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A letter from the Executive Director

Posted on: April 07 2022

Dear Edmonton: It has been some time since I wrote to you about the progress the EAC has made on many different fronts, including the implementation of the Connections & Exchanges strategy. The last couple of years have been dominated by the disruption of the Covid 19 pandemic to every aspect of our society, causing severe financial hardship to artists and arts organizations. However, the resilience shown by all of you has been nothing short of remarkable, and as we welcome the advent of spring, I can see glimmers of hope signalling the return of creativity and togetherness in our city.

Through it all, the EAC has been working hard to make things better for artists, arts organizations, and festivals. Under the guidance of Connections & Exchanges, we accelerated the reimagination of EAC’s investment portfolio, public art commissioning processes, programming to activate communities and new retail services at TIX on the Square through community-based partnerships. We did this by deploying a combination of our four operational approaches, used first in 2019 to launch the implementation framework for the strategy. We developed these approaches to deepen the relational bonds with you, our arts community, and aligned them with the principles of flexibility, adaptiveness and iterativeness. These approaches are allowing us to achieve the outcomes outlined in the strategy by listening and understanding or incorporating your direct feedback into our planning and delivery, shaping and advancing or collaborating with you to design and deploy programs, services and projects, seeking and exploring or piloting new initiatives to test and evaluate their efficacy and effectiveness and creating and showing or designing new programs, services and initiatives to strengthen your work and enable you to connect it to Edmontonians. We want to thank you for the generosity, thought and care you brought to the roundtables, surveys, peer assessment processes and partnerships.

While the focus of my team was on the re-imagination and effective delivery of programs, services, projects, and partnerships to enable your work, we were also engaged in an organizational review. This review, the first of its kind in our 25-year history, is guided by Connections & Exchanges and is foundational to align our operations to impactfully implement the strategy. The goals of this review are to redesign EAC operations to ensure the optimal sharing of internal expertise, streamline processes and delivery mechanisms to improve services to the community, and create significant upgrades to our information technology to enable integrated, reliable, secure, and effective digital platforms. These technological upgrades include the adoption of the SmartSimple platform, which we are now using to receive applications for organizational and project investments and will soon be available to artists applying for public art commissioning calls. The EAC has acquired its own licence for the Tessitura ticketing platform, and we are excited by the possibilities of expanding our support to artists, collectives, festivals, and arts organizations. Stay tuned for this work later in the fall of 2022. Finally, we have signed a contract with a web design and development firm in Edmonton with the goal of creating a modern, integrated and fully functional digital interface to better serve Edmontonians.

Today, I wish to announce EAC’s new organizational redesign, including the reconfiguration of our teams, redeployment of staff and recruitment to fill vacancies and hire new staff. The redesigned EAC will transition over the next few months and consist of two Divisions to streamline operations in delivering Connections & Exchanges.

The Division of Programs, Services and Access will be led by Sally Kim in the role of Associate Executive Director, Programs, Services and Access and consist of the following three Portfolios: Investments, Services and Partnerships; Public Art; and Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access. We will be hiring a new Director of Investments, Services and Partnerships, who will oversee all the Investment Programs, TIX on the Square and Community Programming. The current Director of Grants, Awards and Support Programs, Stephen Williams (whom many of you know quite well) will be redeployed to another area (more on that soon). David Turnbull will continue to oversee the Public Art Portfolio, including Conservation and Collection Services. The Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access Portfolio will see new leadership, and include Kyra Brown, Indigenous Relations Advisor, and an Equity and Inclusion Advisor.

The Division of Finance, Organizational Effectiveness and Engagement will be led by Shirley Combden in the role of Associate Executive Director, Finance, Organizational Effectiveness and Engagement, and consist of the following three Portfolios: Finance and Risk Management; Organizational Effectiveness; and Communications and Engagement. Shirley will continue to lead the Finance and Risk Management portfolio overseeing financial planning and budgeting, contracts, and procurement. The Organizational Effectiveness Portfolio will include Melanie Haynes as the Manager of People and Culture, and Andrew Chen as Manager of Research, Measurement Analytics and Reporting. Jenna Turner will continue to lead the Communications and Engagement Portfolio, as we deepen our connections with Edmonton’s vital, vibrant, and diverse communities. Stephen Williams will be the Director of Policy, Planning and Performance, a new function that will provide leadership, coordination, and operational efficacy in implementing Connections & Exchanges over the next several years. As all of you know, Stephen has led the Grants, Awards and Support Programs department for over a decade, overseeing myriad funding programs and initiatives, including the current re-imagination of the investment portfolio. In his new role, I am confident that he will bring his considerable knowledge and experience of EAC and the community to build effective operational policies, improve our delivery of services to the community and contribute to the context-based reporting of progress measures to demonstrate the impact of civic investment in the arts. Stephen will transition into his new role over the next few months and will participate in the onboarding of the new Director with my executive team.

In the coming months, we will be recruiting in almost all the portfolios, as we renew our teams to create positive impact through our continued implementation of Connections & Exchanges and recovery from the pandemic. Most positions will fill existing vacancies, and we should be fully staffed by late fall.

As always, I welcome your feedback and I know that my leadership team will be happy to have a conversation with you. I have seen a few of you at your events this year, but I am excited to attend summer festivals and art exhibitions, performances, and openings as we begin our recovery this year.

Thank you for your time and see you soon!

Sanjay.