Sharing small plates
Time runs through me these past days, getting caught up on those crazy points of tension that I collect in various locations all over me, and still, lighting up moments of joy that catch me in the throat and call out: do it now! slow down! laugh more! be! just be!
I’ve been thinking about collaboration a lot. That’s not a surprise. It’s a significant part of my dissertation proposal and my day-to-day world. What is sweetly revealing though, is how much of it I see around me. Micro- and macro- and mezzo-levels.
Ah, mezzo. Especially mezzo. Isn’t that right? I was never fond of soprano voices, but mezzo-soprano – yes! Middle range, in the middle of things, semi-quiet (mezzo piano), moderately loud (mezzo-forte) or let’s say moderately strong, halfway to somewhere. Meet in the middle – where collaboration resides. Mezze – share small plates.
Missing something in the middle is what it felt like in late October, at the WIFT-Toronto International Women in Digital Media Summit, held in Stratford.
It’s been a while since I’ve been so fully immersed in an industry event rather than a scholarly one, or an arts-based event, and I ended up with mixed feelings about it. It wasn’t really about collaboration, but about the middling gains that women have made in the Canadian media industry, particularly in the digital environment (including games and internet-based initiatives). It was expensive for a student on a budget, particularly with travel and hotel on top of the registration fee (and why the hotel selected was a 20-minute walk from the increasingly charming and urban downtown, I’m not sure).
But. It was lovely to see so many women involved in the media industry – particularly so many with decades of experience and so many young women who want to be! Some of the senior industry women were too busy with their work while on-site (people to see, deals to make, emails-texts-tweets to do), while others made conversation and shared experiences. There was a pleasant combination of keynotes, with evocative stories (particularly personal ones) rather than grand inspirations – from Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post), Sara Diamond (OCAD), and Tom Perlmutter (NFB) – this article covers much of the same ground as his talk. Plus some highlights were offered from a study by CHRC and Nordicity about the discouraging retrenchment of the industry in terms of employing women and including non-traditional voices and communities. The media industry is a fairly conservative place: most predominant in Ontario and Quebec, and mostly looking at ratings and advertising dollars to see what’s been successful, then to anticipate where incremental change or risk could be taken. And yet, and yet. There were some intriguing moments, including those generated by a mini-surfeit of recent transplants from the west, and student volunteers from Toronto and Waterloo schools. Still – there was a disturbing lack of the “middle” group – women with seven to twenty years of experience. The implications are not good.
The iWDMS had some similarity to another middle-ground, meeting-place, symposium-style conference held in Halifax, organized by the Trudeau Foundation in November, which I also attended. Centred on immigration, this colloque gathered together most of the Trudeau Fellows, Scholars, and several of its Mentors (mostly high-powered political, industry, and scholarly folk) to discuss the state (or splintering) of the Canadian consensus on immigration. Bolstered by a recent survey conducted by Environics Canada that show how embedded multiculturalism and immigration are as day-to-day concepts in Canadian identity (as complex and unclear as those concepts seem to be), several presentations were made by leaders in several related fields. A few more – and smaller – discussion sessions would have made it feel more like a symposium, but the whole thing was organized to every last detail, representing a kind of negotiation in a particular kind of mainstream conversation about immigration in Canada.
Interesting to select Halifax as a location for this conversation. Despite its history as a gateway to Canada (as I learned from checking at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 some years ago for the ships my own grandparents came on in the 1920s, and by working on a joint CBC-Pier 21 television project called “Footprints on the Pier” in the early 2000s, which interviewed several generations of immigrants to Halifax) – it is not that well-known for welcoming immigrants, nor do many come here relative to other urban locations such as Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, or Vancouver.
Nonetheless, good to see the focus on founding peoples of this province – First Nations, African-Canadians, and Acadians, among others. And to see how surprised people attending the event were to discover this history. An intriguing place, this Nova Scotia.
Ah. And speaking of Nova Scotia – and sharing small plates with friends – something significant to chew on happened this past week in the arts. David Wilson, the Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage (a synchronous combination) introduced legislation on December 1st to establish a new arms-length arts board to manage the jurying and allocation of funding for artists, arts organizations, and related prizes and awards.
I’ve been involved with a number of arts organizations over the years, including the Nova Scotia Cultural Action Network, particularly its research group. A number of people in that group have been working pretty tirelessly for many years for this to happen – since the previous independent arts council was closed down by the provincial government of the day.
Arts reporter Elissa Barnard talked to three of them in this article, including one of the transition committee members who authored the report behind the legislation. Time for us all to share a few plates – and launch a celebration or two, for the arts.