Arts groups invited to Survivor 101 forum

Arts and culture groups from Metro Vancouver and beyond are planning to meet up and share ideas about how to keep their organizations thriving in tough economic times.

Survivor 101, a daylong event featuring discussion and networking, takes place at the Columbia Theatre in New Westminster next Thursday (November 22).

The event, described as a World Café–style session, is being organized by Metro Vancouver’s regional cultural-development advisory committee. Event spokesperson Greg Magirescu said smaller arts and culture groups, and even individual artists, often lack the resources they need to plan for the future.

“They’re all kind of struggling to deal with the changing economy, dealing with changing tastes in entertainment and how people are beginning to access entertainment options, and just the glut of competition,” Magirescu told the Straight. “Survivor 101 is an attempt to bring these community organizations together, not so much to teach them, but to have them almost teach and help themselves. It’s really a networking opportunity.”

Magirescu identified financial sustainability as a major problem facing many local groups. He cited the abrupt closure of the debt-laden Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company as an example.

“What we want to avoid is the sudden-death syndrome in the arts community that we see all around us,” he said, “and we want to help sort of ‘vision’ the future so that organizations can continue to evolve and invent themselves, and reinvent themselves in a relevant and honest way so that they can survive beyond the next generation, really.”

Magirescu said marketing and funding will be key topics of discussion at the Survivor 101 event.

“Obviously, government funding is decreasing at all levels—federal, provincial, and municipal. How do these small organizations survive, and how can they maximize different models of funding and look at innovative ways of funding themselves?” he said.

Event organizers also hope to spark discussion about the “life cycle” of arts groups. Magirescu said groups need to regularly evaluate themselves to determine whether, for example, they are still connecting with an audience.

“Just like products in the grocery store have a shelf life, so too do businesses, so do arts organizations, so do arts projects,” he said. “The fact that a festival might have worked 20 years ago doesn’t mean it will still work, necessarily, in its same form 20 years later.”