CGAS RISER Found Festival


Our greater community is beautifully diverse, but our greater artistic community does not reflect this diversity.

Change must come. Change starts with the individual, it starts in community, it starts with us. We value equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility, and we commit to being part of that change. 

We believe in creating safe(r) spaces that allow for brave creative risk. We acknowledge that in order to truly fulfill that commitment, we must work with community and for community. 

In response to the call put forward by the 35//50 Initiative committee, we proudly, loudly commit to the 35//50 Initiative: a meaningful action for our artistic community to take steps towards a more equitable, diverse, inclusive, and accessible future in the performing arts. We enthusiastically thank the 35//50 Initiative committee for so generously putting forward a clear, concise, and actionable plan for change. 

Common Ground Arts Society recognizes injustice and racism are deeply entrenched in our society. We acknowledge that the current oppressive systems of power advance non-racialized groups. We understand that racism and patriarchal systems of oppression are deeply, dangerously intertwined.

We’re here to help dismantle those systems.

We’re working from the inside out to help uplift, celebrate, elevate, mentor, and springboard artists and arts workers in our community by ensuring our organization hires at least 35% IBPoC and 50% women and non-binary people in paid, professional positions by 2024.

As a first step in this commitment, we are: 

  • Revisiting CGAS’s vision and mission to ensure our core values reflect our commitment to our community; 
  • Actively recruiting new IBPoC board members; 
  • Actively creating and implementing more inclusive HR policies;
  • Revising recruitment practices to improve IBPoC representation on our board, staff, in our artistic curation, and in our volunteer programs; 
  • Continuing to evolve the Festival application and curatorial process to remove boundaries to access and radically invite artists of all disciplines, backgrounds, abilities, and experiences to apply and participate;
  • Developing an organizational succession plan that invites IBPoC artists and administrators into the core of our organization; 
  • Providing and requiring anti-oppression training for our board and staff;
  • Working to secure funding for a IBPoC emerging artist fellowship program, including paid mentorship from established IBPoC artists;
  • Offering ongoing mentorship to IBPoC and female, non-binary, and trans artists, technicians, and arts administrators; and
  • Listening to and uplifting the voices of IBPoC and female, non-binary, and trans artists in our community.

We share the following statistics as a signpost to identify where we are currently, and where we need to improve. These numbers are based on information collected internally by CGAS staff, and as voluntarily provided by board, staff, and artists involved in Found Festival 2020. Artist numbers reflect the artists CGAS paid directly, meaning additional collaborators paid out by lead artists are not included. As of the 2020 Found Festival, our board, staff, and artist break down is such: 

  • Board: 16% IBPoC, 100% women/non-binary
  • Artistic Producers & Festival Directors: 0% IBPoC, 100% women/non-binary
  • Festival Curatorial Team: 50% IBPoC, 75% women/non-binary
  • Festival Staff: 22% IBPoC, 44% women/non-binary
  • Festival Artists: 69% IBPoc, 61% women/non-binary

Please refer to the slides below for visual representations of these statistics.

By the 2024/25 season, we aim to implement sustainable organizational change to ensure Common Ground Arts Society – it’s board, it’s staff, it’s artists, it’s volunteers – is comprised of a minimum 35% BIPoC and 50% women and non-binary folks in quality, paid positions. We commit to tracking and reporting on our progress towards this goal. We will continue to gather and transparently report on our hiring, engagement, and curatorial practices as we move forward. 

Common Ground Arts Society would like to thank the artists, activists, mentors, and community advocates who have done and continue to do the work and emotional labour of challenging the oppressive systems that exclude marginalized voices from our arts spaces. Thank you for encouraging us to understand where we’ve come from; giving us a clear pathway forward; creating space to get it wrong, try again, and fail better; and holding our community accountable. Thank you to those artists, artivists, and community agitators who have worked with and continue to work with Common Ground Arts Society and Found Festival, and who hold us to a higher standard. Thank you, Natércia, for your impactful letter writing campaign asking theatre organizations to reflect on their existing practices, and holding our community accountable to a public conversation. Thank you, Gina, Morgan, Andrés, Elise, Todd, Patricia, Gianna, Oscar, Amber, and Patrick, for leading 35//50 YEG and offering professional arts organizations measurable next steps, providing a clear timeline, and propelling community discussion and accountability. We are listening, we are learning.

We find ourselves in Amiskwaciwâskahikan (ᐊᒥᐢᑲᐧᒋᐋᐧᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ) on Treaty 6 territory, traditional lands of the Cree, Nakota, Blackfoot, Dene, Saulteaux, Metis, and other indigenous peoples who have made this place home long before we settled here. For thousands of years, people have gathered here to share in story, community, and creative exchange.

We find ourselves thankful: thankful to play a small part in that long-standing tradition, a tradition carried on the shoulders of so many creators, builders, dreamers, agitators, and makers who came before us, and who will come long after us.

We find ourselves inspired: inspired by an evolving community of artists who passionately spark the magic that manifests when we surrender ourselves to the long summer days of this northern place.

We find ourselves grateful: grateful to everyone who rallies around this tiny but mighty Festival — the artists, the volunteers, the staff, the audience, the board, the mentors, the partners and sponsors, the funders, the believers. Found Festival exists because of you.