Creative Placemaking Pioneer Shares Insights on Scaling Up and Out

Daniels Spectrum is a 60,000-square foot community cultural hub in Toronto. It is one of Artscape Toronto’s multiple projects.

Creative Placemaking Pioneer Shares Insights on Scaling Up and Out

Artscape Toronto anticipates launching affiliate organizations

Since 1986, Artscape Toronto has helped to stimulate some of Toronto's most creative and vibrant neighbourhoods with innovative community assets and cultural hubs. Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park and Artscape Wychwood Barns are two widely-known examples.

  Tim Jones

Over that time, the non-profit has also become recognized as an international leader in creative placemaking, a practice that leverages the power of art, culture and creativity to catalyze the change, growth and transformation of communities.

Through these experiences, Artscape Toronto has learned some robust lessons in scaling, both as an organization and in terms of impact, says CEO and president Tim Jones.

A first key learning was developing clarity on the intellectual capital they had developed, Tim says.

Secondly, they needed to figure out the best ways to engage with others to share that capital, while simultaneously building a revenue stream that would support that activity. The organization first experimented with consulting, then turned to coaching and mentoring as a more rewarding and effective approach.

Third, Artscape Toronto has experienced the transformational benefits of champion board members.

  Wychwood Barns  is another Artscape project. Unlike a traditional community centre, the Artscape Wychwood Barns operate on a self-sustaining model. Tenants of Artscape Wychwood Barns pay affordable rents and contribute to the programming of the building and site.

“Our experience has been that recruiting a few key board members has been hugely helpful in terms of continuing to grow the organization,” Tim says. “People have had a transformational impact on what we can do both in terms of the knowledge and talent they bring into the organization, and external connections and (providing) help to raise funds.”

Growing in a way that creates new opportunities for staff members has also been a key to success.

Looking ahead, Artscape Toronto plans to create independent affiliates in other jurisdictions, as a way to further spread creative placemaking.

Tim is keen to see more connections and awareness built between the social enterprise and arts worlds, which Artscape Toronto straddles. He sees each having a lot to learn from the other.

“There’s not a great understanding in the arts world of the power of social enterprise,” Tim says.

“People are very much stuck in the get-a-grant, deliver-a-program mindset. Similarly in the world of social enterprise the arts are sometimes seen as a frivolous activity, although many of the problems and challenges, the wicked challenges that the world faces, have a cultural dimension to them. Culture and art can be a catalyst to help change things. If social entrepreneurs understood that better, they would be able to accelerate their work. So I’m keenly interested in the conversation between social enterprise and the arts and how we can help facilitate that.”

To read the full interviews with Tim, click here.

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