National Director’s Blog
This morning the CCA issued a press release titled, The Canadian Conference of the Arts closes its doors after 67 years. I don’t need to tell you how difficult it has been to write those words down and how we have tried our best not to express them. But there comes a moment when reality stares down the most hopeful outlook on things.
It is seven years to the day that I was given the job of National Director of the CCA. During these years I have developed the greatest of respect for this organization and the incredible contribution it has made to the development of cultural policies at the federal level. How many times, particularly over the past two years, have I heard people say that if we did not have the CCA, we would have to invent it? Over the last 18 months we have enthusiastically embraced the challenge set before us by the government’s decision to put an end to 47 years of funding. We attempted to reinvent the organisation as an autonomous body, but as our Chair Kathleen Sharpe says in her letter, we would have needed two years of funding to transition to this new model, rather than the brief six months that we were given.
There were moments of great hesitation as to the merits of continuing our work, to go forward on the basis of commitments received to date and encouraging signs from our members, who confirmed that we were on the right track by renewing their memberships. Wouldn’t the simple act of giving up kill the possibility of succeeding against all odds? But when we stepped back and considered our chances of continuing past March 2013, it became apparent to the Board as well as the secretariat that it would be irresponsible to risk the funds that had been collected from public and private supporters to date. We concluded that the best we could do in the circumstances would be to leave the organisation in order, in a suspended state, in the hopes that a group ready to take on the challenge of re-launching this unparalleled instrument in the arts, culture and heritage sector would emerge.
We remain convinced the Canadian cultural sectors need an organisation like the CCA. We’re talking about a role as convenor, observer, and analyst of the major cultural issues at the national level. In the changing environment we find ourselves in, the Canadian cultural sector needs to pull together, to come out of our solitude, to identify common interests, and to develop strategies to pursue them. The team that you know is withdrawing, but we are leaving you with what you need in order that you may pick up the torch, in new conditions, like the phoenix rising from the ashes.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take measures to make this transition possible and to preserve certain key projects like the annual federal budget analysis that the CCA has been publishing for more than 20 years. We are putting an agreement in place with the University of Ottawa so that our provincial and territorial budget analyses from the perspective of the arts, culture and heritage project, which we were aiming to publish in January, sees the light of day and, if possible, continues in the future. We will be moving our important documents to the National Archives, which already holds much of our history since 1945. We will put in place a board of governors that will become the guardians of the organisation’s legacy.
We leave behind a glorious history, but also a promising future, as long as someone is willing and able to take up our work. It is this hope and desire for the sector that makes our departure less difficult. The cultural sector is one of creativity and invention: I have confidence that you will recreate a space that reflects you and brings you together in the future, a place that belongs to you completely, immune to the vagaries of politics, and over which you will be the proud champions.
To close, I salute you, and thank you all. This has been a great moment in my life, to work with you all, passionate, cultured people!