Staging Sustainability

featured-aeiforaIt is often talked about within certain circles that the triple bottom line is rapidly gaining momentum. People, Planet and Profit have become part of the business lexicon for a number of years now and can readily be seen in corporate sustainability reporting and in product literature and advertising. There is another movement afoot that we in the ICT industry need to take notice of and that is a fourth “P” called performance. The entertainment industry has taken up the cause of a greener planet with good reason besides the social and ethical implications — ever shrinking operating budgets.

You see, unlike most corporations who work to create products or services that provide profit, it is often the not-for-profits that rely heavily on subsidies, grants, and donations to make ends meet above and beyond the box office take. With a reduction and continual belt tightening of dollars comes the inability to keep equipment upgraded and operating to produce the level of artistic quality that has to compete with for profit entertainment ventures such as sports and movies. Fortunately there is an army of like minded individuals throughout the globe who see an opportunity to refresh the time honored traditions of how we produce the arts and we will be gathering in numbers at the Staging Sustainability 2014: People. Planet. Profit. Performance Conference in Toronto, Canada Feb. 2 – 5. If you happen to be in the area definitely check it out.

Staging Sustainability 2014 will be the largest gathering of sustainability practitioners in the arts in the world meeting to discuss ways to improve performance and includes producers, performers, technicians, funders and decision makers along with just interested people to meet, learn and share ideas about how to use the influence of the performing arts to affect not only sustainability in the world but in their own culture. The conference showcases exciting work being done on Broadway, London, across Canada and other performance hotspots.

Now why does this matter to the ICT industry you ask? Simple: They use our stuff and lots of it. The things we make, sell, install, rent, truck and design are all being used in one form or another in the arts in sometimes very innovative and creative ways that often eventually wind up in people’s homes and work place environments. Pixel mapping projection is a fantastic example of this as it has had its beginnings as an arts installation in Europe and now is being used in shopping centers, museums and corporate offices worldwide. Multi-channel audio and interesting arrangements of monitors are some other instances where it started in the arts and went main stream quite often like how in the automobile racing industry innovations on the track often wind up in the family grocery getter.

As a preview of the upcoming conference held at three premiere venues in Toronto: MaRS Discovery District, 99 Sudbury, and The Theatre Centre the conference starts on Feb. 2nd with an exhibit by the Cape Farewell Foundation called Carbon 14: Climate is Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum’s Centre for Contemporary Culture providing a primer to current climate challenges as responded to by various artists. The evening ends with a multi-media performance by Cynthia Hopkins called the Clement World at the Great Hall Black Box Theatre. Interesting is the use of technology to move the story.

The following days provide a series of topics with a variety of presenters (including myself) related to sustainability in the arts. Most interesting and worthwhile for providers of technology equipment and services include (Complete session descriptions are available on the website.):

  • What Are Approaches to Sustainability in the Arts? Makers, Presenters, Contexts.
  • How Are Arts Facilities Being Built to Respond to Sustainability?
  • How is Sustainable Thinking Changing the Way We Make and Tech Shows?
  • How Can We Innovate in Existing Arts Facilities to Integrate Sustainable Technology and Practices?
  • How Do Managers and Production Staff Integrate Sustainable Practice into Performance and Events?
  • How can we Move and Tour Work Sustainably?
  • What Part do Designers Play in Bringing Sustainable Practice into Performance?
  • The Trade Show Floor

There are a host of other great sessions, keynotes, and other topics worth investigating. If you are an ICT professional and want an opportunity to really see where cutting edge technology is being used in an environmentally responsible way this is definitely the place to be. It might spark ideas for some of your own projects or help move the conversation along with your clients.