No story is complete without a few exciting twists and turns. While our path has shifted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, one thing has helped us steer true: our commitment to keeping communities at the heart of ArtsPond and our digital justice effort, DigitalASO. In Part 1 of the DigitalASO Story, So Far (Pandemic Aftertimes), DigitalASO Equity Manager Parul Pandya and Founder Jessa Agilo share thoughts on the impacts of the pandemic on equity, accessibility, and inclusion in the evolution of this transformative national project.
So far, the story of DigitalASO has been a journey, like that of a burgeoning river winding freely, yet purposefully, across a wide and ever evolving landscape.
It is hard to ignore the extraordinary realities that the arts and culture industry are faced with. For many of us, the unknowns, and the necessities to remain open to unexpected changes, transitions, and adaptations continue to shift and grow. This is especially true for DigitalASO.
Due to the ripple effects of the pandemic, what was initially envisioned as a community-engaged effort in both real and virtual communities has morphed into a digital project run entirely by individuals in their home offices across Canada.
Ironically, this necessary shift has helped foster stronger human ties between the DigitalASO team and the communities we serve. While it has been challenging to accommodate the realities of this “aftertimes”, or “new not normal” (Ukai Projects), in retrospect the pandemic actually helped our team come closer together and foster a more accessible approach to shared, collective understanding.
We are also grateful for the magnitude of talent and experiences shared by DigitalASO regional representatives for Phase 2, including Jai Djwa (Western Canada), Inga Petri (Northern Canada), Cate Proctor and Perry Voulgaris (Ontario). The operations team has truly guided the way, including Jessa Agilo and Margaret Lam (Co-Founders), Jean Macpherson (National Manager, Anglophone Canada), Lynn Briand (National Co-Manager, Francophone Canada), Parul Pandya (National Equity Manager), Cynthia Lickers-Sage (Indigenous Lead), and Megan Wilk (Associate Producer).
As a team, we are all committed to acknowledging and responding to the impact of the pandemic and racial injustice, highlighted by Black Lives Matter and relations with Indigenous communities. These are large and impacts that require space and must be urgently and tirelessly considered and changed for the better. Situating a vision for equity and inclusion at the heart of DigitalASO, the question we ask ourselves is how might we take the lessons learned to better advocate and further the interests of equity-seeking communities and artists in the digital age?
To help pursue needed systemic change related to equity, DigitalASO strives to:
- Encourage on-going learning to build cultural competence for both staff and community
- Improve the cultural leadership pipeline by creating and supporting programs and policies that foster leadership that reflects the full breadth of those living in Canada, from coast to coast to coast
- Generate and aggregate quantitative and qualitative research related to equity to make measurable, impactful progress towards cultural pluralism more visible
- Advocate for public and private-sector policy that promotes cultural equity
We hope you will join us as DigitalASO offers a variety of virtual gatherings over the next two months to discuss timely topics related to digital. In a collaborative, practical manner, these sessions will prime you to foster a stronger local and national digital ecosystem in arts and culture. Each event will feature an artistic performance or interaction, as we strongly believe that artists continue to lead the way toward a positive digital future. Also, in these challenging times, we believe art can lift our spirits and connect us more deeply together.
Perhaps this journey leads to many destinations for DigitalASO. Currently envisioned as a Spiral Galaxy (please let us know what you think), we hope you feel welcome to join us and to learn and exchange meaningfully with those we meet along the way!