Incubating arts innovation & digital transformation

This pilot arts-oriented, volunteer-driven arts collective. It’s an arts entrepreneurship initiative aiming to support the design and testing of a culturally-aligned and community-focused digital creative incubator facilitating development of new artistic and cultural training opportunities and employment. Our goal is to support urban and newly-urban artists from remote and rural communities and cultural connectors to link with urban centres. 

The original idea for our experimental Incubator for Digital Arts and Cultural Entrepreneurship project was to design, develop and test an urban and land-based arts and culture training program for next-generation Indigenous talent, with the goal to incubate opportunities for sustainable self-employment. 

Its primary purpose was to build upon proven cultural entrepreneurship training to foster new arts industry employment through a careful balance of traditional knowledge, science and modern technologies. Indigenous artists from Northwestern Ontario, Nunavut and Manitoba were able to connect with, and  learn alongside an inclusive, diverse team of researchers, arts educators and professional artists. 

Our initial goals were to:  

  1. Explore and better understand the role and impacts of culture and creativity in driving community-based research and economic development. 
  2. Provide hands-on digital arts and cultural entrepreneurship training and advanced mentorship for emerging urban, rural and remote Indigenous artists
  3. Develop and launch art and culture-based businesses utilizing digital technologies (animation, augmented reality, virtual reality, lights and visual projection, film, and immersive digital art).
The Winnipeg Incubator for Digital Arts and Cultural Entrepreneurship was funded by the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Greenhouse program.

Since November 2021 our project has been able to provide synchronous and asynchronous training, educating youth and community members about the use of digital technologies to create and valorize their artistic work. 

Key objectives in supporting professional development and organizational capacity building for arts services include:  

  • Building a resilient and healthy arts sector; 
  • Ensuring artists and other arts professionals have access to learning opportunities; 
  • Enhancing capacity building for arts organizations, in particular new groups, collectives and emerging artists; 
  • Promoting diversity and increased collaboration within the arts community.

With support of strategic innovation funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and its new Digital Greenhouse program, our exploratory Digital Arts and Culture Incubator project seeks to capitalize on one specific opportunity and challenge: The increasing reliance and utilization of digital communication technologies and collaborative hardware/software solutions to connect physically remote locations with each other and major urban centers.

It’s time for new experiences.

We’re building our program from the grassroots up. An inclusive, community-driven program, nurturing pathways towards sustainable, self-determined employment in the arts and cultural entrepreneurship sectors.

This project would also not have been possible without an initial City of Winnipeg Wellness Grant and St. James Ward Councillor Scott Gillingham. This support created the conditions for and inspired our decision to establish our small, but growing program.

One of our goals was to support building capacity for local research creation through an arts-based lens. This work began with the Inclusion in Northern Research Initiative in late 2021. We also look to ensure the impacts and outcomes of our work are aligned with and measured against standards such as ArcticNet’s strategic process for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Key Performance Indicators. This work was highly relevant to designing digital, arts-based approaches to research creation. Learning from those strategic processes, we will be able to better measure the impacts of our work and identify areas for improvement. Our project will also continue to discuss the role of arts and digital technologies across multiple disciplines, while exploring the role Indigenous culture connectors can have in shaping new community-based approaches, best practices and frameworks.

Digital Greenhouse

The Digital Greenhouse is a digital innovation initiative for Canadian individuals, groups and organizations. It supports short-term projects that leverage digital technology to address sectoral and digital challenges, including:

  • the development of new digital tools and solutions that increase the resilience, sustainability, and discoverability of the arts sector
  • the development of sector-wide and cross-sector collaborations, partnerships, and networks to support innovative digital business models, revenue models and monetization strategies
  • sectoral approaches aimed at strategically increasing the digital/data literacy and ongoing digital transformation of the arts sector
  • addressing challenges and exploring digital solutions related to accessibility, equity, diversity, decolonization, social justice, and climate responsibility created by, or relevant to, the digital world
  • addressing challenges and exploring solutions related to the lack of access to digital infrastructure for remote regions and Northern and under-represented communities.

This report, prepared for Canada Council for the Arts grant # 7015-21-0023 outlines the accomplishments, challenges and opportunities our initiative encountered as well as outlining our next steps as we exit the experimental phase of our first year. 

We are immensely grateful to the Canada Council for the Arts for supporting our youth, community members and emerging artists over the course of this past year. 

This experimental, Canada-US pilot program for digital arts and cultural entrepreneurship was made possible with financial investment from the following organizations and we gratefully acknowledge their encouragement and support.

This digital arts innovation and skills training program was funded by the Manitoba Arts Council.
Minneapolis College of Art and Design logo
This digital arts and cultural entrepreneurship training program in Winnipeg, Manitoba was supported with strategic innovation funding from the Canada Council for the Arts.
We are thankful to the Arctic Buying Company Kivalliq and Winnipeg for making our program possible.