OSAC Showing Diversity and Encouraging Inclusiveness

By: SaskCulture Staff January, 2018

A recent hoop dancing and hip hop tour is but one of the many ways the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils (OSAC) is helping to encourage its audiences, as well as its membership, to create a welcoming environment for Indigenous peoples and new Canadians in Saskatchewan communities.

As one of the many eligible organizations working on organizational diversity plans, OSAC has not only completed a diversity plan, but has been hard at work with workshops for member arts councils, as well as lining up community performances and exhibitions that showcase the diversity of the province and country.  Its recent tour of Hip Hop Hoop Dance featuring Terrance Littletent and Chancz Perry has already toured to over 32 schools, reaching over 8,400 students in 28 communities in southern Saskatchewan, with a message about the similarities between Indigenous hoop dancing and North American hip hop culture.

“It was important for OSAC to provide opportunities for the community to build their understanding of the diversity in this province, and how community groups must change to ensure they are being as inclusive as possible,” explains Kevin Korchinski, executive director, OSAC.  “This performance was very well-received by students and teachers as an interactive opportunity to share cross-cultural messages that connect with a variety of age groups. The performance shows how a clash of cultures can turn into respect for culture. We were also able to reach schools that had not been reached before, including some on reserve.”

While OSAC has always featured a diverse line-up as part of its touring arts program, extra effort has gone into nurturing new artists who are showcasing diversity, such as Terrance and Chancz, and to encourage them to apply.  According to Marianne Woods, performing arts coordinator - school tours, OSAC, “A number of different people saw the potential of this show and these artists.  Terrance has a very gentle way of teaching, and both he and Chancz were able to share the similarities of their cultures and the experiences as a result of colonialization.” Their work was originally established for Ranch Erhlo, but went on to be part of a Live Arts Broadcast in Blaine Lake, and performed at Globe Theatre as part of its Sandbox Series.

Besides offering shows that reflect provincial diversity, OSAC’s diversity plan also includes its Spark and Inspire programs that serve to create youth mentorships and be inclusive of the diversity of the next generation of artists.  As well as work to increase awareness among its members and juries at this past year's Showcase 2017, OSAC hosted a presentation by Lyndon Linklater, from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, as well as a workshop by Risa Payant of Common Weal on newcomers in communities.  Since working on its diversity plan, OSAC has also formed a Diversity Committee, which includes staff, board and other volunteers.  Korchinski adds, “There is a growing interest in ensuring programming helps build cultural connections and inclusiveness.”

For the past three years, SaskCulture has been supporting diversity planning for organizations that receive Annual Global Funding.  After participating in diversity planning sessions, many of these organizations have developed diversity plans and programming that helps ensure they are more inclusive.