Participation Guide

How to get organized and promote your events as part of the nation-wide Culture Days weekend.

To see our community come together in celebration of the various cultures was a dream come true for me. To have each and every aspect of our community presented and enjoyed was so rewarding.

Annie Wilson, Elbow & District Museum, Saskatchewan.

Life Drawing and Live Music, Kingston, ON, 2018. Photo: Liz Cooper
Life Drawing and Live Music, Kingston, ON, 2018. Photo: Liz Cooper

What is Culture Days?

Culture Days is a national celebration of arts and culture, taking place annually at the end of each September—we highlight thousands of free, participatory arts and culture events in hundreds of communities across Canada.

Visitors to Culture Days events can expect to get hands-on and behind-the-scenes as they discover the world of artists, creatives and storytellers. Read more about Culture Days and the other work we do as an organization year-round here.

Everyone can play a role in the Culture Days weekend. Event organizers hail from the full spectrum of cultural creators—from grassroots community volunteers and independent artists, to major arts, culture, and heritage institutions—and there’s always room for more!

Culture Days organizers all share one thing in common: a passion for community-building through arts and culture
Culture Days organizers all share one thing in common: a passion for community-building through arts and culture

Why should you participate?

Culture Days is the largest collective pubic participation campaign undertaken by the arts and cultural community in Canada. Every year, thousands of events are connected under the celebratory banner of Culture Days—communities large and small are united from coast-to-coast-to-coast to raise awareness, engagement, and participation in arts and culture. Over the weekend, we are all connected and empowered by arts and culture!

Culture Days organizers showcase the important role that arts and culture play in our communities year-round, and the real impact they have on the places we live and grow. In doing so, they also:

  • Strengthen ties within the community

  • Reach new audiences and access different promotional opportunities

  • Meet and collaborate with other artists or organizations to form new partnerships

  • Develop new skills, strengthen relationships with sponsors, and find new sources of support

There is no fee to register. If you have an idea for free, participatory or interactive arts or cultural events to offer during the Culture Days weekend, you’re already well on your way.

Sound like something you could get behind? Let’s make it happen.

It was the coming together of many cultures in one place to participate, celebrate and enjoy other cultures.

Lana Santana, Fort Saskatchewan Multicultural Association, Alberta.

Sutherland Hotel Final, Nuit Blanche Winnipeg, MB, 2018. Photo: Jen Doerksen
Sutherland Hotel Final, Nuit Blanche Winnipeg, MB, 2018. Photo: Jen Doerksen

Is your event eligible?

To be a Culture Days event, it must meet the following requirements:

1. The event is participatory

  • This means that your event must involve some hands-on or behind-the-scenes element; it should allow participants to play a part in the creative process or offer something beyond a typical audience experience. Need some participatory ideas? Consult our 100 Event Ideas list.

2. It takes place over the three-day Culture Days weekend

  • As long as the event occurs at least once over the weekend, it will qualify.

3. It is registered on the Culture Days website

  • This is how the public will find your event; register it for free here.

4. It must be free for the public to attend

  • There should be no mandatory cost for entry to any Culture Days event—this ensures that all events are open and accessible to the public. Organizers may choose to also have a Pay-What-You-May donation option for admission. Read more about our PWYM policy.

Fresh Beats Rhythm Parade, Wolfville, NS, 2018. Photo: Kyle Miller
Fresh Beats Rhythm Parade, Wolfville, NS, 2018. Photo: Kyle Miller

Registering your event allows you to:

  • Connect your event directly to thousands of others happening over the Culture Days weekend.
  • Tie your event in with the Culture Days advertising and marketing campaign, which brings in over 200 million impressions annually.
  • Take advantage of our new website’s geo-locating search and map system, which delivers your event listing right to potential audiences.
  • Get on our radar! We're always looking to boost interesting activities to the public eye, and the event listing is the first place we go to find them. Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and tag us as you plan your events! Visit your own Region's page in the top menu to find more social media info.

Creative & Cultural Exchange in Brampton, ON, 2017. Photo: Kevin Jones
Creative & Cultural Exchange in Brampton, ON, 2017. Photo: Kevin Jones

  • Link your events to Culture Days hubs—read more about creating a hub here.
  • Access special customizable organizer resources and templates only available through registered accounts.
  • Take advantage of other promotional initiatives available through our regional Culture Days offices. Get in touch with them to find out more about what’s happening in your area.

Culture Days in Richmond, BC, 2017. Photo: Jon Benjamin
Culture Days in Richmond, BC, 2017. Photo: Jon Benjamin

Culture Days Resources

Every year, Culture Days creates resources and tools to help you make the most of your Culture Days experience. Looking for ideas or promotional tools? Check out our Resources section.

Creating your own account will give you access to customizable templates (posters, postcards, buttons, online banners and more!) that you can use to spread the word. Find these in your Dashboard.

We also produce an ongoing webinar series highlighting issues, case studies, and best practices within the non-profit sector. Visit our Webinars section.

View this as an investment in yourself or in your organization. Culture Days is a best practices organization with time-tested experience, insights, tips, and resources to share. All of the information shared is transferable knowledge that will reap benefits as you move forward.

Russ Disotell, Brockville Arts Cooperative, Ontario.

Culture Days Launch in Nelson, BC, 2018. Photo: Three Owls Studio
Culture Days Launch in Nelson, BC, 2018. Photo: Three Owls Studio

Creating a Culture Days Hub

Culture Days hubs are collections of events that are connected geographically or thematically, where audiences can expect to find various linked activities and experiences happening over a given period of time during the Culture Days weekend. Through the hub registration system, individual events can be linked to one another to form a hub with its own page.

Our definition of a Culture Days hub includes those centralized, walkable locations that have multiple events happening, but also encompasses thematic collections of events that might be linked throughout a community. Some examples of Culture Days hubs include:

  • A downtown public plaza hosting a series of programs and performances over Saturday and Sunday.
  • A public library hosting many different events over the course of the weekend.
  • A Main Street that’s been closed for the weekend, hosting various events along a walkable corridor.
  • A self-guided studio tour linking rural artist studios across a region.
  • A Nuit Blanche-style event with installations covering a large footprint across downtown.

Lucky Girl Pop Up at Nuit Blanche Winnipeg, 2018. Photo: Liz Tran
Lucky Girl Pop Up at Nuit Blanche Winnipeg, 2018. Photo: Liz Tran

Creating a Culture Days hub is a great strategy to increase attendance and visit duration to your sites. Forming a hub not only promotes audience growth, but developing one also allows you to:

  • Form new partnerships with other community organizers. You’ll tap in to each other’s networks, pool your resources, and expand your collective outreach.

    Your Ward Exhibit, Guelph, ON, 2018. Photo: Ward 1 Studios
    Your Ward Exhibit, Guelph, ON, 2018. Photo: Ward 1 Studios

  • Optimize how you showcase the varied and dynamic arts and cultural activity in your area.

  • Increase the likelihood of attracting additional media coverage, VIP guests, and cultural influencers.

  • Develop networking opportunities and strengthen long-term partnerships with fellow arts and culture organizations, artists, community members, and advocates.

Hubs should have a minimum of 3 events attached to it through the registration system in order to be published. You can link your own events, or invite nearby events to join your hub. You’ll find more detailed instructions about registering your own hub in your Dashboard.

Pay-What-You-May Policy

Culture Days has updated its free admission policy to include a “Pay-What–You-May" (PWYM) option for entry to Culture Days events. In doing so, Culture Days affirms its commitment to free admission as a means to reduce barriers to access, but recognizes that producing a Culture Days event incurs expenses—PWYM offers an avenue for cost recovery for organizers while keeping free admission as a requirement for participation.

While all Culture Days events are still mandated to have free entry, event organizers can now publicly list that they accept optional PWYM donations for admission at events. It is expected that all proceeds collected by individuals or organizations through PWYM go towards event production costs, paying artist/presenter fees, or supplementing promotional or advertising expenses.

PWYM is not mandatory, and we strongly encourage organizations to continue to host completely free programming if they are able to. PWYM can never be utilized to deny a member of the public access to an event, nor can it be used to enforce ticketed entry.

So, what’s different? Not much. Culture Days events have always been allowed to collect donations, but this new policy allows Culture Days to be more publicly engaged in the conversation around admission and accessibility.

If you’re an organizer, there is now a check-box allowing you to list that your event accepts PWYM donations for admission.

We hope this policy update encourages members of the public to think differently about the value and impact of arts and culture year-round in their communities.

Happy planning!

If you have any further questions about organizing your Culture Days events, or if you want to bounce some ideas off of us, please Contact Us.

Library and Old Town Hub, Newmarket, ON, 2018. Photo: Kevin Jones
Library and Old Town Hub, Newmarket, ON, 2018. Photo: Kevin Jones