20 Years and Forward: 2018 - 2022

In 2018, SaskCulture celebrated 20 years as an organization. At its 2018 Member Session & AGM, held in June, SaskCulture celebrated by sharing video messages from Past Presidents, a photo tribute, and a cake, as well as highlighting SaskCulture’s 20-year timeline in its 2018-19 Year in Review.

For SaskCulture and its partners, 2019 started out on a high note with the signing of the 2019-2024 Lottery Licence Agreement. Hon. Eugene Makowsky, Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport, joined SaskCulture president James Rose, and the other tri-global presidents at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina to sign a new agreement, which would maintain the 3.75% licence fee, as well as funding stability in the sport, culture and recreation for another five years. While up to this point lottery revenues had plateaued, by May 2020 right at the beginning of the pandemic, Sask Lotteries was seeing record revenues. These projections continued well into 2022, with large revenue stream bringing continued stability to the cultural sector over the long term.

After signing an agreement in January 2018, SaskCulture and Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre (SICC) began work on delivering the Indigenous Languages and Culture (ILC) grant (formerly known as the Aboriginal Languages Initiative (ALI) grant) in Saskatchewan. SaskCulture saw this as an important opportunity to build an ongoing partnership with SICC, which would strengthen cultural programming for Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan. The ILC grant is funded through Canadian Heritage and delivered in partnership with SICC. The first grants were awarded later in the year, followed by work on the structure of the grant going forward. Over the course of 2019, SICC and SaskCulture developed the ILC Adjudication Orientation manual, the ILC Applicants handbook, along with two webinar tutorials. Both organizations continue to reach out to the community to build awareness of the grant. This work resulted in a dramatic uptake on the grant in 2019-20 compared to prior years. In 2021, the program was put on hold by the federal government.

In June 2019, members approved changes to SaskCulture’s Constitution that would address SaskCulture’s recognition and commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Principles of Reconciliation and the Calls to Action. In the amended Constitution, SaskCulture will be responsive to “constructive action on addressing the ongoing legacies of colonialism that have had destructive impacts on Indigenous peoples’ cultures and languages as part of reconciliation”, as well as in its strength of common purpose, SaskCulture is committed to “sharing responsibility for establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships as Treaty people.” Along with a few updates to terminology, the changes are in line with the organization’s Ends and direction moving forward.

In line with some of its work to address the TRC Calls to Action, SaskCulture added land acknowledgements to all of its outgoing email correspondence and on its website in 2019. Over the past five years, SaskCulture has been consistently acknowledging Treaty lands in its speaking engagements, and continues to look for ways through its programming to show respect to the land’s original peoples. Work continued through 2020-22 on assessing how SaskCulture is, and can be, addressing the Calls to Action and principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

In 2021, SaskCulture began work with the Office of the Treaty Commissioner (OTC) to evaluate SaskCulture’s current work to address reconciliation and what work needs to be done, based on the OTC’s Reconciliation Growth Model.

Also in 2021, SaskCulture and SK Arts partnered towards developing a reconciliation focused Indigenous arts program. A series of consultations have took place in the fall of 2021 and into the winter of 2022 with twenty-five Indigenous Artists, Elders and Survivors to discuss the concepts of Truth and Reconciliation and to get advisement on the themes, focus and intent of what a SK Arts initiative could accomplish in this area. A program concept was shared in June of 2022, and a coordinator was hired by SK Arts.

In 2021, SaskCulture established two community partnership designed to help more effectively deliver funding to particular communities. SaskCulture reestablished its partnership with Gabriel Dumont Institute to take on the delivery of the Métis Cultural Development Fund. This partnership proved successful with an increase in eligible applicants to the first funding deadline. Secondly, SaskCulture partners with the Northern District for Sport, Culture and Recreation to deliver the Northern Youth Cultural Fund resulting in better access and communication of the fund’s availability.

The Small Grant Accessibility Program (SGAP) was launched in June 2021 to support grassroots, unique and innovative cultural initiatives that respond to emergent needs or changes in the cultural sector, and create access and pathway for first-time and under-served applicants. SGAP allows SaskCulture to identify gaps in current grant programs by engaging with new and underserved applicants, in addition to accepting applications that not fit the criteria and timeline for other SaskCulture grant programs. Through this grant, SaskCulture is able to support some unincorporated groups and organizations proposing great and culturally significant initiatives with tremendous potential to have a positive impact to anyone involved. In 2022, the SGAP added a Digital and Technology Capacity focus to address the growing need.

In 2019, SaskCulture began planning for a Funding Program Renewal Project, which will research and analyze funding programs to determine changes needed going forward. In 2020, a Terms of Reference was completed for the Project. In 2021, Praxis was contracted to conduct secondary research of work being done on Inclusiveness, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility. In 2022, work commenced on the development of an Evaluation Framework.

Alongside the renewal process, SaskCulture continued to review its funding processes to assess effectiveness. Staff had recognized the growing overlap of applications to the Aboriginal Arts and Leadership Grant and the Multicultural Initiatives Fund, particularly in support of Indigenous cultural initiatives. With ideas supporting Truth and Reconciliation on the rise, staff took the opportunity to share and discuss the most effective use of lottery support for these initiatives, and created streams to help better assess the types of applications received, ranging from Indigenous Internal, Indigenous Connections and Multicultural Initiatives.

A 2018 Membership Survey showed that SaskCulture members were increasingly concerned about diversity and inclusiveness within their organizations, their membership and the culture sector as a whole. While 90% of respondents noted that they promoted the importance of diversity to their networks, inclusiveness training was among the top training options identified. Members felt that providing inclusiveness training and resources was an important role for SaskCulture. The survey also showed that 69% were aware of Saskatchewan Lotteries, and relatively strong awareness of SaskCulture and all of its programs and services.

Over 2018-2020, SaskCulture staff members continued to build their intercultural understanding. For the past four years, SaskCulture staff have attended events such as the Wicihitowin Conference in Saskatoon, focused on reconciliation and learning, continued to attend a range of other diversity training workshops. In 2018-2019, staff completed the five Intercultural Training modules offered by Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan. These training modules, created by MCoS as part of the Canada 150 initiative cover: Intercultural Communication and Competence; Cross-cultural Engagement; Diversity in the Workplace; Embracing the Diversity beyond the surface; and Recognition and Rejection of Racism. In 2019, staff also participated in a LGBTQ+ workshop delivered by Joe Wickenheiser, as well as participating in the KAIROS blanket exercise. In 2020 and 2021, staff members continued to make individual progress through online options.

On February 2020, Sask Lotteries officially announced the launch of its new brand which included a new logo and new branding guidelines. As a result of this change, Sask Sport also required SaskCulture to change the look of its long-running double logo featuring SaskCulture/Sask Lotteries. SaskCulture redeveloped its logo guidelines and all ECOs were encouraged to only recognize Sask Lotteries as their funder. At this point, SaskCulture began a wide-sweeping update of logos on all of its digital promotional materials; print materials would follow.

LifeCycles continues a part of SaskCulture’s training initiatives for the near future. In 2019, three of the four cohort organizations – Saskatchewan Orchestral Association, Saskatchewan Library Association and Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, reported back on their findings and success. Throughout the year, SaskCulture worked with Susan Kenney and her consultants on developing a streamlined Lifecycles Selfie for use with other non-profit organizations in the province, as well as supporting the development of trained Lifecycles consultants. By 2020, a new group of cohorts began, participating in a series of training workshops and coaching sessions. By 2021, SaskCulture had trained over 300 individuals in LifeCycles from over 15 cultural organizations. In 2021, LifeCycles training continued virtually and resulted in good attendance at SaskCulture sessions. In addition, several consultants from Saskatchewan were certified to deliver LifeCycles’ sessions and provide consultation and support.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had a big impact on the cultural community in Saskatchewan and around the world. By March 2020, many organizations had postponed events and shut down operations in order to adjust to a new reality going forward. SaskCulture staff kept on working mostly from their homes, and the office was closed to the public. Besides increasing flexibility in the delivery of grants and follow-up reporting, SaskCulture continued to hold Member Forums, Eligible Cultural Organization Network sessions, and sharing resources and tools through its communication network, which included tools to support virtual programming, virtual AGMs, mitigation strategies, and funding opportunities, as well as serving as a liaison to government and lottery partners. In the earliest days of the pandemic, SaskCulture provided regular updates through its communication tools and through Member and ECO forums online, in order to help cultural leaders handle funding adjustments, staffing and other operational issues. SaskCulture worked with its partners to help provide information on options available.

In 2021, SaskCulture, in partnership with SK Arts and Creative Saskatchewan, conducted a survey to help get a better idea of the impact of COVID-19 on the cultural community in the province. Results of the Bouncing Back from COVID survey showed that revenues for cultural organizations had decreased substantially, volunteerism was down and the community was concerned about the future. To address the growing concern of audience/participants returning to the cultural activities they previously enjoyed, SaskCulture along with its partners and the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport, worked with Brown Communications Group to develop a province-wide campaign that ran from July to October 2022.

One of the biggest changes for SaskCulture in 2020, was the hiring of new CEO Dean Kush, after the retirement of long-term CEO Rose Gilks. Formerly the Associate CEO from 2010 to 2020, Dean Kush brings a strong background in arts and cultural experience, besides his 10 years with SaskCulture, he had previous experience working with newcomers to Canada in various capacities, teaching youth and adults, as well as his experience as a professional musician.

The pandemic also changed the work structure at SaskCulture, with most of the staff members setting up remote work stations, only coming to the downtown office intermittently. As COVID-19 concerns were reduced in 2022, many staff members continued working in a hybrid of both remote and in-office work schedules. SaskCulture reviewed at home work stations and established workable schedules to accommodate a hybrid workplace. Making remote work an acceptable workstyle, SaskCulture hired an employee who resides in Saskatoon as part of its team.

In tandem with staffing changes, the SaskCulture board also welcomed James Ingold as its new Chair of the SaskCulture Board of Directors in 2020. James had served on the SaskCulture board previously from 2009 – 2016. SaskCulture had postponed its AGM, normally held in June, and held it virtually in September 2020. Other new board members elected at the 2020 AGM included Olfunke Okochi, Heather Cline and Les Oystryk. At the 2021 AGM also held virtually in June 2021, Melanie Sunchild, Rowena Materne, Wilfred Burton, Yvonne Hotzak and Jan Siebel (formerly served 2002-2008) joined James Rose (Past President) and other members on the board. In 2022, Jan Siebel was voted in as Chair of the SaskCulture Board, and several new board members joined the board, including James Ingold (Past Chair), Wilfred Burton, Rowena Materne, Yvonne Hotzak, Heather Cline, Melanie Sunchild, Les Oystryk, Ross Grandel, Lamar Oksasikewiyin, and saying good-bye to James Rose and Olfunke Okochi.

At the very beginning of the pandemic, in April 2020, SaskCulture, in partnership with SK Arts, completed a 2020 Public Awareness Survey to determine public awareness, interest and participation in arts and culture in Saskatchewan. Key findings show that 90% of respondents think of Saskatchewan culture in a positive way; 81% consider arts and culture important to the province; 65% are aware of arts and cultural activities in their communities; and 54% of all respondents participate in arts and cultural activities.

As the impact of the pandemic became more and more evident, SaskCulture continued to reassure the cultural community of flexibility and provided support where it could to help groups through this time. Besides increasing flexibility in the delivery of grants and follow-up reporting, SaskCulture continued to hold Member Forums, Eligible Cultural Organization Network sessions, and sharing resources and tools through its communication network, which included tools to support virtual programming, virtual AGMs, mitigation strategies, and funding opportunities, as well as serving as a liaison to government and lottery partners.

In addition, SaskCulture adapted its Culture Days programming to a month-long event with increased virtual programming. SaskCulture supported a new Northern Cultural Legacy Project that featured northern artists providing arts instruction via YouTube to participants who received arts supplies in their homes. In addition, Culture Days supported 10 community hubs throughout the province who offered both virtual and small in-person activities over the course of the Culture Days month. Over 16,000 people participated in one or more of the registered 160 Culture Days activities, from 17 different communities, during the month. SaskCulture also worked to provide online/instruction sheet guided arts programming that could be used via the Dream Brokers program. Three artists provided various Indigenous-inspired arts activities along with supply lists, which Dream Brokers delivered to students so they could participate in the safety of their own homes. This version of Culture Days continued into 2021, supporting 15 community hubs, including one in the north.

Creative Kids continued to offer deadlines for children and their families to receive support throughout Saskatchewan. Although, arts and cultural lessons continued during the pandemic (either in small in-person or virtual sessions), applications for support did slow down over 2020 and 2021. Applications to the program decreased by approximately 32% in 2020, and 45% in 2021 (however, this allowed us to fund kids from families with higher incomes). In 2020, all public in-person fundraising activities, such as Nourish and Vintage, were suspended. With many public health restrictions lifted in July 2021, Nourish, the dining fundraiser, resumed in the Fall 2021. Online campaigns such as Giving Tuesday and the annual Holiday Campaign were a continued success. Overall, dollars from fundraising did go down slightly in 2020, but some new opportunities presented themselves including a new partnership with K + S Potash and increased donations from TD Bank and SaskTel in 2020, and new relationships with Co-op Fuel Good Day and ACCESS Communications in 2021.

In 2021, SaskCulture staff participated in a Disability Audit, conducted by Listen to Dis’, in order to better understand the needs of people with various disabilities. Work commenced on how to make appropriate changes to improve access to SaskCulture programs and services for those facing different types of barriers.

SaskCulture’s online community continues to grow. By 2022, SaskCulture was reaching an online community of over 100,000 users on a regular basis through its website and various social media accounts: SaskCulture Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Culture Days Facebook and Twitter and Creative Kids Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The social media accounts have been managed regularly since 2009, and SaskCulture’s latest website has been in place since 2013 and Creative Kids new website has been in place since 2019. In addition, E-Update, which has been published since 2000, has a current reach of 1,500 subscribers with an open rate of 38% (2021), and a review of the online publication in 2018 showed that 98.3 per cent of respondents said that E-Update helped them find out more information about SaskCulture and 88.5 per cent said it helped them in their work.

SaskCulture Inc. is constantly moving forward and addressing the changing needs of Saskatchewan peoples It continues to be an important part of the province’s evolving history, contributing to the cultural development of this province, and ultimately, working to build and maintain a culturally vibrant Saskatchewan!