Creative Convergence 2021 Recap

Creative Convergence 2021 - Confirming the role of the arts in pandemic recovery

On October 28 & 29, the Canadian Network for Arts & Learning held Creative Convergence 2021, our biennial conference which this year focused on the role of the arts in pandemic recovery and highlighted the successes of arts practitioners in engaging learners and participants in the digital realm. The conference, which was held virtually, provided a creative space for arts and learning professionals to network, share success stories about arts programming in the digital space, disseminate new research, and gain new perspectives on the role of arts and learning in health and well-being. 

Creative Convergence 2021 included an array of thought-provoking speakers, rousing performances, panel discussions, real-life testimonials from artists and educators, parallel and poster presentations, regional break-out discussion groups, networking sessions and much more. More than 250 participants attended the conference over both days including participants and speakers from outside of Canada.

Highlights of the conference included:

Moving videos and testimonials from the Labrador Creative Arts Festival and VSO School of Music showcasing the ways in which arts education and art-making brought communities together throughout a period of deep isolation.

A presentation by David Schimpky, Director of the Secretariat at Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO), who shed light on the influence of the pandemic on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and the ways in which the UN and CCUNESCO have been responding to the “generational catastrophe” caused by pandemic.

A keynote address by Dr. Brian Goldman — a leading voice for reform of the healthcare system. Dr. Goldman’s presentation was filled with thought-provoking insight on sustaining mental health within a pandemic and the importance of developing empathy. 

Another keynote address by Andrea Menard who spoke on decolonizing arts and wellness. Andrea Menard is an accomplished Métis singer-songwriter, actor, speaker and is the founder of the Sacred Feminine Learning Lodge. 

A performance of three powerful poems by Ontario Poet Laureate Randell Adjei. 

A panel discussion facilitated by Larry O’Farrell and Andrea Menard on the topic “Impacting Health through the Arts: International Perspectives” with panelists Stephanie Montesanti, Associate Professor at the University of Alberta; David McQuillan, Arts & Health Programme Manager at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust; and Isabelle Wachsmuth, Visual Artist and World Health Organization representative. 

Beautiful art pieces created throughout day one by Indigenous multidisciplinary storyteller Samaqani Cocahq (Natalie Sappier) who visually represented the speeches, artistic performances and discussions that took place. She presented and explained the artwork at the end of the day as an artistic rapporteur’s report.

Day two of the conference was dedicated to parallel presentations and networking. The conference featured 26 parallel and poster presentations, with some sharing new research while others focused on arts education programs taking place virtually and in-person throughout the country. Participants were able to simultaneously live chat with the presenters as video presentations premiered throughout the day. There were also two fast-paced and interactive networking sessions as well as roundtable discussions.

The conference confirmed the role of arts education as an essential component of pandemic recovery and its importance must be established in our aim to build stronger and healthier communities.