Streaming uncharted waters
ArtsPond was originally founded as a grassroots entity in 2014 with the aim to become a multi-arts Charitable Venture Organization or Shared Charitable Platform. Envisioned as a means to reduce the economic precarity of vulnerable creators and producers in the arts, this objective was initiated in response to Jane Marsland’s landmark paper, Shared Platforms and Charitable Venture Organizations (Metcalf Foundation, 2013).
ArtsPond’s provisional charity status application to establish such a platform was rejected by Canada Revenue Agency in 2015. While a clear regulatory framework to permit these types of entities to operate does not yet exist, the actions of the Arts Working Group, a cross-disciplinary think-tank, helped to investigate the future of Shared Charitable Platforms and other alternative models of governance in the arts.
This effort led us to dive deeper into the essential source that drives us and to rethink the relevance of Shared Charitable Platforms as a viable response to the complex forces that continue to inhibit the vitality of the arts. This in turn led us to the embrace the evolving potential of social innovation and collective impact, a collaborative approach to addressing complex social issues that now infuses each of our multifaceted actions on-the-ground and in-the-cloud.
Incorporated as a non-profit in August 2016, the first public activity launched by ArtsPond in Winter 2017 was the national digital needs survey, Managing Creativity in a Digital World. The results of this survey helped inform inaugural presentations of the Digital Arts Services Symposium in Fall 2017 (in Ottawa and Toronto, funded by Ontario Arts Council) and Winter 2019 (in Toronto, funded by Canada Council for the Arts’ Digital Strategy Fund and Toronto Arts Council’s Open Door Strategic Funding). It also provided an evidence-base guiding the incubation of Artse United, an emerging digital arts services platform supported by Canada Council for the Arts’ Digital Strategy Fund beginning in Spring 2019, and DigitalASO, a broader collective impact effort launched in 2018 empowering digital transformation of arts services through digital literacy research, education, platform- and alliance-building.
Our interests in digital first stemmed from the firm belief that one of the only pathways to make Shared Charitable Platforms a reality at scale to sector need was to foster a robust information system like Artse. Artse is essential, for example, to effectively manage the diverse datasets required to demonstrate the three critical elements that the Canada Revenue Agency requires to permit these platforms to operate: robust governance oversight, direction, and control; high artistic quality; and high public impact for every activity undertaken within the platform. Whether a potential Shared Charitable Platform proposes to undertake a small handful (or hundreds) of projects per year, the launch of Artse was designed to provide the types of administrative tools necessary to promote sustainability while providing the Canada Revenue Agency with a degree of confidence that may allow these platforms to emerge within our lifetime.
Beyond the digital world, Groundstory launched in Fall 2017 as a collective impact response to the rapid gentrification of Ontario’s traditional artist enclaves from Toronto’s Parkdale/West Queen West to Hamilton’s James Street North. Groundstory stems from the personal experience of ArtsPond’s founder living and working in the Queen West Triangle, one the most rapidly gentrifying areas in Toronto. Phase 1 activities feature a comprehensive research agenda including an international literature review, province-wide surveys, regional focus groups and cross-sectoral advisory sessions supported by Canada Council for the Arts’ Sector Innovation and Development, Ontario Trillium Foundation Collective Impact Fund, and others.
Driven by the COVID-19 crisis, ArtsPond launched I Lost My Gig on March 15, 2020 and COVID-19 Response on March 20, 2020. I Lost My Gig is a national advocacy and outreach support group for freelance and gig economy workers in the arts and other industries that have lost jobs and income in Canada and beyond. 5,500 members joined the group in its first 10 days. A national survey to capture impact stories and lost income is coming soon. COVID-19 Response is a national task force seeking to implement shared strategies that respond to and evaluate the impacts of COVID-19 across regional and disciplinary silos.
Like the first rains to fall upon dry ground, our story is constantly evolving and shifting course to salve parched roots and kin. As our streams begin to deepen and pool, we are striving to incubate a new kind of community bolstering the potential of diverse artistic creativity to flow and promote prosperity for all.
Join us and share the pondory.