Matching Wavelengths

The National Arts Centre's Navigation Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Alyssa English & Saeideh Rajabzadeh 

In March 2020, as the effects of COVID-19 rippled through the arts community in Canada and around the world, the National Arts Centre (NAC), situated in Ottawa, Ontario, led the charge in providing both music performance and education opportunities across Canada. The NAC’s quick shift to online platforms provided employment and funding to the country's artists, education resources for parents and children, community engagement, connectivity, and entertainment to those quarantined at home.

This virtual exhibit, Matching Wavelengths, focuses on the stories of three departments—Music Education, the NAC Orchestra (NACO), and Popular Music and Variety, each of which found creative ways to draw on existing infrastructure to develop new and innovative opportunities for the Canadian music community. This meant matching educators, audiences, and artists in each of their circumstances. Insight into the inner workings of each department has been provided through interviews with Geneviève Cimon, the Senior Director of Learning and Community Engagement; Daphne Burt, the Manager of Artistic Planning of NACO; Heather Gibson, who is the Executive Producer for Popular Music and Variety programming; and Robert VanderBerg, NAC's Archivist-Curator. Each relayed to us the challenges and the unexpected outcomes of programming through the pandemic, providing a glimpse into the critical role that the NAC played in uniting a country during a time when we were all isolated at home.

Informed by ethnographic methodologies, we have created a space that tells the NAC’s story of struggle, perseverance, and leadership. Although this is only a small window into the activities of the NAC during the pandemic, we hope this exhibit will not only highlight the NAC’s leadership in the Canadian arts community but will also bring attention to their new online model that connects communities through digital platforms.