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Friday, October 13, 2017


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SPARC (Supporting Performing Arts in Rural Communities) is a network of creators, presenters, producers, and community animators whose purpose is to ignite and help sustain performing arts in communities in rural Ontario.

The SPARC Symposium is a biennial opportunity for a face to face gathering of the SPARC Network and creators, presenters, producers, community animators, and funders involved in the performing arts in rural and remote communities in Ontario and across Canada.
The SPARC Symposium 2018, a fully bilingual event, will be held May 24 – 27, 2018 in Cobalt, Ontario.

The intent of Symposium 2018 is to attract a broad spectrum of rural performing art creators, producers, presenters and animateurs from a wide mix of art forms (dance, media arts, theatre and music) with a variety of instrumentals (organizational management, audience development, inclusionary community engagement, etc.) to collaboratively consider their experience in order to improve it. We would like the SPARC Symposium 2018 to provide attendees with a range of practical tools that will translate to the ignition of performing arts in their own rural communities.

Have you got something to share?

The theme of the SPARC Symposium 2018 is ‘Translation’. Mathematically, translation is defined as movement without alteration. The SPARC Symposium is translating from its origins in Haliburton to Cobalt, a region which is a confluence of Indigenous, Francophone, and Anglophone cultures; the area lends itself to exploring the idea of reconciliation as movement, and how the performing arts can be a means of translating culture and language. We will also delve into the concepts of performing arts as they translate to well-being, the translation of ideas to reality, and rural performing arts as they translate to sustainable communities, economic development, and making a living as creators, presenters, and performers.

 1. Culture and Language: performing arts in rural communities as a means of translating culture and language. Creative projects can challenge established cultural norms, confront new cultural realities, or present innovative solutions to overcoming barriers. Presentations should demonstrate how a barrier (cultural, linguistic, social, political, etc.) has been identified, a solution proposed, and how successful that solution proved in practice. Examples of this could include projects based on building understanding between diverse cultural or linguistic communities, providing opportunities in the performing arts for inclusion, or reconciling differences between two or more entities or communities.

2. Emotional Intelligence: performing arts in rural communities as they translate to emotional intelligence and mental fitness. What are the intellectual and emotional benefits of engaging with music, theatre, dance and other performing arts? In large urban centres these benefits are defined in terms like “creative cities” and “quality of life indicators” but how do the performing arts make people and communities happier and healthier in rural and remote locations? Are there specific ways that the performing arts can assist in the education of children and youth in remote communities?


3. Reconciliation: performing arts in rural communities as a means of movement toward reconciliation. Reconciliation is emerging as a priority within the performing arts industry in Canada. The official reconciliation process between Indigenous and settler populations is complex and sensitive, and the performing arts may offer a way begin the discussion, especially in small communities that lack cultural diversity and may find it difficult to accept the necessity of reconciliation activities. Presenters in this stream should offer programs, projects, or processes for reconciliation, either lead by or including substantive input from Indigenous leaders, elders and communities.

4. Ideas Translating to Reality: Presenters in this stream should offer practical solutions to specific challenges to getting “from page to stage.” This could include practical how-to sessions in audience development, funding, arts administration, working safely, etc. Presentations should also deal challenges specific to rural and remote communities, such as limited access to equipment and resources, weather, lack of local expertise, reliance on volunteers, etc. Presentation materials could include documents, templates, and examples of successful performing arts projects and organizations.
 5. Making a Living: performing arts in rural communities as they translate to income. Almost every creator or presenter working in the performing arts dreams of earning enough income to make a living from their art, but only a few are actually able to do so, especially outside of major urban centres. Presenters in this stream should be individuals and companies who have defied the odds and are enjoying both creative and financial success in a rural community. Do such unicorns even exist?

6. Sustainable Communities: performing arts in rural communities as they translate to sustainable communities. The performing arts play a vital role in sustainable development, providing both economic and social value to a community. What are the long- term implications of this value, and how does it move a community permanently forward? Presenters in this stream should provide specific examples of how the performing arts have made their communities happier, healthier, wealthier or wiser.

7. Economic Development and Tourism: performing arts in rural communities as they translate to economic development and tourism. Related to the sustainability stream above, presenters in this stream should explore ways that the performing arts have had a direct, quantifiable, and positive impact on a rural community’s economy and/or the quality and quantity of its tourism product offerings.
 8. From Stage to Digital Page: translation of performing arts in rural communities to maximum effect in our digital world. Digitization of the arts is happening worldwide, but how do you do it when you’re in an area with a slow and unreliable internet connection, or where half of the people in the audience don’t own a smartphone, or don’t know how to use one? The digital world offers endless possibilities for performing artists, but only if they (and their audience) are effectively able to access it, and learn how to navigate in a digital landscape. Presenters in this stream should provide examples of successful translations of the performing arts from live events into digital experiences.

9. We Are More Remote Than You: translate the term ‘rural’. Canada is a rural country with a predominantly urban population. Art, particularly the performing arts, is sometimes (mis)understood as a primarily urban phenomenon. Creators, presenters, producers, community animators and funders from urban centres have been known to further this misconception. The intent of SPARC is to expose and validate rural performing arts for what it is -- an art form that creates and reflects community, an economic engine, a celebration of what Canadians are and hope to become. Rural comes in many forms, and defining it as an organizing principle is a risky business. Presenters in this stream should provide tools for defining what is and is not rural, and how this has helped (or hindered) the development of artistic projects or organizations.

Our focus is on maximizing learning from every presentation, so the last 30 minutes of each 90-minute time slot will be devoted to reflection on the material presented. This will be led by an external facilitator, with the goal of helping participants clarify their understanding and figure out how the lessons learned might be applied or adapted to their circumstances. We want also to share the broadest possible spectrum of experience and balance interests and learning preferences.
The formats may be seminars (primarily lecture style), workshops (hands-on learning), panels (up to three perspectives on a shared theme), research or community ‘bytes’ (‘quick clicks’ on studies or projects). You may incorporate elements of performing arts in your presentation within these formats. The SPARC Symposium Program sub-committee reserves the right to suggest a change in format and to recommend combinations of presentations to accommodate the goals of breadth and balance.

•    name, position, organization, address, phone and e-mail
•    a statement of how your community is rural
•    title of the session
•    proposed format
•    a sentence explaining how the proposed topic relates to a
     symposium stream
•    a description of the session (max 500 words) that describes
     how you will use your experience to explore the topic stream,
     with a focus on lessons learned that may be adaptable to or
     instructive in other circumstances. This should be suitable
     for inclusion in the Symposium program (may be edited for
     style and clarity by SPARC staff)
•    your best guess at what three things in your presentation
     participants are most likely to find useful
•    brief biographical sketch (100 words maximum) of the lead
     speaker, and names, e-mail address and equally brief bios of
•    a list of audio-visual equipment needed (speakers are asked to bring their own laptops).

More is not better: not following the guidelines may be grounds for not considering the submission.


The SPARC Symposium Program sub-committee will select submissions using the following criteria:
         •    Clear, specific, informative content that supports
              symposium goals
         •    An approach to the subject material that is engaging
         •    Achieving a balance among the presentations as a whole
• Reflecting the diversity and richness of performing arts practice in rural communities

SPARC will cover the registration fees of confirmed speakers. Financial assistance for travel and accommodation for speakers, and all registrants, may be available but is not guaranteed.

All submissions must be received no later than Tuesday October 31, 2017 at 5pm EST.

Must be in Word format. Please develop your proposal using the spell check and word count features of your word processor before submitting it.
            Email or call Felicity Buckell,
            SPARC Symposium Coordinator
            T. (705) 672-2008
            E. felicity@sparcperformingarts.com
            To learn more about SPARC, please visit