The Art Council of Ladysmith and District is leading the charge of Vancouver Island art councils to improve their digital skills.
ACLD formed the Digital Innovation Group (DIG) with a $212,200 grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. DIG members include the Comox Valley Arts Council, Cowichan Valley Arts Council, Saltspring Island Arts, Old School House Art Centre and Hornby Island Art Council.
DIG has conducted research into how Vancouver Island artists and art councils manage their data, and developed short-term and long-term strategic goals to help artists leverage digital platforms.
ACLD member and DIG lead Ora Steyn said that the COVID-19 pandemic has proven that digital skills are critical to supporting arts on Vancouver Island.
“It’s all about digital literacy,” Steyn said. “Once we started looking at digital literacy of artists and the councils we found that yes, there were issues. Part of those issues, especially for the councils, can be alleviated by sharing resources and knowledge.
Other digital literacy pieces like using software and storing data were also identified as areas for improvement.
“It’s no use teaching people how to store their data if they have no data — that’s the big thing,” Steyn said. “We don’t know where the artists are or how many there are. We don’t know what impact we have on communities, on the economy, on tourism, or any of those other details. It’s all word of mouth.”
“From my knowledge of the Ladysmith arts council, we have a book in the gallery and we make tick marks for every visitor that comes in. We know in 2019, we had 13,000 people through the gallery. That’s pretty powerful data but it’s not collected in a systematic way so that it can be compared year over year and it wasn’t collected digitally.”
DIG is working to compile an IT assessment for the member art councils. They will also be establishing an arts-focused technology help desk called Creative Coast. Creative Coast will help artists and art councils administer their digital systems and help promote shared knowledge of technology.
On May 31, DIG will be hosting a session for Vancouver Island art councils to discuss what digital skills and programs work best for individual councils.
In the long-term, this work is focused on building collaboration between Vancouver Island art councils and artists to establish the Island as a Canadian arts powerhouse.
Steyn said that art councils across Canada have taken notice of what’s happening with DIG and she hopes that community partners will too.
“What I hope comes from this is that tourism, economic development, local governments — all our partners in our communities — realize the value of art,” she said.