Fostering Connections Across a Vast Land





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Oct 31, 2019
by Claire Kidwell
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Fostering Connections Across a Vast Land

Newest YCI Fellows from Canada explain how the arts are a way to bridge distances and cultures in their isolated communities From left: Micheal Prosserman, Daniel Rumbolt, Katie Green, Frances Koncan, Alison Uttley. (Photo: Claire Kidwell)

There’s more to Canada than maple syrup and “nice people.” That’s one of the messages Canadian participants wanted to put across at this year’s program of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators.

“The diversity, the connection that can be made through the arts, I think gives relationship and understanding to the super diverse and super expansive cultural practices that now exist within Canada. And I don't know if that fully exists anywhere else,” says Katie Green, an artist and social entrepreneur from Montreal.

Green is one of five new recruits for the YCI Canada Hub, joining Frances Koncan, Michael Prosserman, Daniel Rumbolt, and Alison Uttley. All five were able to convene at Schloss Leopoldskron this year thanks to the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.  

Canada has a reputation for “niceness,” but it hasn’t escaped the trend of political polarization, according to Uttley, communications director at Business for Peace. Uttley, a Toronto native who now lives in Norway, believes art can be used as a bridge to forge connections.

“We have divides that are deep and part of this global trend. I really believe that art brings people together. It opens minds. It changes minds. I think it's essential in the current moment we're living in to do as much communication with each other as we can,” says Uttley.

The newest members of the YCI Canada Hub suggest division in the country exists both socially and geographically. “We’re diverse but dispersed,” agreed Daniel Rumbolt, a board member of Canadian Artists’ Representation from Newfoundland.

The whole group agree arts can bridge these communities spread across Canada by joint projects and initiatives. However, to spread these projects across all of Canada, they hope more Canadians can attend future iterations of the YCI Forum.

From the United States, there were 19 participants at this year’s program. Comparing the two countries, Rumbolt says, “If we're talking about scope and diversity in geography and place, Canada should have just as many representatives right now.”

Frances Koncan, from the Couchiching First Nation, often travels to Vancouver and Toronto working as an artistic director and playwright. She believes the focus is shifting towards celebrating indigenous arts. She says, “We're a really young country compared to a lot of countries in the world. And we're also a country that has a long history of oppression of certain groups of people that are only now being able to tell their stories and practice their traditional arts. So I think moving forward, Canada's going to be like a great hub for artistic expression because we have new generations of people reclaiming their history and pushing that forwards.”

Uttley says there’s interesting perspectives Canadians can offer and cites artists living and working in the Arctic as an example. She says, “I think the future of the Arctic is such an important conversation, and the art happening there as well. I think it's great especially for Canada to be part of that conversation. I don't even know how to get to the Arctic in Canada from Toronto, frankly, and it would be amazing to make friends with people from there.”

During the five-day program, participants had the chance to talk to other young artists and innovators from all over the globe. Green especially appreciated getting the chance to share potential solutions with other artists, and discovering they all face similar challenges in their own cultural and regional hubs.

“I think another really beautiful thing just about being here is that everyone's doing such different work, but in a creative realm. And I think that's super inspiring to be able to learn from other people and connect with other people that are doing things totally differently. But even with the same kind of core values and with the same kind of love,” says Green.

The YCI Forum fosters creative innovation and social entrepreneurship to shape a better world. Positive social change and leadership development were key themes this year, and got the Canadians thinking about what they could do globally and within their own borders.

Michael “Piecez” Prosserman, CEO of EPIC Leadership xChange, says, “I think to me it's actually less about creating more things and more about going out of our circle in Canada because we are so far apart and it's a good excuse to sort of live in our city or in our community, which is hard to get out of…opportunities like this, I think, need to be more in places like Canada where you can't get on a train and go to another country like as you can in Europe.”

Rumbolt says, “We just spent 20 minutes talking about the isolation and the issues and transportation in Canada and the fact that the five of us are from five completely different places and we ended up in Austria together is pretty incredible, and something that needs to be commended and fostered. And it needs to be something that people are excited to talk about and excited to support.”

The Salzburg Global Seminar Program, Cultural Innovation, Leadership and Collaboration: A Global Platform, is part of the Young Cultural Innovators Forum annual program. The program is held in partnership with Adena and David Testa, Arts Council Korea, Arts Council Malta, the Bush Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, Japan Foundation, the Korea Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Nippon Foundation, Sheika Salama Bint Hamdan al Nahyan Foundation, Shalini Passi Art Foundation, and World Culture Open.