Presenting Q - Colleen Clack, Culture and Tourism, City of Guelph

Presenting Q - Short Stories and Conversations with Ontario’s performing arts leaders: 

Why presenting matters to you and your community? 

This month we asked our Board President, Colleen Clack, why presenting matters to her and her community.

Colleen Clack is the General Manager of Culture and Tourism for the City of Guelph.  In that role with the municipality she oversees the department which includes River Run Centre, Sleeman Centre, Guelph Museums, the City’s arts and culture programs, and the provision of Tourism services.  Prior to joining the City of Guelph in 2007, she was the Performing Arts Manager at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga.   Colleen is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, where she completed her joint Honours Bachelor of Arts in Music and Cultural Management.  She resides in Guelph with her husband Craig and their two daughters.

From your experience, what do you see as your role in presenting performing arts?

I see my role as that of community catalyst – helping to develop partnerships and engagement opportunities that inspire community organizations and individual citizens to want to participate in arts and culture.  Whether their participation is by attending a performance, creating art themselves, or volunteering their time with a local community arts organization, my job is to provide opportunities that meet the needs of a diverse community.

Who/what inspired you to get involved in the arts?

For as long as I can remember, I knew that I wanted to be involved in the arts in some capacity – whether as a performer, teacher or administrator.  Arts was a huge part of my life growing up, and so it was a natural fit that I would pursue a career in arts administration.   When I realized that pursuing music performance as a profession was not likely a viable option, it was a very wise high school guidance counsellor who steered me in the direction of cultural management, for which I am forever grateful!

What do you consider your proudest moment as a performing arts presenter?

For me, my proudest moments are when an audience leaves the theatre clearly changed by what they have experienced – whether it is an adult audience that leaves the theatre in silence because of the thought provoking piece they have just seen, students who excitedly chatter about their first experience seeing a dance performance, or families who leave with a smile on their faces after spending time together at a concert, I’m proud that we have impacted their lives in even a small way.

What are the biggest challenges facing you as an arts presenter in Canada?

The biggest challenges that I find are from the growing competition for funding dollars.  Every year, it is a challenge to demonstrate that the arts are as important to the community as libraries, arenas and swimming pools.  Connecting with as many citizens as possible becomes hugely important, so that we have a contingent of advocates in the community who recognize that the arts are an important component of a community’s well-being.

What are the main benefits of your work to your community?

I think that one of the main benefits of the work that we do is providing access to the community to a wide range of arts opportunities.  This includes access to high calibre facilities, fully accessible arts experiences for school audiences, ability for our public audiences to see professional touring artists perform within our community, and arts animation opportunities throughout the community that inspire creativity in others.

If a sudden crisis caused your organization to disappear from your community, what would be missed?

The fantastic facility and resulting arts experiences – there is nowhere else in the community that can provide the kinds of performance spaces offered within our facility, which means that the quality of touring artists and shows coming into the community would be diminished, and the community would lose a prime location for events and performances.  This would have a ripple effect economically on the downtown, and throughout the City.