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Community, Culture and COVID-19: ANDPVA

This is an outstanding city.
But you don't just take.
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Fran Deacon

Wife of the late Fraser Deacon,
Founder of Toronto Foundation

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Community, Culture and COVID-19: ANDPVA

Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone, hand drummer and singer



Physical distancing has put a sharp focus on what we lose when we’re apart, including our access to the healing power of art. The Association for Native Development in the Performing and Visual Arts (ANDPVA) identifies, promotes, and creates opportunities for Indigenous artists to preserve traditional knowledge and advance cultural identities in order to help the community heal from the trauma of colonization. We spoke with executive director Millie Knapp to find out how the ANDVPA is adapting and struggling in COVID-19.


1. How has your organization had to adapt its services and programs amid COVID-19?

In response to COVID-19 and to continue our support, we switched our live programming to online in the form of COVID-19 Emergency Support Watch Parties on Facebook.

We’ve launched our COVID-19 Emergency Support Watch Parties for Indigenous artists, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers living in Toronto. The watch parties started Saturday, May 23, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. and are on every night this week. Check out ANDPVA’s Facebook for the watch parties.

We’re paying $1,000 for a 45-minute watch party on Facebook of their work as performance or demonstration. The artwork can be contemporary or traditional i.e. oral tradition or storytelling.

We’re ready to train anyone who needs help setting up their watch party.


2. What role does community and culture play in your programs and services? Can you tell us a bit about how COVID-19 is impacting this?

ANDPVA’s mission is “to facilitate healing through the arts by restoring cultures and identities to Indigenous artists and communities.”

We identify, promote, and create opportunities for Indigenous artists, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers to support and develop a self-sufficient community of Indigenous artists, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers who preserve traditional knowledge, advance respective cultural identities and reflect evolving cultural expression helping communities heal from the traumas of colonization.

Since COVID-19’s beginning, we’ve learned how Indigenous artists, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers lost income from gig cancellations. Pow wows have been cancelled. Friendship centers, cultural centers, museums, parks, concert halls, and other venues have closed to them.

Due to COVID-19, we’ve had to cancel our live audience events: the Red Revue, the Writers’ Room, and Creation and Clan Story workshops. We program Indigenous artists for the Royal Ontario Museum’s After Dark series. That program was postponed, too.


3. Are there certain vulnerable groups who are underserved and/or who you worry about?

Artists, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers are in danger of not being able to pay rent or buy food.

On Facebook, a post reads: “Pray for your Ma and Pa shops…pray for your Artists and Vendors who make their entire year on the trail. We are not ok.”

Another post reads: “I was just thinking about this the other day.  This is going to be totally devastating to a lot of families. They can’t get any help as small businesses because they’re not chartered or registered. All it takes is loss of income from 2 or 3 powwows and their year is down the drain.”


4. What are your greatest challenges in supporting your clients right now? What have been the greatest successes?

Our greatest challenge is that we can no longer present live events so we’ve switched to online programming.

On April 9, we launched the Writers’ Room Watch Party on Facebook with Susan Aglukark. The Writers’ Room is funded by Toronto Arts Council. Susan sang and had people around the world dancing, reaching people from Oakville, New Brunswick, Greenland, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Six Nations, University of Toronto, Labrador, Copenhagen, and Nova Scotia.

On Thursday, April 23, at 7 p.m.  ANDPVA presented a Writers’ Room Watch Party featuring Cliff Cardinal, noted playwright. He is the son of renowned actor, Tantoo Cardinal. Cliff read a selection from his new story, (EVERYONE I LOVE HAS) A TERRIBLE FATE (BEFALL THEM).


5. As governments start talking about easing restrictions, what supports will you be aiming to provide your clients?

We will pay Indigenous artists, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers $1,000 to showcase their work as performance or demonstration online for our COVID-19 Emergency Support Watch Parties. The work can be “new” works or “old” i.e. oral traditions or storytelling.

We will expand our online programming to showcase the work of Indigenous artists, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers who live across Canada.


6. Are there any silver linings for long term and systemic change that you can see? What do we need to do to ensure we make an “equitable recovery”?

A silver lining from COVID-19 is that the City of Toronto consults and takes direction from TASSC’s 18 member agencies to look out for Indigenous peoples.


7. Is there anything else you want donors to know?

We continue to fundraise for COVID-19 emergency support for artists, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers. Right now, the support we’ve raised is for Toronto residents only. We strive to raise funds for Indigenous artists, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers living in Toronto and across Canada.