The future of the ARTS at Keyano

I have found myself in an uncomfortable position over the past 48 hours. As the social media world lit up with cries of Keyano College being “Heartless” owing to its supposed utter abandonment of the arts and treatment of released staff and faculty, I was in one moment the official spokesperson for the institution and in the next, a highly visible arts advocate that people were looking to for a response. I was in a position of conflict, and as I said to the cast of The Farnsworth Invention before Friday night’s performance: I would not be able to say anything about this in the public realm…until now.

President Nagel has encouraged me to give my perspective and insight, in my personal voice as opposed to that of Keyano as an institution. To be completely transparent, I’m going to run this by him, and our Vice President Academic before posting – not so they can distill or distort what I write, but so they can confirm the accuracy of what I’m saying, and any conclusions I’m offering based on my unique knowledge from being within the college leadership structure.

First of all, and most importantly, when you have to lay-off good people it is painful, and while it isn’t meant to be personal, it absolutely is. And several individuals were profoundly affected by what happened on Friday. The emotional toll on many of us was evident.

All of that said, the operational changes that drove the layoffs, needed to happen. I know that’s going to be tough for some to hear. But it’s true. Enrolments were not strong enough to sustain the level of staffing and operational costs required to keep going in the same way. Something had to change.

There remains an unflinching dedication to the arts at Keyano, in spite of the optics, rumour and conjecture that resulted from Friday’s staff changes. The arts will survive and ultimately, thrive, at Keyano College with a more of a community orientation than was possible before. Keyano Theatre Company is continuing to move back to its original community theatre roots, producing four homegrown productions in their 2012-2013 season. They will continue to offer a diverse line-up of concerts as part of their Syncrude Arts Alive presents series. Keyano Conservatory, which has grown year after year, will get additional resources and focus as it becomes the primary delivery mechanism for fine arts training. The community and our students will continue to have access to professional instructors so they can pursue their artistic passions. Community ensembles will still give a wide range of artists a venue to explore their talents in a group setting. Enhancing access so that the entire community can take advantage of these beautiful facilities will become a new focus.

The direction from the top has been absolutely clear: Keyano Theatre & Arts Centre is going to move from being academic-focused to being community-focused. Through partnerships, innovation and community consultation, we are going to begin maximizing these incredible cultural spaces for the benefit of all.

People interested in the arts, once again, have had a gut-level response to change, which I completely understand. In the absence of good information you glom on to whatever is available. I’m just as guilty at taking a series of Facebook posts as fact before checking to see if what was being said was accurate. It is human nature to take what is being thrown at us at face value.

With the assistance of President Nagel and Vice President Academic Ann Everatt, I drafted an open letter to hopefully address much of the confusion, misinformation and falsehoods that erupted after the events of Friday morning. Written from the institutional perspective, it provides tremendous context for what has happened and why, and an articulation of the College’s continued commitment to the arts. I encourage you to take the time to read it and get a comprehensive picture of the future of arts at Keyano.

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