Report examines two performing arts ventures boldly exploring new systems

TORONTO, November 9, 2017 – Announcing the publication of “Generator and The RISER Project: Sector developers for independent theatre in Toronto”.  Commissioned by Toronto Arts Foundation with support from the Metcalf Foundation and Toronto Arts Council, the report takes a look at two change initiatives in the performing arts sector. Both ventures have emerged from the theatre community to devise new ways to support independent artists in today’s context of precarity and limited resources.

With more independent theatremakers entering the scene, common issues have emerged for those hoping to work in this often uncertain and unstructured space. Both Generator and The RISER Project  have responded to these challenges by creating access to resources, opportunities and networks for “independent theatreland dwellers” to make a better life. Generator is a capacity building and mentoring organization for independent performance makers, helping artists and companies to 'do it yourself.' The RISER Project functions as a type of artistic accelerator, helping independent theatremakers get shows up on stage by providing resources, support, space, and more.

Written by researcher Helen Yung, the report looks at the ventures as case studies with which to examine sector change and how we measure the success of change initiatives. Overall, the report asks: What insights and learning can be derived from looking at these two bold new ventures?

Generator and The RISER Project: Sector developers for independent theatre in Toronto was presented at an event held at The Centre for Social Innovation on October 27th, 2017 for members of the independent performing arts community. One participant said “When you’re operating in a model of scarcity, it’s going to impact the work you do… RISER and Generator teach you to have the tools to be discerning, to be able to choose what path you’re going to go in, and to give you an abundance of space with which to explore,” noting that the resources these ventures offer enable artists to cultivate a sense of confidence.

“Both Generator and The Riser Project are creating a new path for the independent performing arts sector – one where artists and organizations can produce outstanding work within a culture that’s supportive and collaborative. With catalyst funds from Toronto Arts Council’s Open Door program to explore these changes, the ventures are setting the stage for what’s possible.  We expect the report to serve as a launching point for funders, arts organizations and individuals to respond to the changing landscape of the sector.”
– Claire Hopkinson, Director & CEO, Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation

“Research on Canadian incubators, accelerators and new models in the arts sector is hard to come by, which is perhaps odd considering how much society looks to artists these days for radical, daring new ideas. As an artist and researcher, I appreciate the boldness and wisdom of Toronto Arts Foundation and the Metcalf Foundation for investing in this research. I hope the report helps advance ideas and actions going forward.”
– Helen Yung, artist and researcher, Culture of Cities Centre

“Over two years ago Generator set out on a path to find new producing models that reduce the burnout of independent artists and support them in finding the time and money to complete training needed as producers of their own work. We believe this to be an era when artists have the ability to find more agency over their own means of production. This study has helped us to see how necessary this work has been and how impactful one-size-fits-one training can be on the confidence and socio-economic status of the independent artist. We hope that this report will help others in the arts consider experimentation with new producing models and ways of bringing live arts to Canada.”
– Kristina Lemieux, Executive Director, Generator

“By encouraging collaborations between senior independent companies and sharing small pools of money, RISER Project creates a web of support around artists to support risk, build community and move from an independent theatre ecology to an interdependent ecology.  This study is a great way to share the results of 3 years of work, showcasing the innovation happening in the independent sector. Like any small business- the independents need more support to be able to continue to innovate with speed and efficiency. We are doing this artistically as well as with our finances. We are so grateful that Toronto Arts Council, Toronto Arts Foundation and Metcalf gave meaningful investment to this idea and we hope it encourages philanthropists and funders to support the leadership and innovation happening at the grassroots of artmaking in the city.”
– Ravi Jain, Artistic Director, Why Not Theatre, and one of three developers of The RISER Project

About Helen Yung
Helen Yung is an interdisciplinary artist-researcher with the Culture of Cities Centre. Over the past two years she has served as an advisory committee member for the Ontario Nonprofit Network’s sector-wide evaluation strategy. Her research and consulting clients include: Canadian Public Arts Funders, Canada Council for the Arts, Canadian Arts Coalition and Culture Days (national office). She is a 2017 Salzburg Global Seminar Fellow. She is a Board Director of the Centre for Social Innovation's charitable foundation and serves as Co-Chair of the Foundation's fundraising committee.

 A Toronto-based artist, Helen has also been presented, programmed, and invited to give talks, research and create in Montreal, New York, Greece, Argentina, France and Australia. She designs installations and environments, and creates socially-engaged interactions and interventions.

About Generator
Generator is a mentoring, teaching, and innovation incubator for independent artists, producers and leaders; created and run by artists for artists.  From intensive programs to workshops, Generator is transforming the role of the artist producer one artist at a time.

About Why Not Theatre
Why Not Theatre is an agile, international theatre company based in Toronto, Canada, rooted in the values of innovation, community and collaboration. Our work is inventive, cross-cultural, and reflects our passion for the exploration of difference. We challenge the status quo by examining what stories are being told and who is telling them. More than just a theatre company, we develop creative strategies to build a healthier and stronger arts ecology. We MAKE and tour critically-acclaimed and award-winning new work, SHARE resources with other companies and artists to produce and tour their work, and PROVOKE change through new producing models and the presentation of work for new audiences.


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About Toronto Arts Foundation
Toronto Arts Foundation is a charitable organization that sparks creative connections, spotlights artistic excellence, and supports vibrant cultural growth throughout our diverse city, through private sector investment. To learn more or to make a donation, visit

Contact information:
Margo Charlton, Research & Impact Manager, Toronto Arts Foundation, or 416 392 6802 x 201