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Pandemic in Western Canada: Francophone artists at risk

Francophone artists in Western Canada are among the poor relatives of the pandemic. This is the sad observation of four cultural organizations in Western Canada: the Conseil culturel fransaskois (CCF), the Francophone artistic group of Alberta (RAFA) and the Francophone Cultural and Artistic Council of British Columbia (CCAFCB). However, these provincial arts service organizations are determined to support artists living solely on their art in their fight against poverty.

Marie-Paule Berthiaume – Local Journalism Initiative – APF – West

Support the Franco-Canadian artistic community in the West

“The pandemic has caused a great upheaval in the way we do things”, declared at the outset the director general of RAFA, Sylvie Thériault. In fact, measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 have had severe repercussions on the artistic community, particularly with regard to the performing arts.

Digital broadcast of Sympa César’s show in Lethbridge, Alberta, August 27, 2020 Credit: RAFA

Although the structure of CCF, RAFA and CCAFCB and their respective mandates towards artists differ, since March they have all been active around two axes, namely support for the dissemination of artistic products and support for artists through regular and frequent virtual meetings. “Summer is a strong moment in the fiscal year for artists,” recalls Sylvie Thériault, who underlines the anguish experienced by many of them in recent months.

As far as possible, the commitments of these organizations to artists have been modified to ensure the dissemination of works already planned while developing new initiatives to support artists in the context of a pandemic. The RAFA has, for example, set up a series of web training courses aimed at providing its individual and associative members with tools on subjects such as clientele development, legal responsibilities linked to the distribution of an artistic product, management of rights. author and mental health. The RAFA also put forward the series of digital services, Visit’ARTS, scheduled until December.


The artists had to work harder

Sympa Cesar 2  e1599502274385
Credit: RAFA

“Funders have been flexible at all levels,” says CCAFCB Executive Director Jean-François Packwood. His organization was thus able to modify certain deadlines and even pay a few artists who were unable to present their works. Packwood confides that the upheavals in the calendar caused by the pandemic have inflicted a clear overload of work on some artists, especially in the coordination and promotion of events.

You should know that Franco-Canadian artists from the West have the particularity of getting involved in all phases of their career management. “It’s almost impossible to do everything,” says Alberta visual artist Patricia Lortie. “We often find ourselves caught in the management of all these details and lack the time to focus on a broader vision of our career,” she concludes.


Relaunch the arts and culture sector

Sympa Cesar 6 e1599502377206
Credit: RAFA

Many individuals and organizations from the artistic community during the lockdown allow free online access to their offers. “It is more and more difficult to make people pay for artistic content,” notes CFF general manager Suzanne Campagne, who is concerned for the post-pandemic economic prosperity of artists. According to her, the pandemic has amplified the already entrenched perception that the work of artists is a luxury item, which “brings us back to the old argument about the value of art and culture in general in the life of a woman. no one “.

Providing popular education on the reality of artists has therefore become a priority for the CCF, which is currently developing a series of 10 videos on artist profiles and their main issue, being an artist-entrepreneur. In addition, the Fransaskois organization is working on the production of 12 podcasts targeting their daily tasks. Suzanne Campagne qualifies as “phenomenal” the diversity of knowledge necessary for artists who self-manage to accomplish all the tasks related to the distribution of a product, a fact that many “underestimate”.

Redefining yourself for the future

“The public must be charmed again”, indicates Sylvie Thériault of the RAFA and “reassured”, adds Suzanne Campagne of the CFF. The latter suggests that the types of services offered by artists be redefined, in schools among others. The artistic director and choreographer at Foolish Operations in Vancouver, Julie Lebel, agrees. “The arts curriculum was completely abandoned last spring,” she explains. It asks francophone schools in minority communities to reintegrate the arts into their curriculum to promote “the diverse culture of people who speak French”.

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Credit: RAFA

“There will be shows and artistic and cultural activities, that’s for sure,” predicts Jean-François Packwood, of the CCAFC, referring to the start of the school year in September. He specifies that there is still a “big vagueness” as to the francophone artistic programming across all the western provinces. He adds that he wants to wait until the last minute before launching into the promotion of upcoming events. A new model for the distribution of works will emerge, that is, an event with less than 50 people paired with paid virtual viewing.