I was invited by the lovely Vivien Leung to present as part of Pecha Kucha Toronto.
My presentation was about my imagined future for the Arts & Culture Sector in Toronto.
The format is 20 slides, for 20 seconds each.
This is my presentation, with a few of the images I presented:
My name is Jacquelyn West, I have lived in Toronto for 5 years. I love this city. I love biking in this city. I love the communities that I’ve come to be a part of. Above all, I love the energy, the multiculturalism and kindness of this city.
My day to day stretches across the worlds of photography, production and community projects. I look for ways for good work to find audience. I am motivated by and have made a career of finding opportunities to bridge art, commerce and philanthropy.
I am the Director of a creative agency that specializes in Photography, Motion, Exhibition and Community Programming. We work with brands, with artists and with philanthropic organizations we believe in to: take pictures, raise awareness, do good work and enable them to make money.
Our engine to do this is called Hermann & Audrey. We are Photographers and Strategists, and we all wear about 10 other hats on top. It brings together talented people in collaboration, not competition, to work together, support one another and create opportunity for good creative work. We create photography, create untraditional applications of art to encourage authentic brand engagement and develop platforms for fundraising.
One thing I’d like you to know about me is that I believe strongly that Toronto holds exceptional talent across many artistic and cultural disciplines. I see daily an unrealized potential for Toronto to develop a stronger, more inclusive Arts & Culture Identity and to evolve past needing external validation.
I think it should be our legacy, as Creatives of today, to come together out of the silos to collectively shape a more confident, vibrant scene that is uniquely OUR OWN– that supports local talent and pushes forward our status quo.
To be honest, I don’t believe we’ve truly considered the long-term implications of the fact that more and more extremely talented 20 and 30 something year old artists, creatives and innovators are leaving town for opportunity elsewhere.
Does anyone know amazing talents that have left our city because they felt that they got little love, made little money and that other places were doing it better?
Do we know creatives that feel they need to leave our city to get credibility?
I have. While our city has great institutions, programs and incubators, there is a growing talented pool of young creatives across many disciplines: art, fashion, design, photography, filmmaking, writing; that compete for limited opportunity.
Our city is great at fostering talent, training them, incubating them and yet we do not have a platform for collaboration, a rock-solid sense of pride and there is limited opportunity here within these specialized fields.
When looking at Toronto, we must recognize our barriers and work around them.
Foremost, our population is smaller, therefore the market is smaller, and there are less opportunities to go around
Second, we compare ourselves to markets that allocate way more funding, have deep public support and are hundreds of years ahead of us in the development of a vibrant Arts & Culture identity. And last, Toronto’s creatives are globally curious and will inherently look outside for opportunity.
So what can we do?
How can we be inclusive and innovative to define our own identity, further our pride without comparing ourselves or needing validation? Create an identity that we can believe in, feel a part of and opportunity to take part in, so we are compelled to stay or come back?
As an example, the independent music scene in Toronto has seen great maturity in the past 10 years. Co-founder of Arts & Crafts label expressed to me that he embraces Toronto’s ability to “support their own and realize a confidence that doesn’t need validation”. He sees Toronto as being at a special size; large enough for critical mass, but small enough that silos aren’t deeply entrenched.
What defines Toronto as unique from an arts & culture perspective?
What can we do to define this in an inclusive way across disciplines and silos?
How do we get buy-in and encourage pride and support?
Toronto presents some great festivals, events and incubators, however I am compelled to ask, would we accept a Brand-Titled Art Basel, or a Coca-Cola Olympics? Why are we not more protective that our talent stands forefront rather than allowing the stark commercialization of these showcases?
I wonder is our pride and confidence in Toronto’s artistic and cultural talent impacted by sponsors showing amidst designers at Fashion Week, or by enabling commercial brands creative direction of art showcases? Yes, in this climate, we need commercial support but at what cost to the community’s confidence in the authenticity and integrity of our talent. We can do it differently.
We need an injection of local support and ENERGY. We must stop comparing ourselves to other places. WE ARE TORONTO. We are rich with talent. It is our challenge to encourage and create mechanisms to develop a unique, stronger more collaborative Arts & Culture industry.
Hockey. Without question we are the best. We believe we have exceptional talent in this sport & are a international leader. Communities support programs and nurture the sport and talent. External validation has never been a pivotal indicator of talent. We don’t look to Russia for the next star, we look from within.
Imagine a future Arts & Culture sector across all disciplines that cared about elevating its game as much as we have in the past about hockey. Confidence. Support. Identity. Unity.
Let’s look to encourage the catalysts already in action, engage the brain trust to figure our how to accelerate Toronto to its rightful place as a leader and rich hub of Art & Culture. We can be Wayne Gretzky.
How can we get there?
Who should I be talking to?
Take pride in the vast talent this city has to offer.
Thank you for your attention.