We're used to thinking of Artscape as a (re)maker of spaces: from the Wychwood Barns to Gibraltar Point, they take old sites in Toronto and help shape them to suit new uses.
Now Artscape is taking a more active role in programming some of those spaces, launching a series of pilot programs to help creative entrepreneurs tackle the business aspects of their ventures. The Creative Business Design Workshop, Creative Entrepreneurship Program, and Business Skills for Growth Workshop Series are part of the ramp-up to the opening of Launchpad
, a full-fledged centre slated to open in 2017.
Launchpad has been in the works for five years, says Pru Robey, Artscape's Creative Placemaking Lab Director. It will be a new creative and cultural entrepreneurship centre, one that gives "skills, tools, and resources" to creative workers, to help them start and sustain effective businesses.
It's needed, she says, because underlying all of the banner headlines about Toronto's vaunted arts scene, "are some real challenges that are faced by people in the creative sector." Stats about growth and employment "are actually made up of independent, solo traders working part-time, and working in other sectors to support their creative work, and people who are earning very little on average." This means, Robey argues, that there is a great deal of unrealized economic potential: earnings for workers in the cultural sector are below average compared to those in other sectors with comparable education levels.
This is often compounded, she says, by a lack of early-stage support. "Graduating students suddenly lose access to a whole network of support"—basics such as space, equipment, resources, and mentorship—and aren't taught the specific, practical skills of how to build an effective freelance career or business.
Toronto already has a number of entrepreneur-support programs, incubators, and other similar support systems. Why the need to start a new one for the creative sector in particular?
"Our research shows, and our experience tells us," says Robey, "that oftentimes creatives have lots of passion [for their work] but they don't really want to talk about growing a business, so the traditional kinds of entrepreneurship support aren't necessarily appealing."
The pilot programs will be unveiled throughout this summer and fall. When Launchpad opens in 2017, says Robey, it will "combine a learning environment with a creative environment" and include a "range of highly specified and equipped production studios." The goal is to provide both creative and business support for everything from sound production to photography to fashion and jewelry to industrial design.
Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Pru Robey, Creative Placemaking Lab Director, Artsca