By Jane Litchfield, GAC volunteer
Patti Broughton, Guelph Arts Council’s executive director for nearly seven years, is moving on in March. She’ll be staying involved in the arts in Guelph in her new position as Finance and Operations Manager at Art Gallery of Guelph.
“I’m excited to take on a new professional adventure but, at the same time, sad to be leaving GAC. My work here has been so rewarding,” Patti wrote in an email to her many connections in the local arts community.
Patti says the best thing about her time at GAC has been the people: “All of the super interesting and dedicated artists and arts workers, the people working with festivals and arts organizations, the volunteers, and the staff – it’s definitely a team sport! It’s an amazing community, with so many people excited about the arts and willing commit their time and energy.”
Patti says she has seen lots of change in her time at GAC: “Big changes in the way that we work and some of the things we do. The creating and sharing of content online, on social media and in the e-news, and our new digital hub. It’s an important role to engage people in interviews and get those stories out to the public. We always did that kind of work, but it’s even more so now.”
Asked for highlights, Patti says 2017 was a big year, as GAC moved from a fourth-floor suite on Wyndham Street North to a main floor office at 10C Shared Space on Carden Street, which is easier for people to find. That year also marked the launch of the Guelph Emerging Artist Mentorship Project (GEAMP), which supports emerging artists in the transition to professional practice.
Patti says both the move and GEAMP contributed to a new, more youthful energy. “Moving to 10C brought us into a community of people who embrace social change and have interesting ideas about how to advance community and social justice and the role the arts can play. We’ve formed so many partnerships here.” She says many of the emerging artists who took part in mentorship projects have stayed involved with GAC and continue to bring ideas from different backgrounds and arts disciplines.
Another highlight was the inaugural Collector’s Dilemma auction in 2018. It has become a signature annual event and is vital to helping fund operations.
Patti notes that 2020 was not a good year for anybody, “but if you’re looking for silver linings, we learned a lot that year about how to do things digitally. We offered a record number of workshops in 2020. Of course we miss in-person programming, but digital opens up experiences to people who have a hard time attending physically.”
Last year marked the launch of GAC’s new digital arts hub in response to the pandemic and the need for online resources and opportunities for artists. “That was a lot of work, but great experience.” GAC also worked with 10C and Indigenous artists and elders to plan a new artist-in-residence program to elevate and support Indigenous artists and creatives. Patti was also excited to launch the Research and Renewal Award in 2021, thanks to GAC supporter Jason Nadon.
Watching for a cultural plan
Asked what her hopes and dreams are for the arts in Guelph, Patti says there is much more work to be done. “I’d love to see more economic support for arts and artists in Guelph. I really believe a standalone municipal culture plan that recognizes the critical role of arts both for the economy and for well-being is important. I think the arts are going to be critical to our recovery as a community. Being strategic about that is important, so artists can find Guelph to be a viable place to live, work and thrive.”
Patti also dreams of a multi-use creative hub in Guelph, similar to those in Elora, Waterloo, and Cambridge. “It would be amazing to see that happen in Guelph, especially to bring people together post-pandemic. A place for rehearsals, workshops, studio space, and to engage the community with the arts in a hands-on way. I’ll be keeping an eye on that.”
“I can’t think of anything I won’t miss when it comes to working with Patti,” says Preetam Sengupta who joined GAC as co-manager of programs and operations in March 2019. “She’s shown constant dedication and care for the organization, our members, our volunteers, staff, and the community. Her leadership during these difficult past couple of years has been especially inspiring, seeing how she has been able to adapt to whatever the world has thrown at us to make the most of our existing programming, as well as finding new opportunities to shine a light on Guelph’s arts community.”
GAC Board President Laurel McKellar adds, “It has been an absolute pleasure working with Patti over these last six years. Her dedication to Guelph Arts Council and Guelph’s artistic community has been inspiring. On behalf of GAC’s board of directors we wish Patti all the best, and we look forward to embarking on strategic planning to set the course for GAC in the years to come while adapting to Guelph’s community needs.”
Patti’s last day is March 18. GAC is accepting applications for the role of Executive Director until February 28, 2022.