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April 2012: Erika Beatty

Photo by Kathy MacCulloch

Erika Beatty, CEO Symphony Nova Scotia

Our featured member this month is Erika Beatty, Symphony Nova Scotia’s CEO, and recipient of the Canada Council for the Arts’ 2012 John Hobday Award in Arts Management (Mentorship). The award honours excellence in arts management with a $10,000 grant to allow the recipient to participate in professional development programs and be mentored by another arts administrator.  “I can’t express how honoured, humbled, and excited I am,” says Erika.

Erika will be using the award to take an 11 week professional development leave during which she will be mentored by Pierre Lamoureux of Cinemusica / Fogolabs, one of the top concert film producers in the world. “I’m really looking forward to learning all I can from Pierre and his team,” said Erika.

During the mentorship Erika hopes to learn how digital and emerging technologies are being used to capture and share the performing arts with Canadian and international audiences. She will be learning from Pierre how projects are handled from conception through business planning, execution, distribution and commercialization.

We caught up with Erika to pick her brain on how she sees the sector, the Nova Scotia Symphony and the CCA.

As arts administrator, do you believe in taking risks? Can we afford to take risks in the performing arts or do you HAVE to take risks?

We have to take risks, obviously. As an administrator I try to create a safe financial framework, which constrains artistic vision, but also help create conditions for sustainable success. So even if we cannot afford to hire a star soloist we want to work with, we should be thinking about work with a protégée, or an emerging artist and help them become a star of tomorrow.

How do you see the future for Symphony Nova Scotia?

We are experiencing a widening gap between costs, which are increasing (inflation), and public funding which has not increased (therefore being eroded by inflation) since 2007-08.  The increasing revenues from our Foundation (thanks to a successful Listen to the Future Endowment Campaign) are helping to bridge this gap, but we fell short last year and will again this year.  These are not dramatic shortfalls (less than 2% of our total budget) but the long term trend is worrying.

In addition, we are concerned that cuts to the CBC will decrease awareness in adult audiences at the same time that young audiences are missing out – education programs are hurt by higher touring costs and decreased classroom time.

We need to develop a fourth revenue stream (in addition to Earned Revenue, Private Sector and Public Sector).  I’m not sure what that is yet, but we’re thinking hard about recording strategies and how to engage the digital society.

How do you see the future of the Canadian cultural sector in general?

To be perfectly honest, I really don’t know right now. That’s why my mentorship with Pierre at Cinemusic in New York is so important to me. I have a feeling that we tend to be too inward looking, and that we are really missing the big picture.  I think we need more international interaction. We need to be talking to a global community more than we talk among ourselves, especially because we are such a young nation, and we are actively seeking new Canadians to move here.

Do you have any messages to your peers on the future of the CCA?

It’s unfortunate that the CCA has to be so preoccupied with its own survival at the moment that it can’t fully focus on the health of its members.  It feels like the CCA needs to heed the flight attendants advice and “put your oxygen mask on before you help others”.  But I do think that the CCA is on the right track, and that Alain’s national tour, the quality analysis and improvements in communications show that the CCA is responding to the voice of its membership.  I hope this is the start of a virtuous circle.