Letter: We need transparency in the Department of Canadian Heritage

[see also Policy, Politics and Rhubarb]
from: Jacob Zimmer <jacob@smallwoodenshoe.org>
to: andrew.cash@parl.gc.ca
cc: shelly@shellyglover.ca, shelly.glover@parl.gc.ca, stephane.dion@parl.gc.ca, Brendan Healy <brendan@buddiesinbadtimes.com>
date: Fri, Nov 29, 2013 at 2:39 PM
subject: We need transparency in the Department of Canadian Heritage

Mr Cash,
(cc: Ms. Shelly Glover, Mr. Stephane Dion)

I suspect I am preaching to choir, but none the less, I understand the number of communications matter and specificity from citizens in the riding can’t hurt.

I am writing to ask for you to support a call for greater transparency and clarity from the Department of Canadian Heritage, specifically in their program: “Building Communities through Arts and Heritage.”

This is specifically regarding the recent rejection of an application for Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and The Rhubarb Festival. More information is here: http://buddiesinbadtimes.com/canadian-heritage/

The program priorities appear to be in flux with organizations getting no clear response from officers about the criteria of assessment.

I have my own theories that I wrote about here: http://minorexpletives.ca/a/policy-politics-rhubarb/

At the least, organizations need to be given clear and actionable feedback for future applications.

Below is a personal account of the impact the festival has had on my life in Toronto and my connections to communities that make the city a livable place.

Thank you for your time
Jacob Zimmer

Founding Artistic Director
Small Wooden Shoe

Home postal code:
M6N 3J5

In 2000, when I first moved to Toronto from Vancouver right out of university, a faculty member advised me to apply to Rhubarb. I did, and green as I was, was accepted. That acceptance meant much more than my first show in Toronto. I was able to sit in on the Buddies general auditions and connect with a huge number of artists. I met and worked with Jennifer Tarver (Necessary Angel, Stratford Festival) and Rebecca Brown and their community building *Director’s Gym*. I met Franco Boni, the director of the Festival, who has continued to be a supporter and source of inspiration in his work at the Theatre Centre. I worked with a cast I could not have met any other way, and I still work with some of those people today. The show I did was a bit too serious for it’s own good but I learned so much in putting up at the festival. It is easy to pay lip service to need for innovators to fail and try again. Rhubarb, at its best, creates the safe space for that process.

When I moved back to Toronto after four years in Halifax, Rhubarb again was a place to connect to the community of artists, and this time, audience. Feeling like I was disconnected from the community and my work, I gathered the people I knew and made a show about the Industrial Revolution. It went over very well. Over three years Small Wooden Shoe developed *Dedicated to the Revolutions* in an ongoing relationship with the festival. At Rhubarb we also developed the national community for the work, making connections and eventually touring to Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax and Kitchener-Waterloo for the Magnetic North Festival. When we premiered the full work, we did it at Buddies in Bad Times. It was at Rhubarb that I discovered my community of colleagues, and more importantly, friends.

Rhubarb is a community of support and connection that is badly needed. It is a space for people who are excluded from the mainstreams of culture to come together and find solidarity.

Projects like Rhubarb – as specific and local as they may be – matter outside the careers or relationship of the artists involved.

They build vital, meaningful and deep connections that buffer isolation and depression. They produce engagement and ripples that are difficult to quantify but hold our societies together.

Serving historically marginal people in a non-commercial model means that these events require and deserve government support. Their value may be immeasurable, but it is not in the form of immediate renumeration. We, as a country, must stand behind this value. It is our connection to each other and the support that makes greatness possible.

Thank you,
Jacob Zimmer

Founding Artistic Director
Small Wooden Shoe

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