The Association for Opera in Canada (AOC) recently concluded an innovative program aimed at building resiliency among opera artists. The program, which involved 314 opera artists and 55 partner organizations, provided direct support, mentorships, and earn-and-learn placements. With a total investment of $437,500, the program successfully achieved its objectives within a span of six months. In this blog post, we will delve into the program’s outcomes and explore the impact it had on participating artists.
The Opera Artist Resilience Program exceeded its goals delivering remarkable results. The plan to offer $306,000 in paid opportunities to artists to learn new skills resulted in an actual $437,500 in direct support. The plan to reach 260 artists, impacted an actual 314 opera artists, showcasing the tremendous interest and need for this initiative. Recognizing the overwhelming demand, an additional supplementary grant of $150,000 was awarded to accommodate a growing waitlist.
Host organizations also greatly valued this opportunity. Starting with 8 partners organizations who supported the original grant application, a total of 55 organizations, including opera companies, theatres, indie groups, orchestras, and more, went on to contribute time, training, mentorship and work experiences leading to the program’s success. The rapid completion of the program underscored its strategic alignment with the Association’s overarching goal of supporting self-employed artists and workers through improved employment opportunities.
As many in the sector look for strategies for a more equitable, just and balanced sector, The OAR Program emerges as an inspiring and innovative model for Power-Sharing and Centering Artists and the Artists’ Voice in institutions and in the sector.
Artists Speak Out in Community
The most requested areas of skills development by artists were Producing new works and self-producing, and Community Engagement, demonstrating that Artists have a voice that they want to use to directly and unmediated, to contribute to their community.
The feedback from participants overwhelmingly highlighted the program’s positive impact. A significant majority agreed that they obtained what they needed from the program, with 95% expressing satisfaction. Furthermore, 93% of participants reported feeling more confident, while 87% expressed increased positivity about continuing their careers in opera. These high agreement rates exemplify the program’s effectiveness in addressing the needs and aspirations of opera artists.
Impact: Most Valuable Aspects of the Program:
Participants cited several key benefits that made the program truly valuable:
- Opportunities to Learn and Diversify Skills: The program enabled artists to broaden their skill set within the opera industry, fostering personal and professional growth.
- Learning from Experienced Professionals: Collaborating with seasoned industry professionals allowed participants to gain practical knowledge and invaluable insights.
- Networking and Making Connections: The program facilitated networking opportunities, fostering meaningful connections within the industry that can lead to future collaborations and career advancement.
- Access to Specialized Skills and Knowledge: Participants appreciated the chance to acquire specialized skills and knowledge, enabling them to explore new career paths within and beyond opera.
- Gaining Confidence and Planning Next Steps: The program instilled confidence among participants and empowered them to plan their career trajectories more effectively.
- Validation of Mentorship through Payment: Recognizing the value of mentorship, the program emphasized the importance of compensating mentors, providing validation for their guidance and expertise.
Participants expressed their appreciation for the program and its impact on their professional and financial well-being:
- “This program was brilliant. It empowered me to acquire additional skills and knowledge without worrying about financial constraints. It allowed me to meet my monthly requirements while exploring a different aspect of opera production that I am still developing skills in.”
- “Money is a barrier to our industry’s growth, and programs like these are a smart investment in Canadian opera. AOC’s efforts to bridge the gap between students and working artists are incredibly valuable.”
- “This funding gave me room to grow. I wasn’t burning the candle at both ends, balancing a joe job while trying to grow as an artist. I am extremely grateful for that opportunity.”
Continued Support and Future Initiatives
The feedback received from program participants provided valuable insights on how the AOC can further support opera artists:
- Support for Complementary Careers: AOC can highlight non-musical career paths for freelance singers, showcasing different portfolio artists and the possibilities they entail.
- Creative Entrepreneurship and Business Planning: Offering more opportunities for creative entrepreneurship and business planning in a community of learning can help artists navigate the industry successfully.
- Mentorships, Placements, and Development Initiatives: Expanding mentorship programs, earn-and-learn placements, and other initiatives would foster continuous growth and development among artists.
- Paid Opportunities for Gatherings and Workshops: AOC can provide more paid opportunities for artists to participate in gatherings, conferences, and workshops, creating spaces for learning and networking.
- Peer Resilience Pods and Virtual Connections: Offering peer resilience pods and specialized ones for specific sectors/jobs within the industry, as well as hosting virtual coffee connections, would further foster a supportive community for artists to connect and share experiences.
We especially want to thank the project management team at KLX Consulting Kristina Lemieux, Brendan McMurtry-Howlett and Julie Mamias, for taking an idea, and turning it into a brand new, beautifully run and rapidly delivered program all in under 6 months.
Our thanks to the Government of Canada for their support of this initiative: