Captivated by Saskatchewan's vibrant cultural scene at an early age, James Ingold has championed access to the arts for as long as he can remember. From attending the Motif Multicultural Festival to performing at the Prairie Arts Festival, James has always recognized the value of participating in and supporting the arts.
Near the end of his university studies, James worked with the City of Saskatoon, researching the city’s Built Heritage Database. It was through this experience that he was first introduced to SaskCulture. Trusting the recommendation of a colleague and leading with his passion for the arts, James took a leap of faith and joined the board of directors in 2009.
"Great examples of volunteers, great examples of people who care about their community and great mentors as well. They helped build my skills and confidence, like everyone else on the board.” recalls James about the encouragement and guidance he received from SaskCulture's previous Board Presidents when he was first appointed in 2009.
The youngest person to be elected to SaskCulture’s board, James’ dedication to relationship building and innovative board governance led to his election as Vice-President in 2010. James was subsequently elected by acclamation as President in 2012. He turned 25 while serving as Board President.
James saw the organization through a significant period of growth, including the establishment of Creative Kids, a charity that reduces financial barriers to youth participation in culture, as well as working with partners to achieve the first ever five-year lottery agreement with the Government of Saskatchewan, resulting in continuous funding for Sask Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation.
While his accomplishments are extensive, his proudest moments come from uplifting his community and connecting with diverse voices and perspectives. ”Life comes at you really fast and there's always the next goal to work towards. But volunteering encourages you to step outside of yourself to not necessarily focus on personal goals but focus on just betterment of community and a lot of joy I think, comes from being able to to help others”.
Reflecting on his own insecurities and hesitations, James is quick to point out that his time volunteering has been instrumental in helping him step outside of his comfort zone. As soon as he was able to take the first step and push himself to attend a weekend meeting or after hours event, he started to realize that he was capable of more. "Each one of those things is a little success that proves that you've got a little bit more energy and more strength and more value in the world than you may think you do. So I think the people that I've met, the support that I've gotten and the impact that I've been able to see, kind of ripple out just from being involved with my workplace and with my community, has been a big factor in trying to live a healthy engaged life”.
While taking that first leap can be intimidating, James suggests that “if you wait until you're going to be good at something, that time will never come. You have to do something first and the skills and the passion that flows from that come with time and with energy, and with practice. So I say just believe in yourself. Or if you don't believe in yourself, believe in others because they believe in you. Just try something and see what it feels like.”
When it comes to leadership positions, quite often, leaders can make a significant impact by choosing to listen. Thinking about his first year on the Board, James recalls choosing to listen to his community and fellow board members. By observing peers, reading policies, attending events and listening to those in attendance, he was able to better understand his community and position himself to create lasting impact.
Following his tenure at SaskCulture, James has continued to champion culture and community development, volunteering with numerous organizations including the National Trust for Canada, the Saskatchewan Ecomuseums Initiative and Creative Kids. Balancing his career and volunteer positions has been made possible in part by the culture at iQmetrix. Within the company, there are initiatives that promote community involvement, including paid time off for community engagement and a pool of sponsorship funds that are distributed by employees.
In terms of what comes next, James intends to continue his involvement with organizations that facilitate youth access to arts and culture. While advocating for engagement, James intends to keep an open mind to new experiences.“I just want to continue to say yes to new opportunities as they come up, even when I'm not sure about them”.
Reflecting on what is only the beginning of his legacy of leadership, James hopes to carry forward the acts of encouragement and kindness that motivated him throughout his journey.“If I think about what I want to look back on and be proud of, I really just want to model the example that's been given to me by others. The people that I really respect, the person who saw potential in me and suggested I run for SaskCulture. I think one person can only make so much impact, but by focusing on helping other people realize their potential, they can do a heck of a lot more than I can. So I hope I can, in small ways, inspire other people to explore themselves and explore their worlds and do their best”.