Mandate & History
Public Energy is a cultural catalyst which inspires and empowers people through performance.
Public Energy creates inclusive spaces where risk-taking artists and diverse audiences meet.
Public Energy Performing Arts supports the creation, touring, and presentation of innovative contemporary performing arts. Based in Peterborough, Ontario, we present a season of contemporary theatre, dance, and interdisciplinary performance, while building community through outreach programming and developing audiences that are knowledgeable and passionate. Through our programs, which include presentations, residencies, commissions, mentorships, and professional workshops and classes, we provide artists with a safe and supportive environment to create and perform new work and interact with a broad public.
Public Energy Performing Arts supports diverse work, both in terms of cultural influences and artistic innovation. We prioritize Indigenous work through our performance curation and through partnerships with Indigenous organizations, such as the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies at Trent University.
Public Energy Performing Arts is committed to making art more accessible, more balanced in its representation, and more inclusive to all.
The organization takes a leading role in ensuring the presence of an active contemporary performance culture in the Peterborough area and supports the development of regional artists by:
- Presenting new works in our mainstage program and in festivals such as Emergency,
- Arranging specialized master classes, workshops, and talks with visiting artists,
- Providing administrative and marketing support,
- Providing a range of professional development activities to support career advancement.
Peterborough New Dance was founded in 1994, when it inherited a just-discontinued dance presenting program operated by Peterborough’s artist-run centre, Artspace. Artspace’s dance programming began in the late 1970’s as one aspect of a multi-disciplinary program that included new music, poetry, film, video and performance art. Peterborough New Dance’s mission was inspired by its connection to the artist-run network: that it would be part of a national support system that provides living artists with a living wage. The programming focus for Peterborough New Dance became a balance between supporting new work and seeing that the best existing work of independent choreographers is given a public life. Its founding director was Bill Kimball, who had curated Artspace’s dance program from 1980 to 1994.
Peterborough New Dance became incorporated as a charitable organization under the name Peterborough New Dance and Performance in December, 2001. In 2003 the organization adopted a second name, Public Energy, under which it expanded the organization’s animating and presenting activities beyond dance into related disciplines of contemporary theatre and performance. The name comes from an early mandate adopted by the organization: that it would “create a kind of public energy around the presentation, creation and touring of contemporary dance.” The words Performing Arts were added in the 2019-20 season to reinforce the multi-arts mandate and alleviate the public’s ongoing confusion of the organization with a utility agency.
As of 2021, Public Energy has worked with more than 2,000 artists, including dancers, actors, choreographers, directors, designers, visual artists, filmmakers, sound artists, writers and theatre technicians. The organization has mounted more than 500 shows, classes, workshops, talks and other events seen by more than 50,000 audience members and participants.
A significant portion of Public Energy’s programming is with Indigenous artists. Beginning in 2005, and in response to a growing body of contemporary work from Indigenous performing artists and a coming of age of the Peterborough area’s own Indigenous artists, Public Energy has taken a lead, both locally and on a provincial and national level, in Indigenous arts programming. Among the initiatives undertaken by PE, often in partnership with the local arts collective O’Kaadenigan Wiingashk, have been two productions of Tomson Highway plays (The Rez Sisters and The (Post) Mistress); hosting the touring festival Honouring Theatre (featuring plays from Canada, New Zealand and Australia); coordinating and hosting a cross-Canada touring program of independent choreographers called Indigenous Dancelands, with the CanDance Network; and co-producing, with O’Kaadenigan Wiingashk, the O’demin Giizis festival, an annual international festival of Indigenous arts, from 2008 to 2012.
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