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the Future Now:

Pluralism in the Arts as
a Catalyst for Inclusion
and Social Change

Presented at Michaelle Jean Foundations Power of the Arts National Forum Acting Now for Social Change.
Author Kevin A. Ormsby November 2014

Did you know that the Global Centre for Pluralism was in Canada? Did you know it was right here in
Ottawa? I am curious about the contexts in which we understand the nature of our potential based on
the institutions in which we place value and feel that institutions and / or organizational culture can
shape how we see ourselves. What does the history of migration in Canada holds?

These historical connections are like a fossilized anatomy waiting to be unearthed. I choose to start
with the word migration as opposed to immigration because I feel that social migration, forced or by
choice, offers more interesting and nuanced capacities for how to analyze, assess and understand
Canada as it was in the past, as it is in the present and what it can potentially be in the future. Canada
as a nation was indeed preparing itself for pluralism earlier than the influx of immigration in the 1960s
multicultural framework, the settlement / race debates of the 1980s, the diversity framework of the
1990s and the later and most present the equity framework of this century.

In fact, a perception of multiculturalism as largely symbolic and incapable of creating a major social
impact has been reinforced by the fact that program expenditures are very small. Whatever the
impact of policies such as multiculturalism on paving the way for the social integration of immigrants,
findings suggest that they may have worked less well for racial minority groups than for White
immigrant groups. Jeffrey G. Reitz / Rupa Banerjee, Belonging, Diversity, Recognition and Shared
Citizenship in Canada. I wish to use this map to analyze this presentation and to chart a way forward,
confident in the fact that pluralism in the arts can be a catalyst for social change and inclusion.


I start this presentation, under one very important premise that pluralism can be a way to move
Canadas artistic capabilities, social awareness, and nationalism into the future.

Where are we now? What is the voice of Canada in the future? In what contexts do we assess,
progress and be responsive to the Canada of the future? Can the Arts help in this social Change? If
so, how?

Other questions arise. What constitutes a Canadian culture? How is it viewed, understood and
comprehended in the context of other national World cultures? These questions I feel, unearth a
deeper dialectic or dichotomy that is problematic in the context of identity and being Canadian.
Without getting too much into the debate around representation I always question that if my body is
seen as from somewhere else then how can inclusion be fully achieved? This is the concept of the
other explored by cultural theorist Edward Said. The problem he mentions is that the other seen
here as the immigrant is always located somewhere else. The persons identity then becomes a
duality of existence neither here nor there. Many years later and into the reality of the Canadian
future, one wonders; how do the incumbent visible minority majority becomes a part of our
ongoing conversations?

Presented at Michaelle Jean Foundations Power of the Arts National Forum Acting Now for Social Change.
Author Kevin A. Ormsby November 2014
The Canada of the future is slated to undergo a demographic transition where visible minorities will
represent the majority of the countrys population Large urban centers will be the nucleus of this
change. Im curious about how are we readying the population and institutions for such a change and
how pluralism can be a guide. While prior policies sought to honour everyones cultural experiences,
in many ways, said policies segregated the collective understanding of how the cultural difference
could be used in forging a Canada of the future.

The understanding and implementing of a strategic pluralist framework, I will argue, has the potential
to honour many perspectives regardless of cultural difference. It has the potential to nudge each
unique voice to carve approaches and methodologies important for Canadian artistic and socio-
cultural progression. The work of Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO), offering
artists / organizations skills development and advocacy through partnership, is steeped in shaping an
understanding of artistic practice, administration and presentation of the Arts. CPAMOs work largely
focuses on this poignant relationship of the future. I seek to investigate the ways in which pluralism
can be that catalyst for said change on three levels.

The presentation offers a cross disciplinary approach to the actions items mentioned. 1. Pluralisms
implementation will influence social change, community and policy 2. Boost Economic development
of many institutions e.g. theatres, arts organizations, and artists, 3. Support innovation through
focused development via mentorships, resource sharing etc. 4. Foster community engagement


The big P in the room PLURALISM. Here I beg to break up formats a bit and probe you, about
pluralism. Have you heard of the word pluralism? Where did you first hear the word?
What thoughts came to mind? Do you understand the concept pluralism?

Presented at Michaelle Jean Foundations Power of the Arts National Forum Acting Now for Social Change.
Author Kevin A. Ormsby November 2014
Pluralism is a set of intentions and practices that seek to institutionalize recognition of difference
and respect for diversity as civic culture.

Pluralism involves a wide range of issues from cultural expression and economic development to
legal frameworks and political institutions. Supporting pluralism therefore requires multi-
dimensional approaches to change.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, His Highness the Aga Khan began asking Canadian leaders to explain
the key to Canadas success in managing its diversity. In July 2001, a formal Pluralism Initiative was
launched to understand how and why Canadas unique experiment worked and how its lessons
might be shared with other culturally diverse societies around the world. The Global Centre for
Pluralism is based here in Ottawa.



Diversity can and has often meant The dynamic of pluralism, is one of
isolation with little traffic between meeting, exchange, and two-way
them. communication.

In diversity, tolerance is important, but Pluralism is more than the mere
is too thin a foundation for a diverse and tolerance of differences; it requires
complex society. It does not require some knowledge of our differences. The
people to know anything about one similarities are where the
another engagements and conversations can
Diversity acknowledges difference but
does not require any active participation Pluralism encourages active
with difference. engagement in acknowledging and
Diversity does not involve many active removing our ignorance towards each
engagements with those things that are another and focusing on commonality
Pluralism is not simply relativism, but
Diversity rarely invites engagement makes room for real and different
between what are our ignorance commitments. It invites people to be
towards each other. engaged in creating a civil society,

through the critical and self-critical
encounter with one another

Pluralism is not the sheer fact of plurality or diversity alone, but is active engagement with that
diversity. Real pluralism requires participation and engagement. Pluralism is a process of creating a
society by acknowledging our deepest differences, nurturing constructive dialogue, revealing both
common understandings and real differences. Pluralism involves the commitment to being at the table
-- with ones commitments; encouraging a climate of dialogue is foundational for pluralism.

Presented at Michaelle Jean Foundations Power of the Arts National Forum Acting Now for Social Change.
Author Kevin A. Ormsby November 2014

Its important to consider the roles cultural institutions play in using pluralism as a means for social
change. They hold many aspects of policy; strategic development and planning that could be used to
shape the consciousness of Canadians in the future. They are important components that can
enhance the possibilities of pluralisms impact as most organizations actually intersect with the
activities of cultural institutions.

I must be clear to clarify that when I use the word cultural, this definition could include the culture in
the multiculturalism framework (representing a persons ethnicity). However, I choose to focus not on
the micro level of definition or understanding of the word but on its larger representation under the
speculations of a Canadian culture. As mentioned in the introduction, a challenge with the
multicultural framework is that culture is always seen as from somewhere else and never in the
context in which cultural migration / immigration have actually changed and indicatively created a
Canadian culture. Canadian cultural institutions include foundations, social service organizations,
historical societies, museums, funding bodies, media, etc.

Using statistics, cultural institutions can
create the possibility for having
programs geared to and influencing the
demographic changes in society.
Research offers important trends in the
changing landscape of a Canadian
society. This information becomes a
cultural currency that can be harnessed for social impact. The focus on youth is one such response to
the changing demographic in Canadian society. I am curious about how cultural institutions adapt and
respond to changes. As a consultant to Arts organizations, I have to be cognizant of said shifts and
aim to use the indicators in addressing programming based on access and development. Who has and
who provides said access? Where are participants coming from? How are they interacting with
cultural institutions? Are they meaningful or superficial interactions?

Presented at Michaelle Jean Foundations Power of the Arts National Forum Acting Now for Social Change.
Author Kevin A. Ormsby November 2014
One of the main concerns is Arts organizations / theatres losing attendances and in this scenario, one
could explore how and why they are doing so and if a pluralist framework could mitigate the changes
leading to increased participation. The answer is yes. I would suggest exploring how the marketing of
event is executed? Are they speaking to a wide range of sensibilities of the now aging and diverse
audience? How appealing is programming to the aforementioned demographic of youths? How are
they engaged in the organizations programming. Is marketing done in more than one language? Is
connections made to other cultural considerations.

Cultural pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO) develops all its programs from surveying its
members and through interviews. This allows CPAMO to able to devise the next round of services /
workshops and programs based on the collective contribution and suggestions from its members. The
research phase allows for the Arts Service organization to implement / facilitate all its programs from
a pluralist framework instead of assuming what may be important to its members. It has been able to
serve the needs of its members while offering interesting development based workshops on the
changes in the Arts milieu. How do cultural institutions use this information?

The role of organizations in policy implementation based
on pluralism is an integral one. As an organization
embracing the tenants of pluralism, one would take into
considerations not only the trends like that of the
changing demographic of Canadas population but also
those experts in the field can be added to the policy
development phase that are from diverse considerations.
One of the main premise of pluralism is based on having
plurality in conversation, implementation and consultation, it begs to question in any topic who is
missing from the table that could in any instance add insight to the conversation and therefore
contribute to policy making.
Canadian Dance Assembly under its previous Executive
Director, who realized the need for a more inclusive
framework in dance, carried out a research phase with a
consultant from CPAMO and realized that many Canadians
artists and arts organizations was still not familiar with the
concept of Pluralism. Many thought in the diversity
framework instead off a pluralist framework. Pluralism is
not just about acknowledging difference but also counting
on this difference as a means to forging something new
unique and valuable. In this case, the CDA being a voice for
Canadian dance artists.

The value here for the Canadian Dance Assembly is in the total understanding of the diverse practices
Presented at Michaelle Jean Foundations Power of the Arts National Forum Acting Now for Social Change.
Author Kevin A. Ormsby November 2014
and origins of its members and arts organizations and how as a ASO or an art service organization
they could then capitalize on the pluralistic framework, giving voice to difference, minority equity,
inclusivity and also to the foundations. The organization now has more activity from a wide range of
artists who were for the most part inactive members who did not fully see their artistic approaches
and practices represented.

Strategic development
In understanding and detailing ones research, policy should
be reflective of the statistics, which should always be
understood in context to social considerations. Strategic
Development in Pluralism for Arts organization should take
into considerations how and when programs are devised and
implemented. The assumption should never be that your
staff and participants are familiar with Pluralism and its
potential social currency. An organization should be vigilant in
constantly communicating, via strategic messaging, the value
of pluralism. Only then can the efficacy of said measures be
fully actualized in a national and social context. There are many variables to be considered from the
research and policy phase. However, how can organizations understand the importance and
relevance of Pluralism in organizational development that have social influence?

In which ways can it be communicated and affirmed in the organizational practices? After unanimous
Board approval of the report and decision in the case of Canadian Dance Assembly, they created both
a Pluralism Committee and have developed policies in its upcoming Strategic Plans for the next three
years to work with its Board, Staff, Committees and Membership on Pluralism. Pluralism in the Arts
influencing change calls for proactive research, policy and development.

The Royal Ontario Museum in 1990 came under fire for Into
the Heart of Africa which revealed a certain pusillanimity
among museums, their directors and their boards. Museums in
Ottawa, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Albuquerque, all of which
had booked the exhibition, cancelled when they heard about
the trouble. It died with the end of its Toronto run in August,
1990. Robert Fulford Globe and Mail. I question why was this
so? Why a cultural institution publicly funded by taxpayers
dollars came under such backlash from a community and what
frameworks were in place to support this decision.

Having licked its wounds and through many diversity, inclusion and training, the ROM issued an RFP
for Expressions of interests about where and what should / can be exhibited in a show about African
culture and influence in Canada. This version will arguably have the representation of diverse stories
of Africa in the likeness of those working in the field and not based on the curatorial bias or
knowledge of one person. The problem here is that, if not presented well it shapes the representation
of a people.
Presented at Michaelle Jean Foundations Power of the Arts National Forum Acting Now for Social Change.
Author Kevin A. Ormsby November 2014

The socio-cultural currency of using pluralism in engaging cultural institutions as catalyst for social
change can be understood for its capacity in leveraging individual development in the Arts on many
levels. Some of the key considerations should be in the areas of mentorship models, strategic
partnerships and shared resources.

I) Mentorship: If a cultural institution truly understands its role in engagement of the society then
mentorships emerge as an important way to galvanize the future leaders now. In doing so, we are in
turn developing the leadership, creative capacities and curiosity of the future. Professor Rex
Nettleford, the late Artistic Director of the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica and Vice
Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, sought constantly to articulate that the context of
how creativity was an integral part of creating curiosity poised on asking questions of imagining a new
future could come from cultural institutions. This is where he located the nucleus of social innovation.

II) Strategic Partnerships: Pluralism prompts for the assessment of influence; asking who is missing
from the conversation (the table where decisions are being made). Cultural organizations working in
the pluralism framework through the methods of assessment mentioned in Section 1) could generate
important information about others also working in the field with similar interest. I am aiming to paint
a map where Pluralism in the Arts can provide the opportunity for amazing partnerships with other
organizations, and in community. There are and can be many levels to this partnership being it, in
kind, mutual benefit, co-facilitation that can be negotiated. Many funding bodies value and honour
partnerships, which could increase the viability of being funded; there is an impact factor.

III) Shared Resources: Though hard and challenging to navigate, the sharing of resources between not
like minded organizations but many varying organizations under a pluralist lens offers a wide range of
possibilities of how shared resources can benefit a multiplicity of organizations working in the socio-
cultural realm and can also be economically rewarding. In many organizations there are indices for
how to assess impact. But in sharing resources impact has the potential to be multiplied based on the
Presented at Michaelle Jean Foundations Power of the Arts National Forum Acting Now for Social Change.
Author Kevin A. Ormsby November 2014
shared capacities? These capacities can include infrastructure, organizational capacities (operations,
marketing etc.), facilities and its management and programming. One example can be maximizing
social media, data / communication reach through shared communications strategies. This has the
potential of offering more visibility and also participation that could lead to a boost in economic gains.

Manifesto has emerged as a major force of how the Arts
can impact social change on many levels. The organization
created with a focus on urban hip-hop culture has become
a major platform for conversation, presentation and
advocacy around access, youth culture and hip-hop. Their
partnerships are many and their funding is impressive and
branched off into community projects, merchandise and
community TV station.

They have leveraged all the areas mentioned above into an
organization structure that if articulated as such or not is
about a pluralist model of operation, programming and
presence. Their mandate states Our programs aim to
cultivate multi-disciplinary artistic and professional
development for young people and artists across mediums.
Building careers, fostering community connections and
fuelling civic pride all while contributing to the vitality of
the city we love.

Presented at Michaelle Jean Foundations Power of the Arts National Forum Acting Now for Social Change.
Author Kevin A. Ormsby November 2014

Strategic placement in society for any cultural organization is key, with the considerations mentioned
above cultural organization could seek to implement programs steeped in Social Arts Engagement
supported by pluralisms framework. The intent here is not to create artists from the engagement but
encourage participation in the arts as a social practice. Arts engagement should take into
consideration once again the needs of the particular area being served and should be steeped in
social activism, with the Arts, as the basis of expression. Is the program diverse in its intent, content,
forms and outcomes? Indeed thinking pluralistically would take into consideration that administers,
who facilitates and who executes said programs and if they too, as employees, are trained in the
organizations goals towards pluralism. Engagement strategies geared towards community
development would address local issues in the community based on diverse stories of the relationship
to communities. Who and how does one engage? Is a recommended question for every single
engagement? With an Arts organization thats only 5 years old, I have managed through engagement
to have more than 1300 likes on our Facebook page and post every kind of information on the Arts
possible on the page. I encourage you to join in our conversations steeped in research, creative
practices and development tools in the Arts. Do like us on Facebook search KasheDance.
A Pluralist society starts I believe with every connection.

As an Ontario Arts Council funded Artist in Education; I
deliver 25hrs of arts education in 6 Ontario Schools since
2007. Three years ago, I didnt connect the artistic
practice to any thoughts in pluralism or the inclusivity
framework and upon entering a school I had an
awakening that not only changed the way I now deliver
the programming but also sparked my passion for what I
now call Arts Engagement by and for whom Some of
these included: 1.Female Muslim participants 2. Drama
students 3. Stigmatized Youths 4. At risk youth
Presented at Michaelle Jean Foundations Power of the Arts National Forum Acting Now for Social Change.
Author Kevin A. Ormsby November 2014
I was presented with many realities in education not experienced previously in the program and by
learning and consequently understanding socio-cultural sensitivity, the experience helped in creating
programs of engagement that takes into consideration those you are trying to engage. More than any,
that experience taught me that I too was a student in the classroom. In fact, in acknowledging the
points above, I was able to use dance as a means of empowerment through having the students
owing the work in their bodies and in their unique ways. We became collaborators in the creation of
something meaningful.

To understand pluralism in the Arts as a catalyst for social change and inclusion will ultimately require
a rigorous assessment of the history of immigration in Canada. While we were at the forefront of the
consideration of said changes in the 1960s our scope for the future will require not immigration but
socialization the ways in which Canadians form socio-cultural associations within the larger context of
being Canadian. Pluralism through the Arts can be a way to move Canadas artistic capabilities, social
awareness, and nationalism into the future. The questions are managed to become a deeper dialectic
or dichotomy that is problematic in his association with the identity of being Canadian if my body is
seen as from somewhere else, The Other According to cultural theorist Edward Said. The problem he
mentions is that the other sitting here as the immigrant is always placed somewhere else. The
persons identity then becomes a duality of existence neither here nor there. Many years later, how
does the incumbent visible minority majority becomes a part of our ongoing conversations.

Understanding and
implementing of a
strategic pluralist
framework through
the Arts has the
potential to honor
many perspectives
regardless of cultural
difference and has the
potential in allowing
for each unique voice
to carve approaches,
important for Canadian artistic and socio-cultural progression through partnerships steeped in artistic
practice, administration and presentation of the Arts. We sought to navigate through what is
Pluralisms; its implementation, potential influence on social change, community and policymaking.
How one can use the model to support innovation through focused development via mentorships,
resource sharing and in turn foster community engagement and development. Pluralism as a
mechanism for social change should be embraced on all levels of society, the community, artists, arts
organizations, cultural funders, Foundations and in government. Through Research, policy,
development, Pluralism in the Arts offers a microscope into a future grounded on collaborative Arts
Enterprises and Social Arts Engagement influencing the generations of Canadian future.

Presented at Michaelle Jean Foundations Power of the Arts National Forum Acting Now for Social Change.
Author Kevin A. Ormsby November 2014