Born and raised in Calgary, Patti Pon is the president and CEO of Calgary Arts Development (CAD). Upon her being appointment as the president, Dean Prodan, CFO and Director of CAD said,
“Patti is a passionate and visionary champion for our city with a deep belief in Calgary’s potential… Her extensive experience, proven leadership qualities and extraordinary community engagement skills will be sure to guide Calgary Arts Development to new heights as it embarks on the implementation of an integrated arts strategy for Calgary.” (Galleries West, pp. 2)
Over the years Pon has built a legacy as an arts veteran. She has held executive positions at the Arts Commons, Edmonton Opera, and Alberta Theatre Projects (ATP). Pon currently serves on the board of the Calgary Foundation, and Community Projects and Development committee for the Calgary Stampede. She has also received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for service to the community. She also credits part of her success to “…being the first kid in my immigrant family to go to University.”
Her accomplished career has been the driving force for supporting the arts in Calgary. She recalls during her childhood years,
“My uncle owned the local ticket agency called the Bay Ticket Wicket, the 1970s precursor to TicketMaster, while I was growing up and I remember seeing all kinds of shows ranging from the touring production of A Chorus Line to ATP shows at the Canmore Opera House to my first concert (Trooper) at the Stampede Corral.”
Pon remembered being encouraged to be creative as a child and to find ways to express herself and experience life.
“I have been blessed to live in my hometown surrounded by artists and creative people and it has afforded me a very vibrant and prosperous life that I wish for others to also experience; and that is what prompted me to be an arts champion. I am very fortunate.”
According to a survey commissioned by the Calgary Arts Development “…92 percent of Calgarians engaged with the arts and 86 percent believe the arts bring people together.” (Chatha, pp. 1) Pon agrees that “…[Calgary] offers an abundance of opportunities to experience the arts and live a creative life.” (Avenue Calgary, pp. 14) Art, as Pon puts it, is “…a gateway to exploring the city…” (Chatha, pp. 3)
Calgary is more than just cowboy hats and farmland. It is also a major hub and creative centre. The Alberta Ballet, centred here in Calgary, has hosted the music of everyone from Elton John to Gordon Lightfoot. Furthermore, the city is home to the only professional jazz dance company in North America (DJD), and is the headquarters of Canada’s celebration of music, the National Music Centre. Also, Beakerhead, a mash-up of art, technology and engineering has its roots in Calgary.
Pon is also committed to supporting a progressive work environment within the arts sector.
“I believe that working in the arts sector has afforded me one of the kindest, most generous and progressive work environments I could ever have. Now that isn’t to say that there isn’t more work to be done when it comes to matters of equity, diversity and inclusion; but we have a receptive community and the good work continues.”
Currently, Pon at the helm of CAD is working with the Calgary Congress for Equity & Diversity in the Arts (CCEDA) on the In/Pact initiative. The initiative will “…develop a suite of reporting, measurement and assessment tools to assist Calgary’s arts sector with their own equity & diversity strategies.” (CAD, pp. 2)
The CAD media release for this collaboration states that,
“Canada’s professional arts sector is at a historic moment. Diversity has been officially recognized as a primary driver of artistic, social and economic enrichment… The specific goals of In/Pact are consequently to stimulate city-wide discussion about the value of equity & diversity in the arts and strengthen the arts sector’s equity, diversity & inclusion capacity.” (Calgary Arts Development, pp. 3)
For Pon, art is more than just visual enjoyment or a decorative element. It is something that is important to the human condition. She recalls,
“My best memories [as a child] are getting to see as many [theatre] shows as I did and building on each experience. As an adult the most vivid experience I have had many times over is that moment when a full house audience is collectively entranced by what’s happening onstage and we are all breathing in together and responding in tune. It is a magical experience, and when it happens for the first time, THAT is the moment when an arts champion is born.”
Nonetheless, as far as she has come, Pon still remembers her first foray into the art world.
“My first (and only) appearance on stage in an acting role was as one of the elves in my grade 3 production of The Shoemaker and the Elves; and yet I still managed to make my way into the arts!”