Big anniversaries are exciting. Last year, as you know, we celebrated our 20th year. It was satisfying to look back to see how far we’ve come. But I think it is more exciting to look ahead. At 21, we clearly know who we are, how we can make our biggest impact and where we are going. I wanted to take this moment to share with you how I see H’art Centre making a difference.
H’art Centre is, and will grow as, Kingston’s safe, accessible and sustainable place for artists to create, grow and explore what is possible together, regardless of abilities or barriers. To support that goal, we will continue to create opportunities for exciting and mutually beneficial creative exchanges between artists through our programs: H’art Studio, Able Artists, THE BOX, and H’art Accessible Arts Program. Throughout 2019-2020, you will see new collaborations and independent works as well as engaging public presentations, exhibits and performances. For instance, we will present A MESSAGE FROM NATURE in June and SMALL THINGS at the Isabel Bader Human Rights Arts Festival in April 2020. Small Things will be our first major performance to tell a story primarily through dance and it will give more than 70 artists of all abilities the opportunity to create together and learn from each other for over a year. This kind of creative activity demonstrates that access is an “action” word – as is the word ‘inclusion’. And, as one of our board members Julie Ann Wolfe May once remarked, “while diversity is about identifying differences and making sure everyone is invited to the Prom… inclusion is about extending a hand and asking everyone to dance”.
H’art Centre will continue to contribute to the growth and development of a vibrant inclusive arts community. Since Hart’s inception, we have provided informal opportunities for volunteers, placement students, professional artists and arts educators to learn more about our inclusive arts approach. Beginning in 2019-2020, you will see the public roll out of our award-winning MixAbilities Training Program, our formal blueprint for leading arts workshops for artists with disabilities or barriers. Our badge for artists, arts educators and arts administrators who complete the professional training and gain the credential will follow soon after. A large pool of artists who are trained in our approach and understand the factors that create exclusion in the arts will create a ripple effect in our community and no one can tell how far their positive influence will go.
H’art Centre will work to advance understanding of inclusive arts in Kingston and beyond. H’art Centre will continue to reach out, share our experiences, build collaborations and pursue opportunities to mentor partners in practical and original ways to ensure all Canadians have access to the arts. We will keep our focus on creating change at the “top” and educating key decision makers. Whether amateurs, semi-professionals or professionals, if they have faced barriers to the arts-simply because of their disabilities, social or economic challenges we need to champion change with them.
In pursuit of this objective, H’art staff and board members will meet with The Hon. Patricia Bovey in 2019 to advance plans to organize a major National conference of inclusive artists and inclusive arts leaders in the 2020-2021 season. This conference will result in a practical checklist of best practices that arts leaders and administrators can use to ensure all publicly funded arts programs, projects, events, festivals and activities meet the high standard for inclusion. This is necessary and important groundwork to ensure everyone can recognize the unseen barriers to participation in community programming, events, festivals, and services. It will lead to a culture of inclusion and inspire new approaches and ideas.
I thank you for continued support and belief in H’art Centre.
Executive Director, H’art Centre