I believe many cities benefit from public-private partnerships whenever they are done well. I think every city has many corporate leaders who love their homes and, if asked, would be open to finding ways to help make their cities better places.
We have benefited from this type of corporate leadership at Black Artists’ Networks in Dialogue (BAND). Regional leadership at Scotiabank helped BAND in 2014 when racism made it seem impossible for us to have a home for our organization.
I believe the model of corporate donation that helped BAND could be expanded on to create a loose network of creative takeovers with short, medium, and long term empty corporate spaces for arts and culture organizations and collectives, with a targeted effort to ensure that there is representation of racialized and other culturally specific people benefiting from term-based space use.
These empty corporate space donations would be coordinated through a collaboration between City Planning and the City’s Economic Development and Culture divisions. We would have a lottery for arts and culture organizations and collectives, with a targeted effort to ensure that there is representation of racialized creatives and artists who are interested in having space to create experiential art and culture installations that would be showcased as a part of Nuit Blanche and/or the summer festival season annually.
This scheme would help more artists and creatives from diverse cultural communities get a taste of what we know at BAND. We know the power of place. The power of having a space to call your own. The power of not having to explain to the other what you’re doing and why it is important or relevant. The power of having the ability to incubate and experiment with ideas that are only restricted by the resources you can amass.
I want to give more people from racialized communities relief from the burden of going through the process of constantly having someone who is not an ally question every detail of your creative vision. I really want more artists and creatives to not feel like they have to settle for something that is less than the vision they imagined. If they do need to settle or make changes, I want it to be truly about resources, not about someone who has the power to deny them access to the space they are using. I want them to not need to consider showing the work at all or changing it to what the other is imaging their creation to be.
One of the things we now know at BAND is how smart Toronto’s culture audiences are. The problem is not Toronto’s audiences’ interest in experiencing a diverse range of arts and cultural offerings, the problem is the creative gate keepers. The curators and directors with the Eurocentric sense of what “art” and “culture” is and what should be presented in Toronto. These projects would go around them and get right to the audiences.
The BAND leadership team could play a mentoring and operational support role and bring together culture leadership across the City to help mentor and support these projects and space management from concept to completion.