Recap: artsScene Edmonton boardLink

Tonight was the first ever boardLink event in Edmonton, hosted by artsScene Edmonton with partners Emerging Business Leaders, InterVivos, and JCI Edmonton and held in the Shoctor Lobby at The Citadel. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to attend, but I’m glad I did. Here’s what it was all about:

boardLink is a national program that was created by Business for the Arts in 2002. Since its start, boardLink has connected hundreds of young professionals with volunteer opportunities in various arts and culture communities throughout Canada with boardLink Online and boardLink Live events.

You can think of it like speed dating for local arts organizations and potential volunteers. The organizations on hand tonight included: The Citadel Theatre, Edmonton Opera Association, Mile Zero Dance, Edmonton Jazz Festival Society, The Works International Visual Arts Society, The Art Gallery of Alberta, LitFest: Edmonton International Literary Festival, Fringe Theatre Adventures, Latitude 53, and Alberta Foundation for the Arts. There were roughly 50 potential volunteers in attendance.

artsScene Edmonton boardLinkartsScene Edmonton boardLink

At the beginning of the event, everyone was given five small post-it notes to paste on the agenda BarCamp-style, indicating which organization they wanted to check out in each rotation. The rotations themselves were 15 minutes each, so you had to be quick meeting an arts organization and introducing yourself. It wasn’t one-on-one, instead each arts organization had at least two volunteers and there were three or more potential volunteers in each group.

I did three rotations: Fringe Theatre Adventures, The Art Gallery of Alberta, and Latitude 53. The three could not have been more different! No one really knew what to do (so I guess it really was like speed dating in that way) but Sam and Thomas from FTA did a good job of giving an overview of the organization and the opportunities available. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to chat. In stark contrast to them, Allan and Priscilla from the AGA relied on us to prompt them with questions. It was a little awkward, but they were definitely excited about their new building. Finally, Todd and Vieri were very casual, funny, and off-topic. I enjoyed chatting with all of them.

It became clear to me as the evening unfolded that there’s a big disconnect between young people such as myself, and the arts organizations that were in attendance. We don’t know how to communicate with one another.

It was even evident during the opening remarks – EBL, InterVivos, and JCI were all well-spoken and informal human-sounding, talking about the great things they wanted to accomplish together. Penny from The Citadel congratulated everyone for coming and showing an interest, and ended by announcing a two-for-one offer for attendees. It just seemed tacky and out of place.

artsScene Edmonton boardLinkartsScene Edmonton boardLink

I’d say the event was a successful one, but it’s the follow-up that will truly determine the outcome. Everyone filled out a “volunteer profile” that will be circulated to the arts organizations so they will contact individuals who might be a good fit. More importantly, I hope artsScene puts on additional boardLink events in the future so that we can work on that communication disconnect!

Be sure to check out the artsScene Edmonton blog and Twitter for updates. You can see the rest of my photos from tonight here.

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