In 2015, the Saskatchewan Arts Board launched a short-term strategic plan that focuses on themes of diversity, increased capacity and accessibility. Over the past year, we’ve made great progress on the three goals outlined in the plan: client-centric and responsive approach, brand awareness and champion of the arts.

“Our ability to adapt and lead on a continual basis is a major strength of our organization. With our years of experience and acquired wisdom, in the past year we have proudly accomplished much of our short-term 2015-2016 strategic plan. Our professional staff have truly taken a leadership role in cultivating a model that will advance public impact and benefit of the arts ecosystem in our province,” says Pamella Acton, Board Chair of the Saskatchewan Arts Board

Goal 1: Client-centric and responsive approach

To create an effective and efficient cultural organization that is conscious of its responsibility to focus on the client (artists, arts organizations and communities). This will nurture a culture that is motivated by the values of the organization, and willing and able to adapt accordingly to benefit the clients it serves.

“The community let us know that they were feeling cut-off from us, so we have made a concerted effort to engage them through a variety of consultations about our programs and activities. We’re getting real, meaningful feedback from the community now, and we’re very proud of that,” says Michael Jones, CEO of the Saskatchewan Arts Board.

It began with a review of the Lieutenant Governor’s Arts Awards, involving consultations with members of the arts community. These meetings spurred a number of changes to the awards, such as the format of the evening and a new name, the Saskatchewan Arts Awards.

Next was a major review of the Professional Arts Organizations Program, including nine meetings with arts organizations that are funded by the program or interested in applying for future grants. Community responses were compiled into a publication called, What We Heard, which was sent back to participants and posted on the Arts Board website for additional feedback. “We’re developing more rigorous methods to get into the community and consult,” says Jones. “We’re conscious about committing to regular review processes, actively listening to people, documenting their responses and giving them the opportunity to reflect back on them.” Plans are underway for a review of the Independent Artists grant program.

Major progress has been made on the Arts Board’s internal processes and structure. A composite business plan was established in 2015, motivating changes to the agency’s organizational structure. “There is an incorrect perception that our front-line staff is concentrated in Regina. We’ve been able to achieve a staffing level where our consultants, the people who deal directly with grant applicants and recipients, are evenly split between Regina and Saskatoon to make sure both regions of the province are best served,” Jones says.

The Arts Board is continuously looking for new ways to improve communication between funded partners and staff. Our consultants have been conducting grant workshops in smaller communities such as North Battleford, Yorkton, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw. We are also planning on using webinar technology to offer workshops to a broader audience, including those in remote regions.

 

Goal 2: Brand Awareness

Develop a detailed communications strategy to increase awareness of the Saskatchewan Arts Board and its initiatives within the arts sector and throughout the province.

As you can see, we just launched a new website! This site is mobile-friendly and user-focussed, and it addresses technological risk management issues we had with our former site. Its focus, in addition to letting the public know about our programs and services, is celebrating Saskatchewan artists, arts organizations and communities through numerous front page stories that are updated regularly.

We have established an arts news email service that contains media stories about the arts in Saskatchewan and Canada. It is sent out two or three times a week and is a great way to keep on top of arts issues and activities. If you are interested in receiving these emails, please sign up here. In the coming weeks, we are planning to launch an online newsletter that will come out three times per year. It will include stories about grant recipients, arts news, and updates on Arts Board initiatives.

A social media policy and plan are in place, and we are very active on Facebook (6,700+ followers), Twitter (6,800+ followers) and Instagram (750+ followers). We post an average of 7 times per day on Facebook and 14 times per day on Twitter. Instagram is used for specific events attended by our staff.

A refreshed logo with a font that is more readable than that of our previous logo helps to make our funding support more visible to the public. We have a new tagline alongside the logo – “create, collaborate, prosper” – that reflects messaging in our strategic plan.

When our new CEO came on board in fall 2015, we undertook a major media campaign to introduce him to the arts community. This included television interviews and print articles, as well as two arts community meet-and-greet events in Regina and Saskatoon.

There is also a plan to increase media presence for the Saskatchewan Arts Awards in fall 2016.

Early discussions are underway on a major marketing campaign to be launched once resources are available. Says Jones, “We’re excited to do something to raise awareness about the role that arts play in every aspect of our lives; however, sometimes funding current programs needs to be the main priority.”

 

Goal 3: Champion of the Arts

The SAB will take a leadership role in promoting the importance of the arts to the well-being and prosperity of the province and its residents. Special attention will be given to fostering and enhancing strategic partnerships throughout the province at the board level.

In order to be champions of the arts, our Board of Directors knew that they needed to look at themselves first, addressing topics such as board orientation, governance and self-assessment. What resulted was a robust set of tools that board members can use to strengthen the Arts Board and serve the people of our province.

The board’s assessment of risk management has influenced operational issues as the Arts Board evaluates a new grants database, insurance and managed funds. The assessment has also resulted in new financial policies, including budgeting practices and systems of checks and balances.

“The Board of Directors has done important work that is now reflected in every area of our organization,” says Jones. “We recognize that the transitions the Arts Board has gone through in recent history has led to some broken relationships, but we are taking significant steps to rebuild them through internal and external changes that will ultimately benefit the entire arts community.”

Photos

Top: Kaitlyn Semple, Dalton Lightfoot, Louisa Ferguson, Kristen Holfeuer and Joel Bernbaum in Sum Theatre's production of Alice in Wonderland. Photo by Matt Ramage

Middle: Robert Assie carves a piece of Tyndall stone as part of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building 100th Anniversary Artist Residency. Photo courtesy of Government of Saskatchewan

Bottom: Common Weal artist-in-residence Chrystene Ells works with seniors on a memory arts project. Photo courtesy of the artist