A responsibility (and a privilege)

Another thing that I particularly like about the Pomegranate Center is that they clearly see community improvement as their mission. Their work then flows from that belief. I would argue that any 501(c)(3) organization has that view as a responsibility (and a privilege). How is the work of the arts altered or adjusted if that mindset is adopted?via Engaging Matters | Pomegranate Center.

I've been thinking more and more about this responsibility and privilege.

3penny Christmas Concert Choir. Photo: Omer Yukseker

Small Wooden Shoe is in the process of becoming a charitable organization. A step that most arts organizations take in Canada. It allows us to write tax receipts for individual donors, apply to foundations and to request larger, on-going, grants from government funding bodies. It means that we are responsible to the Canadian Revenue Agency for how we spend our money.

The nagging feeling that I have though, is that we're not (as a sector/community/"industry") living up to actually being charitable: working for the good of the community.

This is a messy and potentially controversial subject, but I simply don't think that my self-expression is a charitable act. Nor is the self-expression of the other professionalized, privileged artists I mostly work with.

Something else is needed. I want to take seriously a mission of reducing alienation through engagement, rigour and "a good night out." I want to take seriously the charitable goal of reducing "need." And I want to work in the frame of theatre. I could, and do, volunteer with other charities and NGO's (what would change if if arts groups thought of themselves as NGO's?) But it is theatre that I know best and somewhere, despite much evidence, I believe that the process and event of theatre can make people's live more better. The important word here though is "can" - I don't think it inherently does. I think we have to work at it, make choices and probably change some thing about the work and the modes of production and distribution.

I'm thinking a lot about teaching and community work right now - about how Small Wooden Shoe can do those things both within the context of contemporary arts practice and in the community.

This certainly ties into the question of Populism that I've been hacking away at, as well as events like the 3penny Christmas Concert, Upper Toronto and Galileo.

We're starting up a program that mixes teaching and community productions for people who have no interest in becoming professional.

This is, like Populism, something that I want more movement around. It's not an either/or. I want to be able to do the kind of work discussed on Engaging Matters and I want to work with highly talented and skill artists on projects like Antigone Dead People and I want all of that to be responsible to our charitable status.