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Group celebrates 15 years of growing N.B. arts community

Catherine Arseneault, who participated in the CATAPULT program, is pictured. (Source: Amy Stewart) Catherine Arseneault, who participated in the CATAPULT program, is pictured. (Source: Amy Stewart)

A few years ago, Catherine Arseneault found herself in a park with several artists for a 10-day residency. She was there to delve into her photography art practice, which she’d let fall dormant for quite a while. She thought the residency would be the perfect way to kickstart her creative side.

“It was great and it set my artistic practice on its path,” she said. “That was my introduction to ArtsLink.”

ArtsLink NB, a group dedicated to growing the artistic community in New Brunswick, organized the residency. It also offered its CATAPULT Arts Accelerator program, which is designed to give creators entrepreneurial skills to grow their careers.

“I think (CATAPULT) changed my life,” Arseneault said. “I’m now in the midst of changing my career to a fulltime artistic practice.”

ArtsLink NB is marking its 15th anniversary this year, celebrating its work in helping the arts community while looking ahead at new challenges and goals.

“I’ve been with them for 10 years this month,” said executive director Julie Whitenect. “It was prompted by artists and cultural workers who wanted a provincial organization to represent them. We have about 375 members.

“We do a lot of advocacy work to communicate the importance of arts and culture to the wellbeing of society and economic benefits.”

CATAPULT is a major program for ArtsLink NB. Thandiwe McCarthy, a poet, took the course in 2019 and he credits it for his later success.

“The way I learn is I go to workshops,” McCarthy said. “I thought I’d be silly not to invest time in it. Last week I was a keynote speaker for NBCCD (New Brunswick College of Craft and Design). I attribute all of that to a strong start with CATAPULT.

“I went from knowing nothing to having a self published book. Knowing what to do on the business side is so key.”

Thandiwe McCarthy is pictured. (Source: Frye Moncton)

Whitenect said ArtsLink NB now has six fulltime staff along with project coordinators and student internships. She’s seen the organization greatly expand in the last decade, launching residencies and an arts symposium in Moncton this October.

Whitenect also notes ArtsLink NB, like so many performance and in-person groups, suffered a major setback during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The art sector has not recovered to pre-2020 levels,” Whitenect said. “We had tremendous momentum in 2019 and now we’re seeing less support and less funding in the sector, which is very concerning. We will be encouraging members to ensure arts is a question leading up to this election and we will communicate the messages of arts and culture.”

“I think ArtsLink is extremely important,” said Arseneault. “They allow the professional artist market to expand. The impact can be felt in the connections they can make. If you’re helping artists do art, you’re helping the economy flourish and grow.

“It’s extremely important now more than ever and it will continue to be important.”

ArtsLink held a celebration of its 15th anniversary at the Saint John Arts Centre on Saturday.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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