Culture Days 2.0: Public Engagement Amid COVID-19
Not even a pandemic could stop Culture Days from highlighting cultural activity this year. Designed to bring people together, Culture Days had to shift quickly to adapt to public health restrictions imposed across Canada. In Saskatchewan, SaskCulture modified its funding program to promote engagement, while encouraging virtual or safe, small group in-person participation.
In the early planning stages, the national Culture Days partners worked to adapt the Canada-wide event to make it as safe as possible for organizers, volunteers and the public - no matter their location. Changes included placing a greater emphasis on virtual/online, DIY and self-guided activities, as well as extending Culture Days from a mere weekend to a four-week celebration. The month-long option enabled groups to hold in-person events and activities multiple times, with smaller, pre-registered audiences. It also helped make scheduling more flexible for virtual activities.
“Virtual programming really took off this past year,” explains Shelley Fayant, communications consultant, SaskCulture, in charge of Culture Days coordination. “While it will never truly replace in-person engagement, it was a great opportunity for groups to reach out to new audiences who wanted to learn more about cultural activity, from the safety and comfort of their homes.”
Changing up its own strategy, SaskCulture offered Culture Days Hub Sponsorships that provided up to $5,000 to support communities who brought together two or more community organizations to offer COVID-safe, arts and cultural activities. The application process was streamlined to focus on community size, the strength of the community hub partnerships, and the quality and nature of the planned activities. Ten community hubs, that included two or more cultural groups, were selected for sponsorships.
In 2020, Hub activities were innovative, diverse and accessible. For instance, the Art Gallery of Regina’s Moving Pictures project used an augmented reality (AR) app to deliver on-demand videos by Saskatchewan artists to the public during Culture Days. AR-enabled posters were hung in different easily accessible public locations around the province, removing barriers that may be encountered in a physical gallery setting.
In Warman, participants used a smartphone app to participate in a community scavenger hunt for cultural items, while participants in Prince Albert, enjoyed virtual programming, and for the first time in its history, attended a drive-in Tapestrama Cultural Festival with food trucks and live-streamed musical and dance performances.
It’s estimated that approximately 20,000 people in the province participated in Culture Days in Saskatchewan throughout the four weeks, though some of the programming is still online and available (likely increasing participant numbers).