Gallery 101, an artist-run venture nestled in the heart of Centretown, held a forum for the improvement of Ottawa’s arts community this week, introducing a project that could have a drastic impact on the way the city’s artists, galleries and cultural departments interact.
CARFAC Ontario, (Canadian Artists’ Representation/Le Front des Artistes Canadiens), an association of artists, for artists, led the forum. It was the debut of a three-year project called, Strengthening the Sector, which focuses on researching and developing resources for the visual, media and craft-based arts sectors in Ontario.
Kristian Clarke, executive director of CARFAC Ontario, says the project is about creating and maintaining a new standard of best practices to guide professional relationships for everyone in the arts industry across Ontario.
“Best practices is really about ways of engaging with cities,” Clarke says. “It’s about ways that artists can know there are standard ways of doing business with institutions.”
For Clarke, these best practices, if put into place, will promote fluidity and reliability in partnerships by making sure galleries pay standard fees and artists act in a professional manner by meeting deadlines and attending openings.
While these best practices can be instrumental in day-to-day interactions, Clarke says they also apply to larger-scale projects such as public art commissions. He offers the Lansdowne Park development as an example.
“(Had best practices been in place) some of the artists in Ottawa would have felt as though they were better consulted and better dealt with,” he says.
This project falls in line with CARFAC’s mission, which is to guarantee that artists receive ethical and equitable profits for their work. Clarke, however, says this project is about meeting with the stakeholders within the arts sector to avoid thrusting an uninformed, one-size-fits-all standard on artists and businesses.
That’s why the first phase of the project is entitled Mapping the Province and consists of getting to know the current process, engaging with artists on the ground and mapping the cultural aspects of Ontario. Cities chosen to be a part of the initial consultation includes London, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Toronto and Sudbury, all places Clarke says currently follow a handful of good practices.
Clarke says these new practices will ideally replace an uneven system with province wide standards. He says galleries or city departments need to buy in to the project for the changes to happen.
“If galleries start off and agree to them, they then say this is what we want as a basis for our relationship,” Clarke says.
So far, he says there is interest in Ottawa to commit to this project.
Laura Margita, director of Gallery 101, says it’s natural for the gallery, as a non-profit, artist-run centre, to participate in a project like this one.
“We’re a membership organization so we’re always trying to get new members or find out who is doing art in Ottawa,” she says. “We want to be as tuned in and helpful as we can be.”
For CARFAC, the next step is a follow-up survey to the forum held in Ottawa, which will lead to phases two and three of the project: Guiding the Province and Mobilizing the Province.