"Has it really been 27 years?"
MASC began in 1989 as The Chance to Give/ Une chance à donner, as a one-time, month-long series of workshops and performances for students from the National Capital region schools, to complement an exhibition at the National Library of Canada, under the sponsorship of Secretary of State. The program was repeated as a joint venture of local school boards out of a conviction that it had an important contribution to make. Response to this series indicated that a registered non-profit organization should be created to function on a year-round basis. A board of directors was established and the coordinators who had been with the organization in a job sharing capacity since its inception were officially hired. Full-scale operation began with the opening of the 1989/90 academic year. A roster of six local artists was available on a continuing basis and tours of five out-of-town artists arranged. Funding to provide administrative stability and assistance with programming was received from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, the Ontario Arts Council and Secretary of State.
MASC’s work in schools has continued to grow, and while the focus has always been on schools, work has also been found for artists in other community settings. 1990/91 brought further outreach into those areas along with a major initiative, funded by Secretary of State, into educational systems in outlying areas of Eastern Ontario.
After two successful years, the name of the organization was changed to: Multicultural Arts for Schools and Communities: MASC. A number of important events were added to the calendar. 1994 marked the first highly successful Young Authors and Illustrators Conference, which brings keen young authors and illustrators together with well established Canadian Children’s writers for hands-on writing workshops. The first Visual Arts Symposium for young Francophone students took place in 1997, and the MASC Arts Awards were launched in 1999. In 2003 MASC became the region’s ArtsSmarts partner joining the McConnell Family Foundation’s national arts integration initiative.
Student contacts have gone from 14,000 in the first year, to over 100,000 in 2010-2011. The number of artists on the roster has increased from 11, to 64 currently. Both government and private sector support have been critical to the organization’s success, with public support growing dramatically over the last five years.
After 18 years of operation, the founding Executive/Artistic Director retired, and a new Executive/Artistic Director was installed in 2005. Significant increases to operations were also undertaken, with 2 additional staff, and a new creative workshop space.
During 2008, MASC expanded again, successfully launching a new Seniors Program. In 2009, a new partnership was created with the Youth Services Bureau serving street-involved youth, and new events, such as MASCparade and MASC Mondays pepper the schedule.
MASC is the only organization in Eastern Ontario with a primary mandate to connect artists and learning, offering fully bilingual services and working through all disciplines. With the exception of the major festivals and the National Arts Centre, MASC has one of the largest audiences of any arts organization in the city.