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Ontario Legislative Assembly Deputation Transcript

BPL speaks on the impacts of the pandemic on arts and culture and presents the ArtHouseTO project for consideration

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"Arts & culture" - Ontario Legislative Assembly, Standing Committee of Finance and Economic Affairs, June 30, 2020


Thank you to the Chair and Committee for providing this opportunity to tell our story.


My name is Andrea Battersby and this is my partner Geoff Doner. We are artist-producers embedded in Toronto's arts and culture sector for over 30 years and are  co founders of  Bureau Of Power And Light art collective, dedicated to positive social impact. 


We have all been turning to the arts to get through this pandemic. It has been our medicine, our escape and continues to provide means for us to process and digest the world in these uncertain times. When the world shut down because of COVID, we were all  advised by experts at all levels to turn to creative activities for our mental and physical well-being. Those of us that are privileged to have access,  have been able to take the advice, successfully ! The  elevation and distraction that engaging with creativity  makes possible, reverberates out to positively impact  families and communities.  


These creatives who enrich our daily lives and help us process crises, need to live somewhere, to experiment and build somewhere. Artists  need support to pursue their discipline optimally so that we can All benefit from the rich cultural landscape we create.  But Creatives face a paradox of society needing art but not valuing the human makers of art.


We have historically faced illegitimacy, accepting unsafe conditions in order to access affordable, architecturally appropriate work spaces. The communities that artists build are being dismantled without considering the value of the people and the successful cultural activities at work there. Creatives and other low-income folks are left behind when neighbourhoods are redeveloped without considering the invested inhabitants' needs or return, and we all lose out on the cultural heritage appreciated over years of successful relationships. 


Andrea- My own journey as an artist in Ontario includes 3 reno-victions. Hundreds of good neighbours are displaced in each instance of gentrification, and all those lines of inquiry, development of careers and new technologies,  are irreparably disrupted. The fruits of our labours are appropriated by others for profit while we have to start again.


Now, the abrupt isolation and energetic pivot made necessary by the global pandemic of COVID 19 directly affects all aspects of our art practice and livelihood, presently and into the foreseeable future.  The theatre, film, art exhibitions, mindfulness-based art workshops that comprise our professional practice are cancelled. 


Our processing Covid as artists led to ArtHouse you as a way for us as artists to process the upheaval of the pandemic and employ our creative energies towards imagining and visualizing a possible future.


The global shutdown has revealed and amplified the fragility and biases of many social systems and we need Artists to reimagine possible futures because that is what artists do. For example, Our response as artists has been to draw upon our unique toolkits and envision the most equitable, accessible means to honour communities historically neglected in Ontario,  to promote healing through arts and cultural engagement, and house all citizens. 


Informed by our lived experience of illegitimacy and precarity, and fuelled by our desire and duty to leverage our inherent privilege as white Canadians to promote equity,

ArtHouse provides visual focus for new dialogues  about how we collectively take care of each other.  


What we are proposing is piloting a convergent model of housing as a human right within a creative environment that provides culturally appropriate arts-based health and well-being.  Integrating expertise in Arts & Culture, Healthcare, Research/Education, and Affordable Housing is core to this aspirational art project.


SLIDESHOW here, commentary by Geoff Doner

1.Introducing ArtHouse!


2.These planview designs imagine architectural floor plans of an ideal place. 

3.Each colour represents a different facet of ArtHouse. For example as you can see on this plan view of the ground floor, Dark Red represents art Studio space and the residential portion, Light Blue represents Heathcare Orgs, Yellow programming space, Violet maker space/shop space, Light Green is a food market and eatery.

4.Second Floor with Live/Work Studios in Red and arts related orgs in orange, etc 


5.The process of developing these conceptual designs for ArtHouse has been very therapeutic for me. It has allowed me to focus my scattered energies in these uncertain times on visualizing a new reality that values Arts, Equity and Wellbeing. 


6.After building a webpage to illustrate the concept, we then began an Instagram account to intentionally engage artists, healthcare practitioners, galleries, educators, scientists, social equity orgs, and more to inform the pr=ject and to create a groundswell of support for the idea. After just over a month, we have over 500 followers and we are already making meaningful connections across sectors.


Examples of Creative Convergence Hubs do exist, notably Artscape and Mars in Toronto and Cotton Factory in Hamilton. These clusters have proven to be successful in many ways by providing opportunities for cross-pollination and innovation, demonstrating the strength of intersections as opposed to silos. However, despite the amazing work of these organizations and many others, they are not able to meet the needs of Ontario's creatives. And going forward, we must prioritize voices from Black and Indigenous communities, People of Colour and those who identify with marginalized communities in an intentional way when creating and implementing new innovative solutions. 


In Summary

Equity and Healing must be a priority.

Supporting the arts must be a priority in order for us to cultivate thriving communities. We need Creative Convergence Hubs For Community Health that centre on housing as a human right.

These are our Recommendations:

  1. Proactive Support for convergence between Healthcare, Education and the Arts that centres on housing as a human right.

  2. Embrace a VISIONARY future and support artists and creative orgs to meet the demands of new digital platforms

  3. Ensure Black and Indigenous voices are represented in every way possible

  4. Restore all funding to the OAC, and reinstate the Indigenous Culture Fund


Thank you for giving us this platform, we look forward to seeing how you address these recommendations.

Andrea Battersby & Geoff Doner

Cofounders of BPL

June, 2020

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