Region of Waterloo Arts Fund Audit – Are there 10 hermits amongst us?

The impossibility of the Waterloo Region recommended amendments for the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund (RWAF) based on a just a few principles. In this one I am thinking about our community and the impossibilities of this policy according to inappropriately simplistic assumptions.

Six degrees of separation

According to the KW Community Foundation Vital Signs report, there are 1120 practicing artists in Waterloo Region. The Region’s recommendation to have 10 artists on the board who are recruiting unassociated members on the regular is impossible. It cannot be done.

Say we have 1 artist. They have only 1 friend in the arts community (this would never actually exist). This represents 2 artists because they know each other.

So if every artist on the board only knows 1 other artist in the community, we have a community of 20 artists. But, we know each one of these people will know many more artists. People have up to 140 connections in a network (community) according to Dunbar’s number. So, our 10 people, assuming there is some overlap, is already well over 1000. Given that most of these people have several connections in the arts community through both tight and loose ties, it is possible that 10 members on a board could have close ties with all 1120 artists in Waterloo Region.

If we think about this in another way, and we think about how many artists attend the Arts Awards every year, how many years would it take for everyone in that community to be sat in the same room? Centre in the Square holds 2,500. Last year, the Arts Awards hosted just under 1000 people. In 2 years, every artist in the city has probably sat in the same room with another artist, and shares several close ties by minimal degrees, even if they have not met yet. They will have several close friends and associates in common.

Now, let’s assume that there are 10 artists in isolation in the Region. How would they maintain that isolation, and are these really the people who should be deciding on a jury based community grant? I would argue that this is not only unfeasible, or impossible, but bad policy.

Now also, by all measure, this number is diminishing. Artists are leaving Waterloo Region as quickly as they can (a decade long trend in the same report). With a high turnover board (another recommendation) and assuming lack of relationships with board members, this will present an ungoing and more urgent impossibility in a diminishing community building additional connections through board placements.

This is a job that requires a level of education and expertise. Expecting a community to recruit board members who are not associated to the board requires recruiting without knowledge of a member’s expertise. Not only is this near impossible, but could make an already tedious job much worse by having to educated new members perpetually.

All this being said, very few artists want to be on boards unless they are paid. How many people really want to do jury duty. Ever.  Oh, and jury duty is paid.

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