President and CEO

Like many of you, we have been deeply saddened and angered by the recent events in the United States. The unjust killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota—as well as the countless other manifestations of harassment, abuse, and violence against unarmed black people — reflect just one example of the deeply ingrained racial prejudice and injustice that still exists in our world today.

As a member of Calgary’s diverse arts community, Arts Commons recognizes the vital role we play in shaping the narrative through the stories we tell—and those we choose not to tell. Arts Commons made a commitment, long ago: to champion more artists of colour by providing a safe space for their expression, actively inviting them to create, perform, gather, and share their stories; to reflect the diversity of our communities on- and off-stage; and to use our leadership positions to demonstrate and embody our values – Do the Right Thing, Be Our Best Always, Be Open – Hearts, Minds, Arms. 

Over the past few years, we have been guided by these values to affect change and to elevate the voices of marginalized communities. Through partnerships with organizations like ActionDignity, Calgary Pride, Making Treaty 7 Cultural Society, the Philippine Festival Council of Alberta, and others, we have facilitated, sponsored, supported, programmed, and promoted events that provide local artists of colour, and other underrepresented artists from marginalized groups, with opportunities to express themselves artistically in an accessible public forum, with the end goal of celebrating diversity and promoting understanding. Internally, we have also established an active committee, comprised of staff from all corners of the organization who meet regularly and help advance initiatives around inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA).

While we are proud of the efforts we have made, we know we need to do more. Now is not the time to look back and pat ourselves on the back for the work we have done, but to look forward at the work we must do. We must strengthen our commitment to IDEA within our institution, engage directly with marginalized communities to better understand their unique challenges, continue to create opportunities for the underrepresented, and keep the conversation going about social justice and racial inequality, until we start to bring about real progress. 

Although some Canadians may say this is not our fight, that this is an American problem, it is important that we recognize that Canada is not exempt from this. Although I have not been on Canadian soil for long, I have met with various community leaders and I am learning that while Canadian culture may be different, racism does exist here. We, therefore, each have a role to play in making the world a better, more just place for all.

In the immediate, we are going to take the time needed to engage with our community partners, to educate ourselves as much as possible in order to learn what we are certain we do not know, and to thoughtfully consider how we can contribute to this necessary change. We will keep you informed of our progress and our initiatives, and hope you will take this journey with us – a journey towards our vision of a “creative and compassionate society inspired through the arts”.

If you are looking for resources to gain perspective and better understand how you can help, please visit the AC@Home section of our website for books, articles, podcasts, and films on this subject. This list of resources will evolve as we continue to learn.

We trust that you will hold us accountable to our commitments, and hope you will add your voice to the discussion, as we believe to affect true change, we must all learn and grow together. To share your perspective, your ideas, and your experiences, please contact us at: engage@artscommons.ca.

Thank you for being a member of our community. Together, we can do great things.

Sincerely,
Alex Sarian
President and CEO, Arts Commons