Dance alumna takes advocacy work to new level as a Metcalf Arts Policy Fellow

York University dance alumna Shannon Litzenberger (MA ’05) is the recipient of the inaugural Metcalf Arts Policy Fellowship, a two-year appointment with the mandate to explore the connections between arts policy and practice.

Inspired by the need to foster new thinking about the future of the arts sector, the Toronto Arts Foundation (TAF) created the fellowship with support from the George Cedric Metcalf Foundation, the John D. McKellar Foundation, and Business for the Arts, a national association that promotes partnerships and business leadership in the arts.

Right: Shannon Litzenberger

"This fellowship affords Toronto Arts Foundation and the arts community an important opportunity for consideration of the impact of policy on our community,” said TAF executive director Claire Hopkinson. “As a practising artist who is versed in arts policy, Shannon is the ideal candidate for the role.”

"I am thrilled at the opportunity to deepen my engagement in arts policy as the first-ever Metcalf Arts Policy Fellow,” Litzenberger said. “With time to explore relevant questions, I hope to consider how policy at all levels of government can more effectively nurture a healthy arts ecology that serves Canadians with excellent and meaningful artistic experiences, reflective of a rich and diverse Canadian identity."

During her fellowship, Litzenberger will consider how to improve the ways in which communities engage in arts policy dialogue and advance policy goals to affect positive change at all levels of government. Fellowship activities will include research and investigation as well as active participation in existing forums where arts policy conversations and actions are taking shape.

Litzenberger brings to her new role a long history of advocacy and leadership in the Canadian arts and cultural sector. She is a founding member of Canada’s Performing Arts Alliance, representing more than 850 performing artists and arts organizations across the country, and serves on a number of other national, provincial and municipal arts policy groups, including the Canadian Arts Coalition Steering Committee, the Ontario Culture Days Task Force, the Toronto Arts Foundation Advocacy Committee and the Toronto ArtsVote Steering Committee.

She also regularly contributes articles on arts policy to The Dance Current and is frequently called upon by cultural organizations and government agencies as a consultant in the areas of dance and cultural policy. She recently completed a five-year term as executive director of the Canadian Dance Assembly.

Litzenberger was formally introduced to arts policy while pursuing her master of arts in dance at York. Her interest was sparked by a course taught by Faculty of Fine Arts Professor Emerita Joyce Zemans, director of the MBA Program in Arts & Media Administration at the Schulich School of Business and a former director of the Canada Council for the Arts.

“[Professor] Joyce Zemans’ course on cultural policy was a great and memorable foray into what has become a significant area of interest for me in my career,” Litzenberger said. 

Alongside her arts policy and advocacy work, Litzenberger is also a practising dance artist. As a performer, she has collaborated with some of Canada’s leading choreographers and dancers, including David Earle, D.A. Hoskins, Susie Burpee, Heidi Strauss, Darryl Tracy and Meagan O’Shea.

Her most recent artistic credits include the 2009 northern Ontario tour of Pimooteewin: The Journey, and Land of the Living, a new dance work by aboriginal artist and York theatre Professor Michael Greyeyes. She is currently collaborating with dancer, choreographer and director Marie-Josée Chartier on the creation of a full evening of solo work on the theme of “home”.