The Sudbury Arts Council (SAC) began in 1974 as the Sudbury Arts Festival Association (SAFA). It changed its name in 1988 to Sudbury Arts Council/Conseil Des Arts Sudbury and formerly became a bilingual agency. In 2017, a new logo was designed by Johanna Westby that includes its Anishinawbek name, Sudbury Maandaa-Dnakmigzimin Teg, to acknowledge the council’s support for all the city’s artists: English-speaking, francophone and Indigneous.
The Arts Council can’t take full credit for the thriving state of the arts in 2018, but it certainly played a role. In the 1970s, the city began to shake off if its beer and bingo image. Originally, the Arts Council was formed to bring arts groups together to produce an annual festival. Over the past 44 years, the mandate and mission have changed as the city and its artistic community have evolved. In the past decade, SAC has worked to “Connect, Communicate, and Celebrate” the arts.
SAC’s hardworking volunteer board has accomplished much, often with very little funding and at times no staff. It is currently financial solvent thanks to an anonymous private donation several years ago.
Presidents of the Arts Council have included Kirk Peterson, Laurence Steven, Jan Carrie Steven, Jon Butler, Ed Tate, Derick Young, Will Morin, Gord Harris, John Lindsay, Vicki Gilhula, and Linda Cartier.
During much of its early history, when generous funding was available from the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Sudbury, SAC had an office and several staff members. It has been forced to downsize over the past decade but currently has a government grant to employ an intern.
In the 1980s and 1990s, SAC mailed or emailed a newsletter to members and the media. Board members or staff contributed columns to Northern Life and The Sudbury Star. For a time, it published a monthly Arts Bulletin.
SAC now maintains a bilingual website with information about artists and events. A weekly e-bulletin is sent to patrons. It also has a Facebook page which promotes events.
Sudbury Arts Council was instrumental in establishing Cinéfest, the Artists’ Studio Tour, and the Sudbury Writers’ Guild.
In 2007 the Arts Council initiated the Sudbury Food Bank’s Christmas art card project and Art of Dessert Evening, which is now managed independently by the Sudbury Food Bank.
In June 2013, a committee of SAC launched Wordstock, a literacy festival, which has become an annual event with its own board of directors.
In 2014, the Arts Council took a lead role in establishing the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts, a gala event that honours artists and raises money for artists’ bursaries. Over the past five years, the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts committee has given more than $60,000 to professional artists to help them pursue their work. In addition, all artists who perform at the annual gala are paid.
In 2016, SAC established the President’s Award of Distinction to honour the career efforts of an artist. In 2016, Charlie Rapsky was honoured; in 2017 Iona Reed Pukura was presented the award.
SAC works with the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce to promote the arts at After Five networking events. SAC hires musicians to perform and hosts a booth promoting the arts.
Last year, SAC took a leadership role in the Passport to the Arts initiative. The passports offered discounts to events such as the Sudbury Theatre Centre and Sudbury Symphony. The 100 passports sold out with each participating group receiving $1,000.
Another initiative is Gallery 6500 at the Steelworkers’ Hall. This committee was struck to establish a place for exhibitions addressing social justice themes. There have been several successful exhibits including a students’ poster display.
In 2017, SAC compiled and published Artscene, a research project that identified the scope and diversity of the artistic landscape in Sudbury as well as its role as an economic driver for the community. This past fall, SAC organized a successful a debate on the arts with mayoral candidates.
Over the past four and half decades, SAC has developed ties with artists’ organizations and individual artists, as well as municipal officials. Most recently this includes setting up Creative Arts Conversations, partnerships with the Downtown Sudbury Arts Crawl, Northern Lights Festival Boréal and Nuit Blanche.