CINARS 2010: Exporting Canada's Performing Artsby Philip Ehrensaft
/ December 1, 2010
Flash version here
Since Canada’s modest population of
34.6 million people isn’t sufficient to sustain many, if not most,
members of its talented and well-trained performing arts labor force,
exports are essential for both the economic and aesthetic health of
the nation’s performing arts. With performance standards that stand
toe to toe with those in New York, Berlin, Paris, London or Beijing,
international touring goes beyond generating income for Canadian artists.
It keeps home artists and home audiences on their aesthetic toes.
The 14th edition of Canada's crucial
international performing arts trade show for promoting Canadian artists
to overseas presenters, and for our presenters to look at offerings
from abroad, unfolded in Montreal on November 15-21. The big biannual
event is organized by the Montreal-based CINARS (International Exchange
for the Performing Arts).
CINARS 2010 was a very ambitious and
exceptionally well-executed effort in the face of big logistical challenges.
There were 1,083 registrants from 40 countries; 27 ensembles performing
as part of the official programming at Place-des-Arts and Le Monument
National; another 103 “Off-CINARS” performances in venues all over
town; one week's worth of efficient shuttling of participants between
meetings and venues; meetings alternating between the exhibitor hall
with its 121 booths, and well-targeted panels in the performing arts
There was also enough deliberately free
time between worthwhile events so registrants could do the real meat
and potatoes of trade shows: networking, networking, and networking.
All of the above was done with a permanent
staff of only four people; another seven were added just for CINARS
2010, plus 35 performing arts volunteers during the event itself. The
approximate budget of $700,000 will generate deals worth considerably
The flawless organization of the CINARS
trade-show counted a great deal in terms of lasting impressions: Canada
is a good place to do business for overseas presenters. It’s just
the ticket that Canadian performing arts need, especially when 2010
could be labeled “the year of the Asians.” Chinese and South Korean
presenters were out in force, and that's only the beginning of what
we'll see from Asia's booming economies.
An important CINARS press conference
prefaced the big event on November 1st. It released a study on the impact
of the 2008 Federal elimination of performing arts travel and trade
promotion programs. A questionnaire sent to 244 ensembles and arts managers
generated a relatively high 25% response rate.
An estimated 175 Canadian performing
arts tours, incorporating 1600 shows, were canceled. Lost income from
canceled tours was an estimated $15.8 million. Four out of ten respondents
reported reduced foreign activities because of the cuts—and 47% indicated
future reductions were in store. The cuts caused fifteen percent of
respondents to reduce the number of people employed; 24 percent will
make future reductions.
Here's the most indicative figure of
all: for every program dollar cut from these two hitherto successful
arts export programs, the performing arts sector lost $6.30. Despite
initial promises, we've yet to see Tory replacements for the eliminated
Promart and Trade Routes programs.
CINARS continues this sad but valuable
research. All Canadian registrants at CINARS 2010 received new questionnaires
tracking the further damage from eliminating Federal support for Canadian
performing arts exports.
While joining the good fight for performing
arts to get parallel export support programs that are routine for Canada's
energy and high tech sectors, CINARS works to help companies identify
things that can be done here and now. Opening the first morning of CINARS
2010 were arts business panels focusing on new export opportunities
and the nuts and bolts of how best to seize these opportunities.
Robyn Williams, an attorney at FTM Arts
Law and author of the 3rd edition of the Complete Guide to
Immigration and Tax Laws for Foreign Guest Artists, alerted attendees
to recent regulatory changes that must be taken into account in dealing
with convoluted, lengthy and expensive American visa and tax laws. Download
the free PDF of the Guide at www.artistsfromabroad.org, and check the
site’s “news flash” section.
In the workshop “The Creative School
of Lobbying,” Athol Swainston-Harrison, director of the London-based
International Arts Management Association, decoded the complex arts
lobbying process in the European Economic Community. According to IAMA’s
GIG magazine, European arts have much to learn from how Canadian artists
mobilized against Tory cuts to the arts budget.
Four successive workshops focused on
discovering new export opportunities in Europe—new opportunities that
exist despite the fiscal and productivity crises that are hitting just
about every European country except Germany and Switzerland.
According to Colin Hicks, a British arts
manager who represented Quebec's cultural interests in the UK for a
decade, the seemingly catastrophic British cuts involved modest national
cuts on the order of 3% annually over five years for most arts organizations.
In the case of the film industry, an agency perceived as ineffective
was cut, with most of the money shifted to another organization. The
bottom line: don't give up on the UK arts market, the number one location
for international arts management firms.
Let’s not forget production values.
During CINARS, I caught standout performances like choreographer Christian
Spuck's Leonce et Lena, performed by Les Grands Ballet Canadiens;
Court-Miracles, a parable on war and empathy by the French puppet
theatre troupe, Le Boustrophédon; a magnificent physical theater version
of Woyzeck by the Korean Sadari Movement Laboratory; Gold
Mountain, wrenching multi-art theater about a Chinese immigrant
family in the UK, co-produced by Montreal's Les Deux Mondes and Liverpool's
Unity Theater; or the privilege of seeing Margie Gillis perform Threads
in her own studio.