Examining the Impact of the National Arts Centre’s Climate Cycle Initiative on the Environmental Knowledge, Attitudes, and Professional Practices of Canadian Theatre Artists
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The current literature on the role of the Arts in sustainability suggests that environmental themes introduced in different forms of art (i.e. theatre, sculpture, music) can change the way people feel about environmental issues in a way that other forms of communication cannot. The Arts, therefore, can play a unique role in societal change toward a sustainable future. As part of its response to the escalating climate crisis, the National Arts Centre (NAC) English Theatre developed “The Cycle: Climate Change”(herein The Climate Cycle) which was designed to engage artists deeply with climate change and grapple with how the performing arts can respond. This study assesses the impact that this initiative had on the practices and policies of Canadian theatre artists that attended The Climate Cycle events, and the organizations that they represented. The Climate Cycle had two meetings: The Summit in Banff in 2018, and The Green Rooms in 2019. Using non-probabilistic sampling techniques, this study used both surveys and interviews to investigate the various impacts of the events. The first survey was sent out to all participants after they attended the first Climate Cycle event in Banff. A second survey was sent to participants after attending the Green Rooms event(with a targeted survey sent to artists who attended both events in order to gain insight into how the two events compared). Additionally, 6 participants were purposively chosen for interviews in order to delve deeper into the degree of impact the event had on their artistic practices and policies within their arts organizations . The survey and interview data were analyzed using a posteriori coding techniques for qualitative answers. The analysis of the data revealed a number of ways in which the artists were impacted by the Climate Cycle including: (1) instilling a sense of community amongst the participants; (2) encouraging the artists to continue their learning, and (3) undertaking various strategies to “green” their practices such as reducing touring and using alternative materials in set designs. These results shed light on the conceptualizations of Canadian theatre artists and the role they can play in changing culture towards environmental sustainability. Further, the results will be helpful for organizations like the NAC who are looking to plan environmental-themed programming for artists in the future.