Calgary’s first Citizens’ Reference Panel sat down on September 15 for an education in Calgary’s arts scene. Thirty-six randomly selected Calgarians have formed an advisory group to lend some public input to the Calgary Arts Development Authority’s (CADA) proposed city arts plan.
The group will meet over three weekends to learn about and discuss Calgary’s art priorities, including a public roundtable discussion on October 13.
The citizen group was organized by MASS LBP, a civic engagement consulting firm based in Toronto. Dana Granofsky of MASS LBP is the project co-ordinator for the Calgary reference panel. She says this public engagement model is relatively new, but is already proving a more successful way to gain public input than opinion polls or open meetings. She says such citizen panels have been used in other provinces to help shape municipal and health budgets, and cited a panel recently formed in Ontario to examine the sustainability of that province’s health care system.
In the case of the Citizens’ Reference Panel on the arts in Calgary, Granofsky says, “their advice is not binding, [but] both CADA and the city are really eager to receive these recommendations, and to inform their own decision making with citizen input.... Typically the recommendations from these types of panels are very strongly heeded.”
Before submitting its opinion of what a city arts plan should look like, the panel will hear from local artists, representatives of CADA, municipal government and academics.
CADA allocates municipal funding for the arts through grants to approximately 190 arts organizations in the city.