The Top 5 Inspiring Places to Develop a Cultural Leader

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There’s no doubt that The Banff Centre is a magical place, but for one week in April, 18 cultural leaders from Toronto had the chance to connect and develop their skills in some very captivating spaces. During their six day residency, the Toronto Cultural Leaders Lab fellows visited more than 10 spaces on campus where they dug deep to tackle the unique challenges facing artists and arts organizations. 

Below, faculty and participants from the Toronto Cultural Leaders Lab program share what place means to them, and which spaces inspired them most:

Ian Prinsloo (Program Faculty):

“The narrative of place means that each individual space in The Banff Centre has a way of bringing forward for people, for participants a different possibility of how they can enter into the work they’re doing or the relationships that they’re involved in. That's why we go from dance studios, to rooms with vistas across gorgeous mountains, to places in the woods, and that each space in and of itself can ask something different from me. 

My favourite space we worked in was the dance studio, Laslo Funtek 224. It is such a magnificent and glorious space and when people walk in there, they literally start to move up, like almost go on their toes and want to run. The space actually involves. They just know they should be moving. And that’s a beautiful thing.”


Toronto Cultural Leaders Lab participants engage in conversation in Laslo Funtek 224

Toronto Cultural Leaders Lab participants engage in conversation in Laslo Funtek 224

Liz Forsberg (Program Fellow and Managing Director of Art Starts): 

“I loved the Hoodoo  trail — the dappled sunlight through the fir trees was quite magical along the trail. I think the act of walking in pairs in the woods supported the creation of a contemplative space.”

Joel McConvey (Program Fellow and Independent Artist): 

“The walk on Hoodoo Trail was spectacular and humbling, and coming out into that dry riverbed… wow. It's a moment I'll never forget, and an instance in which I think the natural environment really helped foster a sense of shared intimacy among the group.”


Toronto Cultural Leaders Lab participants emerge from the forest on the Hoodoo Trail in Banff

Toronto Cultural Leaders Lab participants emerge from the forest on the Hoodoo Trail to the side of Sleeping Buffalo Mountain (Tunnel Mountain)

Joel McConvey: 

“It was a privilege to be able to spend time in the Painter House, and to have access to the Leighton Artists' Colony. Being in a former residence, especially one with all of the warmth and charm of Painter House, really helped shift the focus on our final day. I found the variety of spaces conducive to getting down to work in smaller groups, and the central living room a lovely spot to hold our closing night open mic.”

Scott Miller Berry (Program Fellow, Executive Director of Images Festival): 

“The Painter House is inviting, and just a different energy. The energy in that house for me is more conducive to getting into it. There’s multiple rooms, it’s cozy. It’s nice to be in the woods a little bit. Getting out of the classroom has been excellent.” 

Liz Forsberg: 

“In The Painter House the rooms with the dark wood panelling made me feel as though I was living inside a tree (which was a childhood fantasy of mine!).”


Liz Forsberg, Gein Wong, Mahlikah Aweri, and d'bi young plan a project in the Painter House at The Banff Centre

Liz Forsberg, Gein Wong, Mahlikah Aweri, and d'bi young plan a project in the Painter House at The Banff Centre

Menon Dwarka (Program Fellow, Managing Director, 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture, Arts, Media + Education):

“I'd have to say the President's House, only because I was feeling a bit nomadic during the week, and it was great to feel centered in a space that someone had made their home. It was great looking out over the trees and seeing the mountains over the back porch, cementing new friendships over dinner. And, of course, singing at the piano with everyone else!”


Corleigh Powderface (Elder in Residence for the program): 

“Personally for me, you are at the power of place. You are within the setting we’re at right now, with Banff being a sacred place to my ancestors and even to this day. It’s incredible how the whole group has connected with Mother Nature and stemmed the healing power and the thinking power and all the diversity and powers coming together and connecting as one. That is just amazing. 

The whole area speaks to me. From the trees, to the beautiful mountains, to the weather that’s coming down that’s so majestic. Because the weather, I find, if it’s rain or fresh snow, it’s a new beginning of the day, a new beginning of the life. All that negative stuff is covered and we can move forward with a new day. The whole surrounding is very magical, very humbling for me, and I love being here. I really do."


Phyllis Novak takes time to reflect looking at the Bourgeau mountain range. View from the amphitheatre at The Banff Centre

Phyllis Novak takes time to reflect looking at the Bourgeau mountain range

Jerry McGrath (Program Faculty and Director of Innovation and Partnerships in Leadership Development at The Banff Centre):

“This may sound weird, but I actually like the movements between spaces. The looks on people’s faces when we went into the clearing down the Hoodoo trail and the gasp. Yesterday, bringing them into the Painter House and people joking, 'Oh, I guess this will do'. Even moving them when they first arrived from the Elder Tom Crane Bear Room where we were in a circle for the smudge and then moving them to the campfire. 

I think that those rhythms of moving from space to space and the transitions that occur are really quite powerful because they give people a heightened awareness of where they are and what they’re coming from and where they’re going to. So I actually think it’s less about the spaces we use but how we leverage the transitions, the liminal spaces to allow for people to experience something different and carry that into the next conversation."


Toronto Cultural Leaders Lab participants walk outside the Kinnear Centre

Toronto Cultural Leaders Lab participants walk between the many places on The Banff Centre campus