I was selected as a 2019/2020 Canadian Fellow to attend the New York 2019 ISPA Congress, Transitions: Today's Future for the Arts, last week. ISPA's Fellowship Program is dedicated to providing leadership development and international network growth opportunities for emerging and mid-career arts leaders around the globe through membership and attendance at an ISPA congress. I was one of 66 Fellows from 30 countries.

Impressively, my cohort of the next generation of change makers in our field, included leaders who were:

  • Collaboratively building a music industry network across East Africa;
  • Promoting a thriving arts industry in Zambia through circus arts and artists;
  • Using participatory theater in Armenia as a tool for peace building, intercultural dialogue, and social change;

I was honoured to be part of this inspiring group. Below is an outline of my experience and sharing a few thoughts from my point of view.

Congress Theme Transitions: Today’s Future for the Arts

“While we often speak of living in the moment, the reality is most of our work requires years of planning. Be it curation, facility development or anticipating new technological advancements, we need to be highly intuitive if not clairvoyant! How do we create the future today? As we adjust for ever-changing political environments, infrastructure renewal and development, technological change, and leadership development, how do we address challenges and opportunities of which we may not even be aware? The performing arts has many unique aspects but can we also learn from other sectors?”

Seminar Day for Global Fellows

Deepening the Fellowship Network

Seminar Day served as an orientation for the Congress and provided an opportunity to get to know the 2019 Fellowship cohort (64 participants this year) in a more intimate setting. The day consisted of a series of conversations, introductions, moderated discussions among participants and talks/workshops lead by ISPA members.

Congress Day 1

Canadian Fellow Meeting with Canada Council for the Arts

Nancy Guertin and Sabra Ripley, from Canada Council

- five 2019-2021 Canadian Fellows (Sergio Elmir, Pascale Joubert, Leslie McCue, Nina Patel, Mhiran Faraday)

- one past Canadian Fellow (Sarah Rogers)

- three 2019-2021 Quebec Fellows (Nadine Asswad, Vincent De Repentigny, and Kristelle Holliday)

I very much appreciated the time to connect with colleagues from Canada and now see that this would not have happened without thoughtful organization and effort of Sabra and Nancy at the Canada Council for the Arts.

Canadian Fellows

Opening of Congress

Provocation 1:

janera solomon is the executive director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, a historic live arts venue in Pittsburgh now in its tenth year of presenting progressive, evocative new works in dance, music, film, education and cultural programming. Recognized for her transformative leadership and contributions to the revitalization of East Liberty, janera managed the merger of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater and the Dance Alloy in 2011, while maintaining affordable dance instruction at The Alloy School and creating a series of diverse programs designed to inspire and engage a wide range of audiences. janera has contributed significantly to the artistic development and career advancement of numerous dancers and choreographers supported by Kelly Strayhorn’s residency programs.


There is a growing realization that the performing arts can learn from approaches in other industries in addressing a myriad of issues. Indeed, where can we draw inspiration? Who are the disruptors engaging peoples’ (read audiences) attention? The intersection between the arts and other businesses may be smaller than we think.


As many of us work to reimagine our pre-existing facilities, some are dreaming of a new purpose built facility. How do we think about the future of cultural spaces? Audience tastes and demographics are shifting rapidly, technology is, as ever, changing and artists are increasingly looking to new models of presentation and engagement.

Community Building Program

ISPA’s Community Building Program provides support to new members by easing their transition into the broader network at an ISPA Congress. New members are paired with a current member who welcomes them to the congress and facilitates their participation in ISPA’s extensive network of arts professionals.

Through participation in ISPA’s Community Building Program, both new and current ISPA members increase their network connections.

I was very fortunate to have a very experienced Community Building Partner:

Suzanne Walker

Executive Producer

Sadler's Wells Theatre

My aims:

1. When applying for the Canadian Fellowship, my aims were to gain a deeper understanding of the global network (ISPA) and the larger ecosystem and context of the performing arts, particularly dance. I’m at a point, where I want to have a larger impact within the organizations I work with. I am devoted to the art form of dance I am interested in strategies to elevate the art form, as an agent of change and developing ways to highlight the importance of dance for society. In my role as GM of Dancing on the Edge Festival,(Vancouver,Canada) and Outreach Manager for Ballet BC, (small to medium sized organizations) - I’m curious how legacy organizations are discussing impact/social change and particularly in this context - of pitch sessions, networking, seminars, etc.

2. Something I think about often in my work is developing strategies to shift aesthetics and values in dance - to be more relevant for communities through impactful engagement with deeper consideration of what is presented on the stage, and developing transparency in curation process(es).

3. Discourse on the future of dance. What will dance look like in 5,10,20 years? How will technology, politics, environmental factors - influence a body-based artistic practise and how are we preparing for shift and thus audience experiences?

Reception - at Bryant Park Grill

Day 2


Wednesday, January 9, 2019 The Times Center, New York, NY

As a snapshot of work being created across the globe - and we had six continents represented today - the Pitch New Works session really does allow us to experience worldwide trends and issues...both in the content of the stories we are telling and the formats through which we are telling them.

My reflections on the uniting factors of today included...

- we saw that almost every project was seeking to redefine how an audience would interact with its work. The term ‘immersive’ was used extensively but there was also a drive to enable the audience to participate in and shape works, and to create entire visual and sonic worlds that would transport us out of our current reality.

- many sought to tell the stories of under-represented voices: whether this was female drummers performing in Rwanda - where women are forbidden from touching a drum; to the portrayal of a traumatised indigenous young man from Canada; to an orchestra dedicated to giving professional disabled musicians an equal platform - we heard of and from those who may otherwise be unjustly hidden.

- a return to old stories, myths, and even the cosmic featured in multiple works - a reaction to the destruction of our physical, political and social world?

- we explored the creation of identity - of ourselves as individuals and of our cities and nations. Who is in control of this identity? How is it shaped and how is it corrupted? Is truth achievable in today’s fragmented narratives and global structures?

If we imagine these projects touring and being performed across the coming years - we can be confident of a sector which celebrates multiple perspectives? As ever though - we need to keep asking; whose stories are not being told


A relaxed environment for networking, establishing new contacts, and maintaining existing relationships. ProEx | ProEx stands for “professional exchange” which is essentially an arts marketplace where delegates set up booths showcasing their companies, and other delegates walk around, mingle and eat lunch.


Bassem Youssef, dubbed the Jon Stewart of the Arab World, was the host of popular TV show AlBernameg – which was the first of its kind political satire show in the Middle East. Throughout its three season run, AlBernameg remained controversial due to its hilarious and bold criticism of the ruling powers. During its final season, the show achieved unprecedented ratings before Youssef announced its termination due to overwhelming political pressures on the show and the airing channel. In 2013, Youssef was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and was awarded the International Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). He was a reoccurring guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In 2016, Youssef hosted a digital series titled The Democracy Handbook for Fusion Network. He is also the star of the world-renowned documentary, Tickling Giants, directed by Sara Taksler. In 2017, Youssef released a book about his experience called Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring. In 2018, Youssef hosts a podcast on CAFE called, Remade in America, where he interviews his guests as they explore what it means to be an outsider in America.


The time for talk is past. The time for action is now. What can we as leaders do to affect positive change in our organizations, our communities, and our lives? While there have been many affirmative steps, how do we change a global culture of inequity? Each of us has a role to play in determining a shared future justice.


Freedom of expression is one of our most sought after rights. This is perhaps the most accentuated when it comes to the artists’ voice. And yet, time and again, we have borne witness to the suppression of this right – be it through funders, presenters, and indeed, audiences. This curated discussion shared the artists’ perspective on where this debate is leading.

Day 3



Lee-Ann is a Narungga, Wirangu, Wotjobaluk woman from Southern Australia. She is very well known throughout the Australian Indigenous and international arts communities. Having worked across many major international festivals and art practices, she has won numerous prizes for her contribution to the arts, including the Gladys Elphick Award for community contribution and the prestigious Sidney Myer Facilitator Prize.


Inspired by the ever popular Pitch New Works, this session was a rapid fire presentation of four new ideas that promise to have a global impact on and for the performing arts.

Design Thinking: NEW IDEAS TODAY

NEW IDEA ONE: Fair Saturday

💥Time to humanise the world

💥Social empathy

💥A worldwide day for the global arts community creating social change

To make us think about the future we are building ⭐️

Vision: To become a global movement


NEW IDEA TWO: Fusebox Festival

Austin Texas

Presenter Ron Berry

⭐️Free festival

⭐️Festival founded by artists

⭐️Built the festival through partnerships & community building ⭐️What is your festival doing that others are not?

⭐️Food as an organising principle

⭐️Maintaining curiosity - not knowing what you’re doing

💥Free ticket advance policy

💰Changing ticket buyers into Donors and patrons


NEW IDEA THREE: Arts Well-being Collective

Melbourne Australia

Presenter: Tracy Margieson

💥The health and well-being of our arts workers and arts sector


NEW IDEA FOUR: Europe Beyond Access

European consortium

Presenter: Ben Evans (British Council)

⭐️4 year, 4 million dollar project

⭐️Shifting the access

⭐️Artistic excellence

⭐️Innovation through exchange

⭐️Touring, commissioning and presenting work


Often we become mired in the day to day responsibilities of our positions and do not make the time to think about moving ourselves and our communities forward. The arts can entertain, inspire, and bring about change. How will you steer your organization and community towards the future you envision?


As a first time Canadian Fellow, I truly appreciated attending the 2019 NY Congress. It was well organized, with content that was relevant and impactful. Very inspiring and offered ways to consider how, as arts leaders, we can shape our world so that equity, empathy, humanity and sustainability can prevail through our work in the arts.

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