreativeAtHome: Get Creative Festival 2020 with Stephen James-Yeoman and Damien McGlynn
- Pro-tips from Our Peers on Going Digital with Neil Adams and Nadine Villasin Feldman—hosted by Meaghan Froh Metcalf, Outreach and Programs Manager, Ontario Culture Days (August 19, 2020)
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!