Montréal Museum of Fine Arts – A “Humanistic” Museum with a Holistic Vision: In Conversation with Nathalie Bondil

02 Nathalie Bondil Photo André Tremblay-sm

Nathalie Bondil (photo: André Tremblay)

Nathalie Bondil is the Director General and Chief Curator of the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts and has recently joined the MMIAM program’s International Advisory Committee. Under Nathalie’s direction, the Museum has garnered international recognition for its innovative partnerships and programming. Among the many honours she has received, Nathalie Bondil has been appointed a Member of the Order of Canada and recently received the Peter Herrndorf Arts Leadership Award from Business for the Arts. Laura Adlers had the privilege of interviewing Nathalie about the MMFA projects which are making headlines around the world.

The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is internationally recognized for its diverse and innovative programming, involving at least 450 partnerships with associations, clinics, hospitals, research centres and universities. One initiative in particular – the “museum prescription program” – received a lot of media attention recently. Can you tell us a bit about it?

This idea took shape several years ago when I envisioned the MMFA as a “humanistic” museum with a holistic vision, collaborating with the scientific community to build bridges between sciences and humanities. It was, in fact, a dream to enlist the support of doctors and neuroscientists who have conducted research on the benefits of culture and cultural institutions like museums on a person’s well-being. Doctors cannot actually prescribe a visit to a museum, of course, but they support the idea that a museum is a great asset in our community and that exposure to culture – to art, museums, music – makes us feel better. We now know that not only does visiting a museum or hearing a concert make us feel better on an individual level, but it also facilitates social interaction between people, between our friends and family.

For years, I discussed this holistic vision with my brother, a surgeon, and finally presented it to members of the Association des Médecins francophones du Canada. They who found it very interesting. We have just launched the pilot program on the first of November. In one year’s time we will meet again and review the results. It is true that there has been a real buzz about this program which has received a lot of press around the world! The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto asked us about the program, best practices, etc., and have launched their own “prescription” program as well.

Of course, this idea of “prescribing” a visit to the museum is by no means meant to replace medication or a medical treatment but could be added to it, just like exercise, for example.

MMFA-MFdC Museum prescription. Photo MBAM, Jean-François Brière.

MMFA-MFdC Museum prescription. Photo MBAM, Jean-François Brière.

This is just one pilot project among a dozen we are developing at our museum. For instance, we are partnering with Dr. Howard Steiger at the Douglas Institute on a project integrating art and museum visits to a treatment program aimed at people with eating disorders. In total, we have 450 partnerships thanks to our program “Sharing the Museum”. They are being boosted by our new Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Art Therapy and Education recognized for its innovative actions.

The MMFA also has a unique relationship with the music community in Montréal. Can you tell us about the music programming at the museum?

This is another element of our interdisciplinary approach to programming. It was launched in 2011, when we opened Bourgie Hall, a new professional concert hall built inside a church the Museum acquired. It presents about 150 classical, jazz and world music concerts every year, plus 50 educational programs. For a museum to host a music organisation in residence is highly unusual… and a great success.

Bourgie Hall, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Paul Boisvert.

Bourgie Hall, the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Paul Boisvert.

Bourgie Hall has its own production and administrative teams, all employees of a foundation, Arte Musica. They collaborate with our curatorial and educative teams to develop the season’s programming linking live concerts with current exhibitions as was the case, for example, during the Chagall: Colour and Music exhibit (2017). This season, a concert featuring the music of Ann Southam will be set in the pavilion dedicated to Canadian and Quebec art so the audience is surrounded by the works of the composer’s contemporaries.

Another dream has also come true: opening a new cinema hall, thus making good use of our underused auditorium. Programming for the “Cinema du Musée” has been entrusted to the expert team of “Cinémas Beaubien and Du Parc” as an exchange service with the MMFA. Although independent, its programming is developed to complement the museum’s exhibition calendar. We hope to open a second cinema hall next year. I was able to enlist a generous sponsor for the first hall but we must fundraise for the second hall.

These initiatives follow the same approach as that for the “prescription” project: we bring in the experts (in medicine, music, cinema, etc.) to collaborate with us on developing a powerful program. That makes our plans that much stronger and more likely to succeed. It’s a win-win situation.

MMIAM students have the immense privilege of meeting with you during their studies in Montreal. You share with them the business philosophy that informs all of your decisions for programming and partnerships at the MMFA. Can you share this business philosophy with our readers?

The role of a museum is to explain our lives, the world around us. In my view, we receive a wonderful gift, the rich heritage of our ancestors, and so it is our mission to preserve and enrich the collections and to keep this institution alive for artists and relevant for the younger generation. Art also reveals that each era faces social issues and challenges. The museum is like a tree – its roots digging deep into the ground are the past while its branches reaching for the sky are our present and future. The museum and the keys it holds to the past are very important tools in understanding current issues and imagining our futures. Please refer to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s guide Culture and Local Development: Maximising the Impact, for an overview of our social and health innovations.

It is important to make people think and to allay, for example, fears about immigration through exhibitions. It is a kind of citizens’ diplomacy which we practice: being open-minded and creating dialogue through art in a very subtle way through our exhibits. We can be very useful and efficient in creating a peaceful future for all of us through concrete actions… like our awarded Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavillion for Peace.

The Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace, level 1 – The Salons of the Belle Époque: Romanticism. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Photo © Marc Cramer.

The Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace, level 1 – The Salons of the Belle Époque: Romanticism. The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts. Photo © Marc Cramer.

Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the profession and for the cultural sector?

Everything “inter” is good! – interdisciplinary, international, intersectoral, intergenerational – because it is important, especially now, to understand other points of views, other cultures. We live in a country of citizens from so many different backgrounds. It is important for everyone to learn from one another and imagine a future together and to make it work. We must develop a global citizenship as we must face global ecological issues. In this perspective, we will inaugurate, in 2019, The Stephan Crétier ans Stéphany Maillery Wing for World Cultures and Togetherness.

What specific qualities do you look for when you are hiring an arts manager that are unique to working at an art museum?

I look for positive, empathetic, open-minded and motivated people. Education is important to a certain extent, and having a background in fine arts is obviously a must, but openness and commitment is as essential as character. The profile of the entrepreneur is what I like the most!

What are some of your future plans for the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts?

Having a curious and entrepreneurial personality, we keep bringing new ideas with concrete actions. I have just signed an important partnership with AVATAQ, the Inuit cultural organization of Nunavik (North of Quebec) which the Museum will host in residency in 2021.

Many of the things I do are possible only because I am in Canada. It is easier to be innovative and entrepreneurial here and so I also want to pay tribute to this great country. The world needs more open-minded places like Quebec and Canada!

School activity. The Museum of Fine Arts of Montreal. Photo: Caroline Hayeur / Collectif Stock Photo.

School activity. The Museum of Fine Arts of Montréal. Photo: Caroline Hayeur / Collectif Stock Photo.

Empowering Arts Leaders with High-Quality Data and Evidence-Based Resources: In Conversation with SMU DataArts Director Zannie Giraud Voss

Professor Zannie Voss presenting (Photo: Kim Leeson).

Professor Zannie Voss (Photo: Kim Leeson)Zannie Giraud Voss Ph.D. is Director of SMU DataArts as well as Chair and Professor of Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship in the Meadows School of the Arts and the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. She is also one of the co-creators of the MMIAM programme. Laura Adlers interviewed Professor Voss recently to discuss the evolution of the MMIAM programme and her new role as Director of SMU DataArts.

You are one of the co-chairs and co-creators of the MMIAM programme, now in its sixth year. How has the programme evolved since it was first launched?

The biggest evolution since launching is now having a fabulous alumni base – a very welcome addition to the programme!

We have learned over time how to ease the transition to new countries and how to help students be mindful that the ability to adapt to new cultures is an essential part of what they learn in the programme.  The course content has also evolved.  We communicate with students and our international advisory board about whether students are getting out of the programme what they need in order to be successful in their chosen careers, and we have made adjustments to meet those needs.

What is the focus of study for the MMIAM programme at Southern Methodist University?

The students begin the programme at SMU.  Our intial thought in designing curriculum was for each of the universities to provide students course offerings that reflect the strengths of their faculty and strengths of the unique aspects of each country’s way of producing/presenting/ exhibiting arts and culture.  Towards these ends, the focus of study at SMU is on comparative international cultural policy, international law and the arts, arts budgeting and nonprofit financial management, cultural economics and the international art market, and fundraising in the arts.

Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the profession and for the cultural sector?

First, the arts market is international, so it makes sense to prepare those going into the profession for that reality.  The arts are borderless.  There are international tours in the performing arts.  Dance, music, plays, and opera are interpreted and performed outside their country of origin.  There are global distribution systems for films, books, and recorded music.  Works of art are exchanged by museums around the globe, and exhibitions travel internationally.  Those who want to work in this arena need to understand that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all cultural lens on how work gets done.

Second, regardless of how well someone understands the ecosystem of arts and culture in their own country, there is always something to be learned by studying how the arts are produced, presented, valued, and consumed in other countries.  Diversity of perspectives helps us to assess the benefits of alternative models.  Good ideas can come from anywhere.

Professor Zannie Voss presenting (Photo: Kim Leeson).

Professor Zannie Voss presenting (Photo: Kim Leeson).


In August 2018, SMU announced a merger between the National Center for Arts Research and DataArts and the news that you are leading this exciting new organization. Can you tell us more about SMU DataArts and the work you and your team are doing?

SMU DataArts exists to empower arts and cultural leaders with high-quality data and evidence-based resources and insights that help them to overcome challenges and increase impact.  We collect data from arts and cultural organizations and link it to data on their communities.  Out of this, we generate insights and knowledge, and then personalize this knowledge to individual organizations through the creation of online tools. In essence, we are providing arts leaders more knowledge about their organizations out of their own data. We undertake this work to help the national field of arts and cultural organizations be increasingly essential, robust and sustainable contributors to their communities and to have more resources to direct to mission-related work.  Our intention is that by making the simple things simple, we can help a growing number of organizations make the hard things possible.

What are some of the notable trends you are seeing through your research of the U.S. cultural sector in recent years?

Arts and cultural organizations in the U.S. are facing headwinds. There is environmental uncertainty related to changes that affect tax-deductibility of contributions, regular threats to the elimination of federal arts funding, and changing consumer preferences that favor digital, on-demand consumption. Moreover, the organizations are largely cash-strapped and unprepared to weather another economic downturn, with working capital shrinking by 55% for the average organization between 2013 and 2016, and average attendance on the decline for more than half of the arts and cultural sectors. Arming those who lead these organizations with more facts, knowledge, and tools related to organizational health is essential for long-term sustainability.



Arts Management and the Creation of Social Values: Exploring Bogotá with Professor Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez

Street Art in Bogota (photo Laura Adlers)

Jaime Ruiz-GutiérrezProfessor Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez is Associate Professor of the Faculty of Administration at the Universidad de los Andes, where he teaches Culture Management. He has a PhD in Mathematics applied to Social Sciences and has conducted extensive research of arts and culture organizations using a rigorous approach based on numbers, indexes and indicators. Professor Ruiz-Gutiérrez is the coordinator of the campus abroad programme in Bogotá, Colombia. Laura Adlers interviewed him to learn more about the cultural sector in Bogotá and what MMIAM students experience during their visit.

The MMIAM students visit Bogotá at the end of their term in Montréal before starting the final phase of study in Milan. You are the architect of the Bogotá programme, which has evolved over the last five years.  What do the students experience during their visit?

First of all, I try to show the students experiences which demonstrate the high impact that arts management has on our society in terms of the creation of social and cultural values, as opposed to focussing on economic impact. Most of the cultural activities in our communities demonstrate a change of priorities: first, how arts management generates social value and then, how it generates economic value. In the case of Colombia, our communities and our arts managers have learned a lot from concrete experiences which have taken place in our country over many years, and these experiences determine management priorities.

Street Art in Bogota (photo Laura Adlers)

Street Art in Bogota (photo Laura Adlers).

Another element that I share with the students is the importance of the social environment and its impact on management processes. In Colombia, the majority of initiatives and management processes developed by arts and culture organizations have mostly been led by the private sector or individual efforts. The Colombian state, despite having developed a cultural policy with the objective of promoting the cultural sector, has scarce resources and therefore culture is not considered a priority compared with other social sectors such as health, education, or security.

These individuals and the communities leading cultural initiatives develop strategies that are sometimes quite creative, to maintain and strengthen their artistic and cultural activities.  In Colombia, for example, there are many popular festivals in many different communities, some of which have existed since as far back as the 19th century. These festivals have grown – in size, budget and quality of programming – with minimal support from the state. These artistic and cultural experiences are very interesting as research subjects. It’s valuable to know the types of strategies that helped develop these communities and the sustainibility of these popular festivals to the point that they have become well known in their regions, with some of them developing into real enterprises.

Another experiential element that speaks to Colombian character is the importance of social relationships in daily life. This element makes it very easy for the students to have spontaneous conversations with the many people the students meet during their visit.

Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez, Mónica Muñoz and François Colbert in Bogota (photo Laura Adlers).

Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez, Mónica Muñoz and François Colbert in Bogota (photo Laura Adlers).

There have been several students from Colombia in the MMIAM program. Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the profession and for the cultural sector in your country?

In Colombia and in Latin America in general, the management of arts and cultural projects and organizations has traditionally been managed in an intuitive way, by artists or people close to the sector. However, cultural activity has been gaining considerable importance in many qualitative and quantitative dimensions, requiring a professionalization of the sector and its management processes.

Additionally, the Colombian Constitution was changed in 1991; the previous one was written in 1886. In this new constitution, Colombia is defined as a multicultural and multiethnic society. This important change made the concept of culture a central element of the definition of the Colombian nationality. This led to the implementation of the Culture Law in 1997 and gave birth to the Ministry of Culture, the National System of Culture and the proposition of a good number of cultural policies. Under this new constitution, culture is conceived not only as a right, but as a resource requiring rigorous management processes.

National Library in Bogotá (photo Laura Adlers)

National Library in Bogotá (photo Laura Adlers).

I believe that the international perspective of MMIAM is fundamental. The programme provides the knowledge of other arts management practices in different countries. These different perspectives  contribute to the restructuring and strengthening of the cultural sector in Colombia. This international vision also allows students to compare the development of our arts organizations to a globalized world. At the same time, our own cultural expression contributes to enrich the cultural sector on an international level.

What innovative ideas have you observed in the cultural sector in Colombia which are leading the new wave in arts management?

Arts management has been led and developed by countries with advanced economies. Their educational and research institutions have established the principles of what we know as arts management. However, arts management activities have always been happening in Colombia, just intuitively, and they have only recently become academic topics, at the university level.

I believe the experience of arts management in Latin America can make contributions to the field in the following ways: the first one is, as I mentioned earlier, the exploration of arts management as a source of value creation from various non-economical perspectives. These are valuable perspectives of dual societies, as with most of the Latin American countries. The second one is related to the concept of “cultural responsibility”, corresponding with the establishment of cultural or artistic projects organized in and for vulnerable communities.

An example of this would be the development of a project for a vulnerable community in Bogotá which would create economic value and help provide for the community’s basic needs. In some cases, these projects generate conflict with the cultural structure of the community. For example, a change of traditional roles in the families, or some form of non-traditional work. In general, if projects do not take into account the cultural elements of the community, they will often not succeed.

François Colbert, Philip Grant and I have published an article “Arts Management in Developing Countries: A Latin American Perspective,” International Journal of Arts Management, Special Edition Latin America, Printemps 2016, p. 6-17, in which we address these issues.

Many alumni of the MMIAM program say that their time in Bogotá left the most profound impression about the relationship between culture and politics and the power of culture to heal a nation.  Can you comment on this?

The historical evolution of Colombia and the present-day situation have reaffirmed the enormous importance that art and culture have in the country, as a strategy for the cohesion and integration of society, after a good number of years of conflict and violence. There are many projects and experiences, some more successful than others, which have been developed from this perspective. Experiences in terms of music, visual, scenic, and plastic arts, etc. have been managed in a creative way with the communities most affected by the conflict, and with the population in general. In this sense, academia has a very important mission in terms of collecting, analyzing and understanding these experiences in order to achieve a greater impact on our society.

Los Andes University (photo Laura Adlers)

Los Andes University (photo Laura Adlers).

Value Creation by and Evaluation of US Arts Incubators (Abridged)


By Linda Essig

Until recently – either within the business discipline of entrepreneurship studies or across the disciplines of arts and cultural policy or community development – there has been little research on arts incubators, their strategic goals, their forms and funding models, or their evaluation methods. A review of extant research suggests that arts incubators play a role in early-stage development of arts-based enterprises and arts organizations as well as capacity-building for individual artists (Essig 2014; Gerl 2000). Arts incubators may also serve a community development function (Grodach 2011; Phillips 2010). This study asks three questions: How do arts incubators of various types create value for their stakeholder communities? How do arts incubators evaluate their success at creating the value? What is the relationship between the evaluation methods and strategic priorities of arts incubators?


Participants practicing their elevator pitch at Center for Cultural Innovation’s ART>NET>WORK workshop. June, 2017. Los Angeles, CA. (Photo: John Endow)

Through a qualitative cross-case analysis of four arts incubators of different types, the research opens the black box of incubator operations to find that arts incubators create value for client artists and arts organizations through both direct service provision and indirect echo effects, but that the provision of value to communities or systems is attenuated and largely undocumented. Despite issues surfaced through the study, arts incubators remain a potentially impactful tool for supporting cultural entrepreneurship. This article addresses potential policy outcomes of arts incubators as articulated in the literature, the ways in which arts incubators deliver services to their stakeholders, and the value that is created from that service delivery. Then, drawing on the cross-case analysis, it considers smart practices or best practices for value generation and evaluation in arts incubators.

Case Studies
The four case study subjects were chosen purposively to represent four different types of incubator (artist-serving, creative entrepreneur-serving, arts organization-serving, community-serving); geographic range (Pacific Northwest, Mid-Atlantic, California); and sectoral diversity (public, non-profit, private). Site visits were made to each of the four incubators, during which incubator leadership, staff, clients and supporters were interviewed and site observations conducted. Interview transcripts, published materials, observation notes and internal documents provided by the programs constitute the data for analysis.

The value proposition of Arlington County Arts Incubator in Arlington, VA is “to provide free space and services to arts organizations so that they can focus on organizational development and programming excellence.” Intersection of the Arts in San Francisco, CA has a broader range of services, including providing space for the development and production of artistic/creative products; space for the exhibition, performance or sale of artistic products; cooperative marketing; centralized business services; business classes or business training; arts business informational resources; and, most significantly, fiscal sponsorship. The Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI) serves individual artists throughout the state of California from its offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco.  CCI’s mission is “to promote knowledge sharing, networking and financial independence for individual artists and creative entrepreneurs by providing business training, grants, and incubating innovative projects that create new program knowledge, tools and practices for artists in the field.”1 Mighty Tieton is a loose affiliation of business entities located in the small rural community of Tieton, Washington. Mighty Tieton LLC owns a renovated fruit warehouse that is home to several creative businesses and a gallery space, and is one of the few commercial (for-profit) incubator enterprises identified in the typology research (Essig 2014) and provides space and informal business-planning advice to creative businesses and other businesses in town.


Tieton Mosaic. (Courtesy of Mighty Tieton.)

Cross-Case Analysis
Arts incubators provide services to artists, arts organizations and creative enterprises. Analysis of the four cases indicates that the value created by arts incubators lies not in the services delivered per se but, rather, in the positive effect of such services on the ability of stakeholders to achieve their objectives by lowering barriers, conferring legitimacy, cushioning risk and, in some cases, enhancing individual or organizational self-sufficiency. The incubators have some characteristics in common. In all cases, the incubator plays some part in lowering barriers to entrepreneurial action and helps its clients, directly or indirectly, to connect their means with their ends (see Essig 2015; Shane and Venkatataman 2000). Differences are observed in strategic priorities and organizational culture. These differences are evidenced in the ways in which the organizations evaluate their own success and that of their clients. There are also similarities – for example, for the most part evaluation takes place at the client level rather than at the program or organizational level.

Several themes and characteristics emerge from a look across all four cases: arts incubators are in a state of change; arts incubator affiliation provides a “seal of approval”; arts incubators provide a safety net against risk; arts incubators strive to support artist or client group self-sufficiency but are not always successful; success is defined and measured locally; evaluation is considered important but is implemented inconsistently.

Evaluating Arts Incubator Success
Business incubator evaluation tends to focus on the assessment of firms within incubators rather than on the incubators themselves (see Mian 2014). The same appears to be true of arts incubators. In general, evaluation processes occur at the client level, where the success of the incubator is measured by the success of its clients rather than at the level of the incubator programs or in relation to their strategic goals.

Recommendations and Conclusions
Arts incubators, like many small organizations, tend to look retrospectively at outputs rather than at the processes that convert inputs into tangible impacts, or means into ends. Despite these issues, arts incubators remain a potentially impactful tool of cultural policy if their processes and activities align with their strategic goals and if those processes and activities are assessed formatively and summatively. The primary recommendation is that arts incubators adopt a program of formative and summative assessment that can be used to foster organizational learning and lead to evidence-based decision-making.


My primary recommendation is that arts incubators adopt a program of formative and summative assessment that can be used to foster organizational learning and lead to evidence-based decision-making. Table 3 shows the variables that can be evaluated at the process, output and value-added levels across the strategic priorities articulated by the incubator stakeholders.

Finally, the only way to really know if an incubator is creating lasting value is to track the value-added (or “impact”) variables over time. This requires commitment on the part of the organization to build evaluation processes into its operations, gather data on a regular basis, analyze those data, and synthesize the results.

Notes (accessed 20 July 2015)

Essig, L. 2014. Arts incubators: A typology. Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society 44(3), 169-80.

Essig, L. 2015. Means and ends: A theory framework for understanding entrepreneurship in the US arts and culture sector. Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society 45(3), 227-46.

Gerl, E. 2000. Incubating the arts: Establishing a program to help artists and arts organizations become viable businesses. Anthens, OH: NBIA Publications.

Grodach, C. 2011. Art spaces in community and economic development: Connections to neighbourhoods, artists, and the cultural economy. Journal of Planning Education and Research 31(1), 74-85.

Mian, S. 2014. 15 business incubation and incubator mechanisms. Handbook of research on entrepreneurship: What we know and what we need to know, A. Foyelle, ed. (pp. 335-66). Cheltenham, UK, and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

Phillips, R.J. 2010. Arts entrepreneurship and economic development: Can every city be “austintatious”? Towards a psychology of entrepreneurship: An action theory perspective. Foundations and Trends® in Entrepreneurship 6(4), 239-313.

Shane, S., and S. Venkataraman. 2000. The promise of entrepreneurship as a field of research. Academy of Management Review 25(1), 217-26.

See the full article in the International Journal of Arts Management, Volume 20, Number 2, Winter 2018

Audacious New Moves Open Les Grands Ballets’ Season

The Nutcracker.

Alain Dancyger (photo: Ari Tapiero)Alain Dancyger is the Executive Director of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and a member of the MMIAM International Advisory Committee. In 2017, Alain, his team and his partners (Agora de la danse, Tangente and l’École de danse contemporaine de Montréal) realized the dream of creating “Espace danse”, an extraordinary international centre for dance in the heart of Montréal’s cultural district. What was the driving force behind Dancyger’s ambitious plans for Les Grands Ballets?

There is a trend in the cultural sector towards finding innovative ways to engage with the audience and break down the wall between artist and audience. Do you think this is important and what is Les Grands Ballets doing to address this?

There is a belief in the industry that if you are a cultural organization, you have to stick to cultural activities. Does this mean that everything we do has to be connected to ballet? At Les Grands Ballets, we do a lot of things which are not traditional. Several years ago, we decided to adopt a holistic approach to the dance industry and our organization. My belief is that if you are not connected to real life experiences, how can you connect with people? So a lot of our new programs are a result of this philosophy.

An activity at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens' National Centre for Dance Therapy. Photo: Damian Siqueiros / Zetaproduction

An activity at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens’ National Centre for Dance Therapy. Photo: Damian Siqueiros / Zetaproduction

We have created over 25 new projects and over 50 international partnerships, which include the creation of the National Centre for Dance Therapy, our new “Adapted Dance” classes for people with specific health issues, such as autism spectrum disorder and Down syndrome, and our new recreational dance program. We had over 600 people registered for September!

With the design of the new space, I want to ensure that the values, audacity, and innovation of the organization will be felt in most parts of the building. We are showcasing elements of dance throughout the building, and giving a sense of the history of the organization. We are creating a Hall of Fame and showcasing many of the ballet costumes, for instance, so that people will walk through and have an experience, be surprised. The space has to tell a story.

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens' The Nutcracker. Photo: Damian Siqueiros / Zetaproduction; Dancer: VeraLes Grands Ballets tours internationally on a regular basis, in addition to inviting international dance organizations to perform in Montréal. What specific skills are needed to manage these international projects which differ from managing organizations at a local community level?

First of all, when Les Grands Ballets tours internationally, we are ambassadors of Montréal, Québec and Canada to the rest of the world. We must be adaptable to the way that other countries do business and be well-informed about cultural sensivity and attitudes in different parts of the world. Although this can be challenging, this is also a great source of enrichment for the company. We learn a lot from other cultures and environments. This often triggers ideas for future projects and collaborations.

How would you define what an arts manager does?

An arts manager should be a visionary, almost like a conductor, who inspires and leads people, but who is also very detail-oriented. Arts managers have to operate at a grass-roots level, very involved with the people who make the organization tick, but also have to lead and have the big ideas which inspire their team and their audience. I often say that I don’t like business plans, but I do believe in having a strong mission and, once everyone is on board with a new idea, we work together to plan accordingly and realize the idea.

What specific qualities do you look for when you are hiring an arts manager that are unique to the industry?

If I am looking for a marketing person, they obviously have to have experience in this field, and there may be many people who fit this criteria. Ultimately, the most important consideration is whether their values connect with our values. I am looking for a good fit for the organization. I may interview someone who is very experienced, but they clearly lack empathy for their coworkers and for the artists. This is not a good fit for our organization. What makes a big difference at Les Grands Ballets is shared human experiences. I like to build extremely diversified teams with very different experiences and backgrounds, but who share common values.

Why do you think studies in international arts management are important for the profession and for the cultural sector?

Everything is global now, we are an international community and we continue to build this community. This is a very natural environment for millennials, and not so natural for older generations. The MMIAM program is very important, because it opens up that world, allows students to get to know what brings us together, what the key differences are, the key factors of success for different organizations in different parts of the world. It provides graduates with the necessary tools to succeed and triggers new ideas which will eventually belong to the world. For instance, when I imagined our new Dance Therapy Centre, I never thought it would be happening only in Montréal, I always imagined we would have international partners, creating something that we would share with the world.
Dance-therapy program at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Photo: Damian Siqueiros / Zetaproduction