Mass Culture, Mobilisation culturelle.

Mass Culture is an arts support organization that strives to harness the power of research to learn and generate new insights, enabling the arts community to be strategic, focused and adaptive.

‘State of Emergence: How do we meet?’ by Art of Festivals

Sharing some of the motivations behind and insights gleaned from the State of Emergence project, a collaboration between Mass Culture and Art of Festivals.

When we start, run and end a project; when we learn something new; when we collaborate with others; when we experience personal and professional growth: we are changing ourselves and changing our world. 

What emerges when we take the time to tell stories, build trust, share concerns, give praise, rejoice together?  

How micro can we go to better understand the systems that influence us and that we influence?

The State of Emergence journey started in the darkest days of lockdown, several months into our new regime of physical separation and with no clear end to this forced isolation in sight. 

Online gave us a lifeline—a means to connect, to share time together in virtual spaces that became more and more elaborate, with tools and environments like Jamboard, Miro, GatherTown and a myriad more allowing for synchronicity and playfulness. 

But tools are just tools—technology is not inherently good or bad, it is how (and why) we use it that matters. With State of Emergence, we wanted to take advantage of the so-called “great pause” to lift the lid on our back-to-back Zoom meetings and gather peers to ask ourselves: how do we meet?  

If the structure doesn’t allow for dialogue, change the structure.

With financial support from Canada Council for the Arts and a research framework hosted by Mass Culture, Bridget and Fanny, the two Creative Producers steering the project, initiated conversations about dialogue, equity and trust, with a desire to let a process emerge through curiosity, affinities, common values and shared intentions. 

After countless hours of online meetings, rhizomatic research on the art of dialogue, and 8 events hosted by or co-created with local and international partners gathering over 500 people, we’ve gone resolutely micro with a simple tool to support individual reflection and foster mutual understanding. 

State of Emergence: unfolding the creative cycle

The State of Emergence interactive website is an invitation to enter into dialogue by naming the world.

5 images, black and white pencil drawings. Image 1: Leaves falling into water, creating ripples, titled Curiosity. Image 2: Watering can watering seeds in soil, titled Exploration. Image 3: Seedlings reaching towards the sun, titled Navigation. Image 4: A seedling branching into multiple buds, titled Navigation. Image 5, coloured in: A pair of scissors about to cut blooms, titled Emergence.

The icons represent a cycle of growth—an emergence pattern—that works at different scales and can be given many names. 

Icons, concepts and questions enter in resonance with each other to form a rich common ground for individual reflection or collective exploration. 

We invite you to consider the semiotic friction between images, words and questions to reflect on your practice, emotions and motivations. 

You can use it on your own or with a group to practise systems-thinking; reflect on how collaborations start, thrive and end; discuss team roles; facilitate meeting check-ins and check-outs; and any other way that inspires you. 

You can also contribute to the diversity of emotions and positions in response to each question, by sharing your thoughts into the text box. Contributions are anonymous and moderated before being added to the rotating list; you won’t see your own answer right away, but contributing will unlock a collection of responses from other users. 

What does starting feel like to you? Take a deep breath in. Images of two buttons – Button 1: Previous. Button 2: Next.

What speaks to you?

Art of Festivals will be hosting free participatory sessions on different uses of the emergence pattern over the next few months. Interested? Email [email protected] to get on the invite list.

MC Minds

MC Minds (our blog, podcast, and videos) will inspire, educate, question, connect and journey through knowledge on arts and culture research topics across Canada.

Would you like to recommend someone for an interview with MC Minds? Contact Kathryn at [email protected].

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