2022 Ontario Culture Days Festival: 10 Tips for Organizers

It’s never too early to start thinking about what you’re going to do for the annual Ontario Culture Days Festival, happening this year from September 23 to October 16. The fall Festival is a celebration of arts, culture and heritage with a range of programming from in-person events, to digital content, and self-guided activities. Did you know that independent organizers hosted over 1,000 events from 99 municipalities all over the province last year? Registration begins in the spring and if you’ve hosted a program before or want to do it for the first time this year, here are some tips to create a safe, fun, and inclusive event!

1. Timing

We have expanded the festival to run from September 23 to October 16 so your organization has the flexibility to choose when to host a program. If you don’t want to stretch your program over the festival period, you can focus on one week, one weekend, or one exciting day. If you want people to keep engaging with your programs, consider having a couple of exciting in-person events, paired with self guided or online activities they can participate in throughout the 3 weeks. The dates aren’t endless but the possibilities are!

2. Location

Where are the spaces and places you call home? Where are the spaces you can come back to, the spaces you can show off, the spaces you can play in? How can your event contribute to vibrant public spaces you belong to, and how can you use those spaces to allow people to interact with the arts in everyday life? Don’t forget to assess the accessibility of your location, from physical access to interpreters and gender-neutral washrooms so everyone can join in on the fun!

People dancing/ performing in a park
Jamii, Toronto, September 24-26, 2021. Photo credit: Jae Yang.

3. Safety

No matter what happened during this pandemic, we saw that our love and dedication to bringing arts programming didn’t stop. We encourage you to continue to plan safe in-person events so everyone feels comfortable and excited to participate. If you’re concerned about your venue’s capacity limits, remember that great programming can be delivered through smaller and more intimate activities. In the event of public health restrictions that prevent in-person programming, consider digital or self-guided options.

4. Registration

Word travels fast but it’s even quicker on the internet. Everyone knows the best way for people to find out about your programs is online! Register your event when the portal opens in mid-spring. Try to register your programming as early as possible. The earlier you register, the easier it is for Ontario Culture Days to promote your programming. If you don’t have full event information yet, why not highlight a key event? Your events can be edited up until event time.

5. Flexibility

Expect the unexpected and have a contingency plan. If you’re planning an in-person event, create a backup option. What would a smaller-capacity, outdoor, or digital version look like? Can your programming be delivered in a hybrid model? A workshop could have a virtual creation element with an in-person element available later. Self-guided tours and programs can be delivered digitally or in person. Consider live streaming events to expand your audience and include more people.

6. Collaboration

The most important members of your team are the people who participate in your program. Consider your community, including what others in the community are doing, and what they have done in the past. Are there ways to collaborate on interdisciplinary activities and events? How can you collaborate with other organizations and groups to stretch resources, advance equity, and tap into new audiences?

A person on a blanket outside doing beading
STEPS, Toronto, October 2, 2021. Photo credit: Samantha Beltran.

7. Accessible and Inclusive Content

Ontario is rich in diverse experiences, and it is important to strive to activate a lens of pluralism, equity, and inclusion. Invite participation from a variety of backgrounds with an interest in moving our mission, vision, and values forward. In particular, encourage perspectives of Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour (IBPOC), Trans, Non-Binary, LGBTQ2S, as well as individuals from rural and remote communities.

Support low barriers to access through free or pay-what-you-may admission to festival programming. Make recorded and live-streamed events more accessible with free automatic captioning on YouTube and Facebook, or an inexpensive service like Otter.ai.

8. Compensation

We believe artists should be paid for their time, and expect organizers to fairly compensate artists for their work in the Ontario Culture Days festival. For more resources and guidelines relating to industry standards on artist fees, including when to pay artist fees, how much you should pay, and how should you calculate an artist’s time, we recommend reviewing the following sources:

CARFAC minimum fee schedule
Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists (CADA) Professional Standards

9. Branding

Ontario Culture Days logos will be available to use in your event promotion. Our national Culture Days site has great resources too! Unsure about how to use these branded materials? Please email our team at info@onculturedays.ca with any questions.

10. Finally: be creative and have fun!

Plus – check out our Festival information page for frequently asked questions.