PuSh Blog

The Arts in a Digital World Summit—A field report by Trey Le

April 06, 2017


Back in March, the Canada Council for the Arts, Canada’s national public arts funder, hosted The Arts in a Digital World Summit in Montreal. As the PuSh Festival’s Digital Communications Coordinator, I was invited to attend this two-day summit along with Associate Curator Joyce Rosario. We joined 300 other professionals across the arts and digital sectors to engage in conversations and learning opportunities about digital technologies and its role in the dissemination of the arts.

On the eve of this summit, the Canada Council announced a new $88.5-million Arts in a Digital World Fund that will dispense project grants that focus on growing digital best practices and infrastructure for both arts organizations and artists in three priorities:

  • Digital literacy and intelligence: projects that foster digital knowledge and competencies in the sector
  • Citizen access to the arts and cultural engagement: digital approaches to increasing access and public engagement
  • Transformation of organizations: support for arts organizations to transform the way they work so that they are in a better position to address challenges and seize opportunities: structure, governance, and processes

The fund and the summit are initiatives that stem from the Canada Council’s five-year strategic plan, where one of the key pillars is to “amplify the quality, scale and sharing of Canadian art through digital technology.” In recognizing that Canada is being transformed by factors like changing demographics, globalization, the effects of digital technologies and the way we interact with each other, it is heartening to see that the Canada Council is making digital one of their strategic priorities.

There is an easy tendency to view the arts as chasing the shadow of digital innovation in a perpetual game of catch-up. Despite the digital gap for arts organizations and individual artists, both already strapped for time and money resources, there are opportunities where the arts can take a leadership role, rather than a passive one, in shaping how technology can foster the ways in which we can access and experience art.

For example, in a remarkable move, The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently made all of the images of the public domain artworks in its collection free for total unrestricted use under Creative Commons, exponentially extending its reach to the three billion plus internet users around the world.

Aside from an institutional perspective, we also see on a smaller scale that individual artists can digitize their work and engage on social media but fail to earn a livelihood or adequate compensation in the digital realm.


In an effort to create critical dialogue around the issues above—among many others—The Arts in a Digital World Summit provided a launching point to engage in discussions and brainstorming with practitioners and professionals, and with the Canada Council to advise and determine ways we would like to see the arts supported by this new digital fund.

After the inspired conversations with peers from across the country, informative panels and keynote speeches, I step away from the summit imagining how digital can further animate the three weeks of the PuSh Festival and help audiences discover our international and locals artists, and the technology that builds organizational capacity to execute a festival. I eagerly await to investigate the ways we can all utilize this fund to further innovate, connect and share art with Canadians in today’s digital world.

—Trey Le
Digital Communications Coordinator