Indigenous Digital Arts And Culture Incubator

The Indigenous Digital Arts and Culture Incubator is an experimental urban and land-based arts, culture and training program for next-generation Indigenous art and technology talent. With the end goal to incubate sustainable self-employment for aspiring talent, his grassroots pilot project builds upon existing and proven cultural entrepreneurship training to foster new arts industry employment through a careful balance of traditional knowledge and modern, digital technologies.


Overview

The Covid-19 pandemic has obliterated opportunities for northern, remote and rural Indigenous emerging and professional artists to participate in opportunities to display, disseminate and promote their creative and cultural products. The pandemic has brought with it many challenges to business opportunities in the North, but also several opportunities.

The Indigenous Digital Arts and Culture Incubator seeks to capitalize on one specific opportunity and challenge: The increasing reliance and utilization of digital communication technologies and collaborative hardware/software solutions to connect physically remote locations with each other and major urban centers.

Indigenous Digital Arts And Culture Incubator Winnipeg was made possible with space donated by the Arctic Buying Company
The Winnipeg Indigenous Digital Arts And Culture Incubator initiative was made possible with support from the University of Minnesota Duluth Cultural Entrepreneurship Program Rankin-Inlet, Nunavut-based Arctic Buying Company, Montreal-based Lembas Works.

The main goal of the project is supporting the creation of a comprehensive education program for Indigenous artists and cultural workers.

The incubator provides synchronous and asynchronous training programs educating youth and adults about the use of digital technologies to create and valorize their artistic work.

Beyond entrepreneurship training focused on starting up a business in their own cultural context, our program also addresses the creation of digital art work, utilizing the use of augmented and virtual reality, game design, visual projection technology, photography, filmmaking, and the creation of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs).

North, South, East, West: Hybrid physical and virtual training

This project supports skills development, training and mentorship for Indigenous youth from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Borups Corners, Northwestern Ontario and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Indigenous youth and community members participate alongside established professional Indigenous artists, researchers, entrepreneurs and culture connectors to ensure the training and experiences are inclusive and culturally-appropriate.

Borups Corners, Northwestern Ontario.

Addressing Sectoral Challenges

The importance of digital training for arts and cultural sectors, as well as job creation and participation in markets for digital products is widely recognized as essential for economic recovery in modern economies.

Canada has many Indigenous communities successfully producing tangible artistic and cultural products and services, requiring shipment of raw materials and/or finished products. The pandemic had significant impacts on supply chains and transportation sectors, making virtual creation and distribution of digital products a viable alternative.

Tara Baswani and Remi Lemieux, from Lembas Works have been mentoring the arts and cultural entrepreneurship program since 2020.
Tara Baswani and Remi Lemieux, from Montreal-based Lembas Works have been mentoring the arts and cultural entrepreneurship program since 2020.

This project aims to contribute to accelerating sectoral recovery by focusing on the creation of meaningful training, work and professional development opportunities for northern, remote and rural Indigenous artists through advanced mentorship and arts-oriented, digital economic development.

Creativity for Entrepreneurship student Tony Eetak.

The barriers and disconnection created by Covid 19 decimated opportunities for already disadvantaged and marginalized northern, rural and remote artists to effectively participate in, advance and contribute to the arts economy.

Key to the implementation of arts-oriented economic initiatives for rural and underserved regions is local access to and familiarity with information technology and digital media. A significant digital divide still remains a limiting factor in many rural and remote regions.

This arts-oriented economic development initiative contributes to supporting the design and testing of a culturally-aligned and community-focused digital creative business incubator facilitating development of new artistic and cultural training opportunities and jobs for remote and rural Indigenous artists and cultural connectors.

Research supported by the University of Minnesota Duluth and ArcticNet, for example, indicates the implementation of any digital arts entrepreneurship incubator/accelerator requires careful study of the traditional and contemporary values that communities see in such programs.


Collaboration

Our program has been supported by the Arctic Buying Company, an Inuit-owned business based in Rankin Inlet and Winnipeg.

This project also builds on extensive digital and cultural entrepreneurship research with the University of Minnesota Duluth with support from the US National Science Foundation (Award Abstract # 1758814) and guidance from the Arctic Buying Company (Rankin Inlet, Nunavut; Winniepg, Manitoba) and the UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education.

Expected benefits and outcomes for the project will include: improved mental health and confidence in artistic expression; increased opportunities to engage, collaborate and grow within the local and regional arts communities; increased employability; increased visitors to the community; increased sales of youth and community-facilitated art

This project builds on work supported through the ArcticNet strategic process for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. ArcticNet, a Network of Centre of Excellence of Canada brings together scientists and managers in the natural, health, and social sciences with their partners in Inuit organizations, northern communities, federal and provincial agencies, and the private sector.

A collaborative team of Indigenous youth and Elders will work to identify and assess the challenges and barriers that currently exist with participation in the arts economy.


Anticipated Benefits

Creativity for Entrepreneurship student Tootoo Fotheringham

This project aims to begin the process of developing a new program to create meaningful training, work and professional development opportunities for northern, remote and rural Indigenous artists through advanced mentorship and arts-oriented, digital economic development.

Specific anticipated benefits include:

Indigenous Consultation and Co-Creation of Digital Entrepreneurship Curriculum:
(a) A collaborative team of Indigenous youth, elders and experts will work with scholars, community organizers and non-profit organizations to identify and assess the challenges and barriers that currently exist with participation in the arts economy;
(b) A collaborative team of Indigenous youth, elders and experts will work with scholars, community organizers and non-profit organizations to deliver/teach the curriculum in Winnipeg, MB, with indigenous youth in attendance.
(c) The curriculum developed for this project will be accessible to indigenous communities across Canada, and will be freely usable under a Creative Commons license.

Improved mental health and confidence in artistic expression through increased social connections.

Participating artists will create:
(a) new opportunities to engage, collaborate and grow within the local and regional arts communities;
(b) better employability for themselves through targeted skills training;
(c) increased visitors to their community;
(d) increased sales of their youth and community-facilitated art.


Communicating The Results

Results of the project will be shared with the community through a hybrid online/physical exhibition, through social media, blog posts and local regional media. Video and interactive content will be made available through partner communications platforms as well as Isuma TV.

In partnership with other initiatives, our project will allow tomorrow’s leaders to develop their scientific, technical and interpersonal skills. Implementing, testing and measuring the project against ArcticNet’s new EDI strategy and Key Performance Indicators will be key in this project.