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Creative industries inherently rely upon shared experiences and, as a result, have faced immense impacts from COVID-19. While the future is beginning to look brighter as vaccination continues, true recovery for the arts and culture sectors may not arrive until 2022 and beyond. Despite the uncertainty of these difficult times, we must focus on resilience.

The Alliance for a Grand Community is excited to host a panel discussion, “COVID-19 Recovery in the Arts”, that will feature speakers from arts and culture fields from across Canada in a broad discussion of economic development, funding, and resilience as we prepare for post-COVID recovery. Our rich, diverse, and vibrant arts and culture sectors are more important than ever as we traverse these uncharted waters. Together, panelists will discuss how we ensure the viability of arts and culture jobs as sectors begin to reopen, and who will fill our audiences, connect with our visitors, and share our stories now and into the future. They will evaluate what this future might look like, and how we can ensure the success of these vital elements of our communities in the months and years to come. Our artists, designers, technicians, musicians, actors, dancers, administrators, and individuals and organizations from all creative industries need support to recover, reinvent, and re-emerge so that they continue to enliven and connect our communities.

Featured panelists will be Carolyn Vesely, CEO, Ontario Arts Council; Alysha Brilla, musician, music producer, and wellness facilitator; Jeremy Freiburger, Cultural Strategist, CoBALT Connects; and Sanjay Shahani, Executive Director, Edmonton Arts Council. Moderated by Brent McKnight, PhD, MBA, Associate Professor Strategic Management, McMaster University.

The Panel Discussion is free and open to all and will take place via Zoom on Tuesday, May 18 from 11am to 1pm EST.

Participants must register in advance by clicking the following link:

The email address used to register must be the same as the one used to sign into your Zoom account.

The Alliance for a Grand Community is a committee of Arts Leaders representing the interests of the Cambridge Art Galleries/Idea Exchange, Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery, Drayton Entertainment, Grand Philharmonic Choir, Kitchener Public Library, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Region of Waterloo Library, Waterloo Public Library, and Region of Waterloo Museums. The Alliance advocates for adequate and sustainable public funding, provides evidence of the impact of arts and cultural experiences to residents and visitors to the Region, and promotes public support for arts and culture across the Region.

Carolyn Vesely is CEO of the Ontario Arts Council, the Ontario government’s primary arts funding agency. Prior to becoming CEO in January of 2020, Carolyn was OAC’s Director of Granting for seven years, where she oversaw the successful redesign and streamlining of OAC programs was responsible for implementing “Vital Arts and Public Value”, OAC’s strategic plan. Carolyn started her time at OAC in 2001 as Visual and Media Arts Officer.

Before joining OAC, Carolyn had an extensive career leading public art galleries deeply rooted in their communities. Carolyn served as Executive Director for both the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery and the Kelowna Art Gallery. The KW Art Gallery became known for engaging and thought-provoking exhibitions during her tenure. Carolyn also was the Director and Curator of the Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant in Brantford, Ontario for seven years. Carolyn graduated from the Visual Arts Department of the University of Western Ontario and the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Alysha Brilla is a 3X Juno Award nominated artist, multi-instrumentalist, music producer and creative wellness facilitator currently producing her fifth self-produced full length record, ‘The Body’; blending global roots sounds with expansive lyrical themes and meditative undertones.

In Sept 2020, Brilla opened The Frequency Portal to provide an online learning and healing space for artistic souls.  A digital realm full of classes, workshops, mentorship and dynamic discussions about the science of creativity, self-expression, the physics of sound and their relationship to our wellness and humanity.

Brilla’s music, blogs and spirituality are inspired by growing up with parents from two different cultural and religious backgrounds; a Muslim Indo-Tanzanian father who immigrated to Canada and a Christian European Settler-Canadian mother. Raised in Brampton, Ontario, Brilla’s rocky youth and intersecting cultural influences encouraged the birds eye view, non-linear philosophies that inform her artistry and teachings.

Jeremy Freiburger is the founder and Cultural Strategist of Cobalt Connects. As an artist Jeremy has toured the country as a musician, performed and produced on stage for theatre and dance, spent considerable time on-screen in film and television in his youth, and currently works primarily in public art. As an administrator Jeremy has led the development of multiple venues and cultural hubs, municipal policy focused on culture and creative industries, public art policy and program development for dozens of municipalities and major institutions. Presently Jeremy is leading the All Our Relations public art project in Hamilton with Angela DeMontigny, Hamilton Winterfest, Good(s) Movement and the development of the New Vision Music Hall. Jeremy lives along the Stoney Creek with his wife Kim and son Miles and their two dogs Dr. Snuggles and Frackleton.

Sanjay Shahani is an arts professional who has worked in the arts for more than 25 years. Sanjay has contributed to the growth and development of arts organizations in South Asia and North America, including as founding Chair of the Prismatic Arts Festival in Halifax. Prismatic is a multidisciplinary arts festival that is dedicated to advancing the work of artists of colour and Indigenous artists. He currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees at the National Arts Centre.

Most recently, Sanjay was the Strategy Lead for Arts and Culture at the Ontario Trillium Foundation, designing the foundation’s arts and culture investment strategy. Before being appointed to lead the foundation’s strategy, he oversaw province-wide granting to the sector. Prior to joining the foundation, Sanjay was a Theatre Officer at the Canada Council for the Arts and Community and Multidisciplinary Arts Officer at the Ontario Arts Council (OAC).

He is currently the Executive Director of the Edmonton Arts Council (EAC). Sanjay led the EAC’s partnership with the Edmonton Heritage Council and Arts Habitat Edmonton, and oversaw the building of Connections & Exchanges: A 10-Year Plan To Transform Arts and Heritage In Edmonton.

Dr. Brent McKnight is an associate professor of Strategic Management at the DeGroote School of Business where he teaches on the topics of strategy and social and environmental issues in business. He is the co-chair and founder of the Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability. Dr. McKnight studies how organizations address complex societal problems. Throughout his work, Dr. McKnight is driven by a fascination both with how organizations bounce back from substantial adversity and in the increasingly important role that organizations play in building community-level resilience across a range of shocks and disturbances. In Dr. McKnight’s research, resilience plays an important role in conceptualizing a firm’s pursuit of sustainability; resilience taps into the essence of what it is to be sustainable over long timelines. Most recently, Dr. McKnight is engaged in a longitudinal study of non-profits and main street retailers as they navigate the challenges of COVID-19.