People who matter: Belfry training programs shape industry leaders | Catch My Job


The program was created in response to needs expressed by Indigenous, Black and Colored artists and arts administrators

The Belfry Theater is offering an arts leadership training program to help people from Aboriginal, Black and Colored communities take on leadership roles in arts organisations.

This is the second year for the program, which is part-funded by the Victoria Foundation. Last year, the team was a team of 10, with eight from Victoria-based organizations and two from Regina.

The program was developed in response to needs expressed by IBPoC artists and arts administrators.

“The program began with the recognition that the arts community is predominately white — from leadership, stage and backstage,” said Belfry Theater Artistic Director Michael Shamata.

“There is a growing awareness that while our doors have always been open, they have not been wide open for Aboriginal, Black and Colored people. It’s a way to combat discrimination.”

As arts organizations and educational institutions across the country have taken steps to be more inclusive, IBPoC has created a demand for training to prepare community members for leadership roles.

“Nationally, even indigenous theater companies have a hard time finding an indigenous stage manager,” Shamta said.

The leadership training program consists of 12 weeks of Zoom meetings followed by a three-month internship at a professional industry organization of the participant’s choice. Zoom seminars are conducted almost exclusively by IBPoC Art Leaders.

Learning from last year’s program, this year’s session speaks directly to student needs, with topics chosen by the students themselves.

The 13 participants in this year’s program are from Victoria, Vancouver, Saskatoon and Winnipeg. Their average age is 30.

The program is Belfry Theatre, Canadian College of Performing Arts, Electric Company Theatre, Globe Theatre, Green Thumb Theatre, Newworld Theatre, Pacific Opera Victoria, Persephone Theatre, Prairie Theater Exchange, University of Regina Center for Socially Engaged Theatre, University of Victoria Faculty of Fine Arts and the Victoria Symphony.

Taiyo Afolabi, Canada Research Chair in Socially Engaged Theater at the University of Regina and Project Coordinator said: “As an IBPoC artist, I find this collaboration genuine and meaningful. Senior management of these companies came to the table asking tough questions about the current state of the industry. They hope to develop a path towards an arts and culture sector that is intentionally inclusive.”

This summer, the Belfry Theater was the venue bury HatchetA theatrical performance and transformative art show for a number of small works created and performed by community and professional Aboriginal artists.

The Culture Den, a matriarchal council-led production group committed to directing and supporting Indigenous-led artistic work, organized the event.

The performance began in the courtyard outside the theater, with cast members in symbolic canoes performing the “Coming Shore” protocol and asking elders to enter. Once invited, representatives of the Sanghis First Nation welcome guests inside the building for the remainder of the performance.

“It was a remarkable and really exciting entrance,” said Isaac Thomas, the Belfry’s new executive director. “The work makes a powerful statement about how we can create a space rooted in Indigenous artistic expression.”

The performance was based on the lands and cultures of various First Nations, giving them the opportunity to tell their stories in their own voices.

inside bury Hatchet, the central theme was peace. The artists use their own cultural history as inspiration for the work performed — a mix of traditional and contemporary dance, visuals, music and storytelling.

The work reveals indigenous concepts of peacebuilding, which reflect traditional, pre-contact political and social structures. It shows how nation-to-nation relations can maintain harmony, balance and peace.

This was the fourth Aboriginal showcase hosted by the Belfry and represented five to six months of work by a cast and crew of 30, including a one-week residency at the theatre.

The program was partially funded by the Victoria Foundation.

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