In recent years, there has been a rise in new initiatives, research studies, residencies and experiments around the world that focus on caregiving in the performing arts, including many successful supportive strategies carried out by companies here in Canada.
Balancing Act was founded in 2019 by Theatre Direct under the Artistic Direction of Lisa Marie DiLiberto with an aim to bring these initiatives together and build a robust network of support, resources and advocacy for artist caregivers※ across the country.
Balancing Act takes its inspiration from a number of national initiatives worldwide including the Parent Artist Advocacy League (PAAL) in the US and Parenting in Performing Arts (PiPA) in the UK. Balancing Act is paving the way for Canada to enter into this global conversation as we work towards bringing about our own innovations for change.
In February of 2020 a powerful group of partners and stakeholders came together in Toronto stewarded by Theatre Direct’s former Balancing Act Producer, Hanna Wolf. Together, we were all set to launch a series of supportive strategy pilots such as on-site childcare during performances, the 5-day work week, creating a family room at the theatre and best practices for touring. But, as the pandemic took hold and we could no longer be together in person, Balancing Act turned its focus on developing digital tools to support flexible, remote work and strategies to support artist caregivers at home.
In early 2021, a Balancing Act steering committee composed of organizational leaders from across the country was formed to collaborate on creating a tangible framework for caregiver support to benefit both artists and organizations. Throughout the 2021/22 season we will pilot this adaptive framework with partner organizations alongside the development of policies through our newest program, Level Up!
As we continue to navigate through this challenging time for our sector, it is our hope that the resources we generate to support caregivers will guide us as we collectively plan a re-opening that centres anti-oppressive working models leading towards greater equity and inclusion in the performing arts sector in the years ahead.
※ Balancing Act defines a ‘caregiver’ as individuals who care for children, aging adults, those in need of personal or primary care, and anyone who self-identifies as a caregiver. We acknowledge that care work can include blood, adopted, or chosen family, colleagues, and caring for others out of duty.
In early 2020, as a result of the pandemic situation, adaptive artistic practices including remote, flexible and task-based work moved to the forefront for us all. In response to the urgent need for caregiver support during this challenging time for our sector, Balancing Act crafted the following series of prototypes designed to inspire intergenerational learning, support artist caregivers, and engage young people through art.
Work that Works
A 5-day experiment that explored the benefit that reduced working hours/ task-based employment and guided creative play has on the mental wellness of parent-artists and their families.
Designed and Led by Hanna Wolf & Pragna Desai.
I felt so much better about how we were co-existing. I was confident that [my kids] were doing something worthwhile and meaningful. And I felt that I had been a better parent.
An online multigenerational creation and discussion group for adult and youth participants. The precursor to the current Hack Lab.
Designed and led by Shira Leuchter.
Absolutely blew open my ideas of what I could be creatively capable of during these times. The connection to other artists’ thoughts and ideas, discoveries and views were so enlightening and invigorating.
La Magie des Marionnettes
A 5-day creativity incubator designed to explore the extent to which digital programming can serve as a creative outlet for children whilst also providing online childcare for caregivers.
Designed and Led by Treasa Levasseur & Djennie Laguerre.
Living in Ontario and being able to find good quality activities in French is not always easy. I really appreciate that [my child] could learn and express herself in her first language where she is most comfortable.
A digital camp designed to crack the funny bone in your child. Hours of jokes, riddles and clowning around leading to a comic gig, presented by the campers at the end of the week.
Designed and Led by Pragna Desai with Madeleine Brown.
For once, I was able to go to my studio and really work.