We’re flying the plane as we are building it

We’re flying the plane as we are building it

Nicole Milne

A message from the Executive Director to our members, supporters and friends.

On behalf of all of us at the Ottawa Arts Council, I hope this message finds you safe and healthy as you manage through these exceptional times.  Over the past seven weeks, our staff have been working diligently to ensure the impact of the current situation—and the recovery of our sector—remain an important part of the conversation at all levels of government.

Last week, I joined a call where Rachel Bendayan, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Small Business, offered clarity on the CERB funding and how it relates to artists. She began with the statement, “We’re flying the plane as we are building it.” As soon as the words landed, there was an audible sigh from the dozens of participants on the call. The statement encapsulated what I and many arts advocates have been feeling over the past seven weeks: balancing the importance of immediate activation while filtering through an influx of information on arts sector support that changes weekly, and in some cases, daily. And in order to lead responsibly, we are also pushing forward to develop plans to support the recovery of our sector despite no knowledge of when the isolation ban will be lifted. We’re flying the plane as we are building it. 

Since the pandemic began, the Council has been working independently and with valued partners in the community to help shape our response to this crisis. We’ve circulated two surveys to better understand the immediate and long-term needs of our community, and are working closely with the City of Ottawa’s Cultural Unit to determine the financial impact on the arts. We’re closely connected with the cultural representatives on the Mayor’s Economic Task Force and provide updates on the many ways the arts are intrinsically linked to the city’s economy and our quality of life here in Ottawa. We’re partnering with wonderful institutions like Arts Network Ottawa, OMIC and members of the Ottawa Cultural Alliance to adapt messaging that ensures we’re not duplicating our efforts while building a stronger, unified voice in support of the sector. And finally, we’re reshaping our strategic plan to align with the unforeseeable future, ensuring the Council remains solvent so we can continue to serve and support our community in the most inclusive way possible. 

As we navigate these challenges, I remain deeply inspired by the resilience of our artists. Imagine a world of isolation without books or music. Imagine a world of isolation without producers, writers and actors whose work contributes to streaming services allowing you to binge your favourite television shows or catch up on the latest movies. Imagine a world where artists didn’t immediately activate to set up their practice online, streaming concerts, plays, book readings, art tutorials, dance classes, and craft sessions led by arts educators to keep your kids entertained while you Zoom your way through this new reality. Right now, more than ever before, the world is turning to art for comfort, distraction and a sense of being reassured. It’s abundantly clear how vital it is to our human experience, and your Council is working hard to ensure that message is not forgotten. 

Nicole Milne
Executive Director
Ottawa Arts Council