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An Intro to Municipal Cultural Planning

Tags: Tipsheet, Video, Community Organizers, Culture Days Tools, Collaboration

On April 24, Culture Days hosted Municipal Cultural Planning with Mirella Tersigni (City of Vaughan, Vaughan, Ontario), Matthew Thomas (City Proper, Toronto, Ontario), and Anna Whelan (Creative City Network of Canada, Vancouver, British Columbia).

For the staff of many cities and towns, Culture Days is an opportunity to coordinate arts programming that directly ties into their municipal cultural plan. The webinar presenters discussed their roles in cultural planning for Canadian municipalities and how Culture Days can fit in to regional arts and culture strategies.

Don’t have time to watch the full video? We’ve summarized Mirella, Matthew, and Anna's top tips below!

1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK

It’s important to take the time and do the necessary pre-planning in order to determine whether or not your community is ready for cultural planning. Embracing a broad definition and understanding of the community’s cultural resources will help to identify what type of cultural planning project is needed and what is possible. Does your municipality or community need a comprehensive detailed cultural plan? A specialized arts or cultural assessment plan? A cultural plan with a predominantly single discipline focus? If you’re new to cultural planning, Anna Whelan suggests reading-up on articles and other resources on the topic, such as:

Pro-tip: Still a bit unsure about where to begin? You may also find it helpful to look at other communities’ cultural plans:

2. LOOK TO THE COMMUNITY FOR LEADERS & CHAMPIONS 

The leadership for cultural planning often comes from within the community. Matthew Thomas recommends recruiting team members who are representative of the community’s diversity – be inclusive and engage the community directly in discussions about planning, methods, costs, benefits, feasibility and decision-making. A range of different individuals should be involved from the beginning, including: elected councilors, senior municipal staff, community leaders from both within and beyond the cultural community.

3. CONSULTATION IS KEY

Community consultation is an integral aspect of the municipal cultural process. From the very start of a planning project, a process for ongoing community input needs to be established and built into the work. Consider multiple approaches to consultation, such as: vision and strategy sessions, idea fairs, surveys and opinion polls, and/or citizen committees.

Who should be involved in consultations? In short, everyone and anyone who wants to be: residents and resident associations, community groups (recreational, sports, arts and cultural, social, political, environmental), youth, seniors, business/ economic developers, tourism, the media, multi-cultural groups, First Nations, government organizations, schools, the marginalized and vulnerable, etc.

4. FIND THE RIGHT FIT FOR CULTURE DAYS AND YOUR COMMUNITY

Incorporating a special discipline, project, or event, such as the Culture Days weekend, into your municipal cultural plan is a thoughtful starting point for both celebrating and safeguarding arts and culture in your community. Mirella Tersigni recommends finding the right fit for Culture Days and your community. For example, to combat the City of Vaughan’s expansive geographical layout, Mirella adopted a hub approach to highlight and cluster key Culture Days events and programs.

But, how did Culture Days fit into the City of Vaughan’s cultural plan? Mirella noted that Culture Days’ National model inspired a localized effort to connect different organizations and activators across the city. Culture Days is a great opportunity to foster new, creative relationships and to see what’s possible!

5. IMPLEMENT, MONITOR, AND REVIEW

Once the plan has been implemented, it is important to ensure monitoring mechanisms are in place to keep the strategy on course.  A plan that includes a series of measurable benchmarks provides a map for the future that can indicate progress:

  • How far have we come?
  • What have we accomplished?
  • And what do we do next?