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yyc arts

Why we need arts funding in Calgary


Art isn’t just what we see on the walls in museums and galleries. You see, hear or feel it when walking across the Peace Bridge, or taking a selfie in front of the giant head called Wonderland, or putting your child in piano lessons, or when you spread blankets on the ground at Prince’s Island Park and listen to the artists at Calgary Folk Music Festival. Art is part of our daily life and its benefits to our city are numerous, including contributing to the economy, adding to the vibrancy of the city that draws business, talent and visitors to Calgary, provoking discussion and critical thinking, as well as connecting Calgarians to each other, according to Calgarians who are proposing increased municipal arts funding.

A photo from this season’s production of Extremophiles by Georgina Beaty of Downstage Theatre Company. Courtesy Caitlind r.c. Brown.

When actor, writer and drama therapist Raffi Minas came to Calgary in October 2017 from Lebanon, the 28-year-old had more than a decade of experience in writing and acting but found he had to start from scratch in Calgary.

“It’s hard to act here because you need to know the language, accent, networking, and the most important side in my opinion, you need to understand the culture,” Minas says.

When a friend sent Minas a poster advertising the Theatre Community Connections for Newcomers Program, which pairs newcomers with past theatre experience to mentors, he was eager to sign up.

The pilot project is a partnership between Downstage, a theatre company that produces Canadian work with a focus on social issues, and the Centre for Newcomers, which provides settlement and integration services to immigrants and refugees. Four participants were paired with mentors to create a five to 10 minute showcase performance.

Minas has written a script with his mentor for a 10-minute performance called Suitcase, the story of a man displaced by war, inspired by his own experiences of fleeing Syria for Lebanon before coming to Canada. The show features a refugee who comes to Canada with nothing but a suitcase. He is stopped for a bag check by a customs officer at the airport, and as he pulls items out of his luggage, he recounts the stories behind them— some funny, some tragic. Minas hopes the audience will have a new perspective about the civil war in Syria.

“We discovered it’s very difficult for newcomers to Canada who have professional experience in theatre to start working in their field,” says Ellen Close, the artistic director of Downstage. Close says there are many theatre jobs that are never listed, since companies often reach into their pool of established actors, designers or playwrights, or find talent through training programs that provide professional connections.

“We’re poorer as a theatre community by not having pathways for newcomers to start working,” Close says. “Our work should reflect the greater diversity of Calgary. The people we’ve connected with will be a tremendous asset to the theatre community and their work will be wonderful for Calgarian audiences to experience.”

While more than 20 newcomers wanted to sign up for the pilot project, they could only accommodate four people. Close is applying for project-based funding to continue the work, which means she doesn’t know what it will look like in the future. “If we had increased operating funding that would go a long way to make those commitments, and allow us to be more responsive to opportunities with partners as they arise,” Close says.


Quick facts:

156 organizations Calgary Arts Development invests in produce $134 million in value-added GDP to Canada, with the large majority in Alberta

More than 50,000 Calgarians
are employed by the creative industries sector

In 2017, there were 3,385,616 attendees to arts activities in Calgary

About 65 per cent of 500 Ontario workers who were surveyed said a vibrant arts community is a driving factor when moving for work

Sources: Calgary Arts Development, Data from organizations funded in part through Calgary Arts Development, Calgary Economic Development, Survey – Nanos for Business for the Arts

Patti Pon, president and CEO of Calgary Arts Development, says the Theatre Community Connections for Newcomers Program is a prime example of art providing meaning on an artistic level, public impact level and business level.

Calgary Arts Development is Calgary’s designated arts development authority that invests and allocates municipal funding. They are requesting an increase in municipal arts grant funding from $6.4 million to $19.5 million over the next four years.

They propose to increase operating investment in not-for-profit arts organizations, increase support to individual artists, and increase the diversity of the arts sector to better reflect Calgary’s demographics.

“We are on the verge of systemic change when it comes to diversification of not only our economy but our identity,” Pon says. “That’s a huge opportunity for those of us who are civic partners to work together and move the city’s identity and brand in a consistent direction where we all see ourselves in that identity — as an arts community I’m not so sure we have.”

They’re also proposing to build on arts development programs through research, engagement, events and more, which includes promoting talent we already have in Calgary to draw visitors. “Calgary is promoted as a gateway to the mountains, which is fantastic, but it shouldn’t be the first thing,” Pon says. “What about Prince’s Island Park and the Calgary Folk Musical Festival, or East Village and the container park, or Studio Bell?”

Philanthropists Christine Armstrong and Irfhan Rawji started Creative Calgary, a non-partisan group of citizens, in 2017 to advocate for an increase in municipal arts investment, noting that Calgary lags behind other major cities across Canada when it comes to art funding.

Rawji says due to the downturn in the economy, the corporate sector can no longer support the arts community like it once did.

“We started Creative Calgary because we realized if we didn’t get the sector together to describe that challenge collectively and highlight this gap, it probably wouldn’t get fixed, and put a lot of different companies at risk,” Rawji says.

He says from a business perspective, a vibrant arts and culture scene is key to recruiting knowledge workers.

“The cultural scene is part of what makes a city a great city,” Rawji says. “I’m interested in the arts as an individual and a human — and as a business person, it’s critical if we’re actually going to grow and diversify this economy.”

Rawji adds that in today’s tense political climate, and amidst the growing fear of the “other,” art is critical to bringing people together. “Visual arts or dance is a universal language and has a way of allowing us to share a common experience and bring us together,” Rawji says. “It’s a tool for inclusion and building bridges.”

Both Calgary Arts Development and Creative Calgary urge Calgarians who believe civic investment in the arts is important to reach out to their city councillors, who provide guidance for city administration in the next budget cycle (they are reviewing the 2019-2022 plans and budgets in November 2018).

“If we don’t decide as a city and community of citizens that we think this is important, it will probably disintegrate because it can’t survive under its current funding structure,” Rawji says. “If we decide as a community to support it, we can make it even better.”

Hot Art Round-Up: Oct 11-14




Chris Kuzmanovich & Lori Lukasewich
Christine Klassen Gallery, 5 – 8 pm

Caroline Forde Spotlight opening
Alberta Craft Council, cSPACE: 5 – 8 pm

Stacey Maddock: Fractured Mandalas – Patterns of Life
Blackboard Gallery, cSPACE: opening reception 5 – 8 pm



Calgary Tattoo & Arts Festival
BMO Centre, Stampede Park
Friday (4 pm – midnight) Saturday (noon- 10 pm) Sunday (noon – 6 pm)

The Paint Exhibition (group show)
239 – 29 Ave NE, Friday (3 – 9 pm) Saturday (noon – 6 pm)

Mark Vazquez-Mackay: Five Years in Reflection
Artpoint Gallery, 5 – 9 pm

Harlan Thomas, Caran Magaw: Our Skies
Framed on Fifth, 6 – 9 pm



Farmers & Makers Market at cSPACE
cSPACE King Edward, 10 am – 1 pm

Tinyan Solo Exhibition
Gainsborough Galleries Ltd, noon – 5

Art from the Unknown
McDougall Centre, 11 am – 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday

2-DAY Event! Annual Fall Art Exhibition & Sale
Beacon Original Art, Bridgeland Riverside Community Association
Saturday and Sunday 10 am – 4 pm

Calgary Artists Society Fall Show
Parkdale United Church, 10 am – 4 pm

Lisa Brawn Mumsho Closing Reception
Ruberto Ostberg Gallery, 2 – 5 pm

Artist Talks: Lori Lukasewich & Chris Kuzmanovich
Christine Klassen Gallery, 2 – 3 pm

Joice M. Hall: GWAII Haanas: Islands & Sacred Sites
Wallace Galleries, Ltd, 2 – 5 pm

Andrew Mackenzie: Vertical Forms
Paul Kuhn Gallery, 2 – 5 pm 



Annual Costume Sale
Front Row Centre Players, 3 – 7 pm

Hot Art Round-Up: Oct 4 – 6



Sampler 2018
Herringer Kiss Gallery, 5 – 8 pm

Free First Thursday Night
Glenbow Museum, 5 – 9 pm

Shelter For What Remains
City of Calgary, Blank Page Studio, Leyden’s Funeral Home: 6 – 9 pm

M:ST 9 | Rita McKeough: Works ~ Soft Launch!
Royal Canadian Legion #1, 6 – 10 pm

Microbial Aura
Loft 112, 7 – 9 pm

M:ST 9 | Something, Somewhere – Jadda Tsui + Mat Lindenberg
Royal Canadian Legion #1, 9 – 11 pm



Artist Talk with Brittney Bear Hat
University of Calgary Department of Art, 10 – 11:30 am

Curated. FALL Market CALGARY
Bowness Community Association: Friday 5 – 9 pm, Saturday 10 am – 4 pm

U and Alan Belcher
The lily contemporary project space, 7 – 11 pm



Farmers & Makers Market at cSPACE
cSPACE King Edward, 10 am – 3 pm

Crafty Llama Book Signing
Owl’s Nest Books, local artists Renata Liwska and Mike Kerr: 11 am – 2 pm

Calgary Zombie Walk 2018
Olympic Plaza, noon – 5 pm

Fractured Mandalas: Patterns of Life
cSPACE, Blackboard Gallery (through November 30, opening reception October 11, 5 – 8 pm)

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: Opening + Artist Talk
cSPACE, 6 – 8:30 pm

7th Annual Log Driver’s Waltz
Quickdraw Animation Society, Sunalta Community Centre: 6 – 9:30 pm 

15 things to do in Calgary in October


Autumn in Calgary means the arrival of some cornerstone festivals and events, bringing together the best of the city’s art, culture, food and drink. Read on to find out how to make the most of October!

Photo courtesy Caitie Lawrence.

There are few platforms in Calgary, let alone in Canada, that allow Indigenous people to tell their own stories. Since 2012, the Making Treaty 7 Cultural Society has been making this possible through theatre. KAAHSINNONIKS (our ancestors), running on October 3 and 4, tell the story of what happened during the signing of Treaty 7 in 1877, through the collection and artistic interpretation of oral histories. The group’s second major production, KIITISTSINNONIKS (our mothers) will run from October 24-26.

A decade ago, Didion’s best selling memoir was adapted into a stage play that’s since been revered by audiences worldwide. Don’t miss your chance to see it this week at the Sage Theatre until October 6.

There is nothing quite like the infectious energy of this collective of musicians hailing from Brooklyn. Self-described as music for “intrepid listeners,” the West African-inspired Afrobeat orchestra is here on October 5 to bring you sounds of stylistic funk dappled with political nuance that you may not have experienced before.

A tale as old as time gets a special accompaniment: the CPO will bring the feature film to life on October 5 and 6 with performances of all your favourite songs!

Circus, theatre and live music collide in this western-inspired thrill ride on October 6.

A celebration of all things literature for writers, readers, and wordsmiths, this festival that runs from October 8-15, boasts multiple events each day, ranging from author Q&As, workshops, book signings and more.

Calgary’s Shakespeare Company are shaking up a classic by casting two women in the title roles. The show runs from October 929.

Rodney’s Oyster House is hosting an evening of messy fun on October 11, with three types of crab served family-style along with a pint of Steam Whistle.

Legendary The Guess Who frontman will rock the stage at Grey Eagle Resort and Casino on October 12.

If the title of this festival isn’t enough to convince you to attend, its menu will. On the docket for 2018? Over 40 different food selections from the city’s best restaurants and vendors, to be paired with an extensive list of global wines, beers and spirits. You’ll also be able to share your favourite sips and bites and vote for the Great Big Taste Awards in two food categories and 14 beverage categories. October 12 and 13.

Tamara Lindeman’s cool, feathered voice will coo out the narrative sounds of her fourth EP at Festival Hall on October 14. With her new collection of songs, the Toronto musician will sweep listeners away with unstructured, bold musical storytelling.

Introducing the perfect performance for young orchestra audiences, this rendition of Prokofiev’s masterpiece accompanied by the ever-charming Saint-Saens’ The Carnival of the Animals is sure to capture the imagination of children and adults alike, as Peter and his animal friends attempt to capture a wolf that is lurking about their village. See it on October 21.

Don’t miss this famed actor, writer and comedian’s newest tour, Hobo Fabulous, on October 21.

A timeless epic at its pinnacle, the whole family will enjoy the story of Princess Aurora set to Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score from October 24-27.

The 13thand final ScreamFest is on in the Grandstand building at Stampede Park. Come out to get spooked with haunted houses, rides, escape rooms, and more until October 31.

Grammy-nominated trio I’m With Her set to play first show in Calgary


From left to right: band members Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan and Sara Watkins. Courtesy I’m With Her/Concord Music Group.

With their soothing harmonies, heartfelt lyrics and dynamic performance style, the all-female group I’m With Her is an exercise in defying genre.

The trio that makes up the band – singer-songwriters Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan – have their roots in folk music, and also evoke touches of country, jazz and bluegrass. Described by the New York Times as having a tone “that could be sweetly ethereal… or as hearty as mountain gospel,” the 2018 Grammy nominees for best group are taking the stage for the first time together in Calgary after a series of shows in Western Canada.

Each band member has garnered critical acclaim and collected Grammys in both individual and group pursuits. In 2002, Watkins sang on the collaboration This Side, which was later awarded best contemporary folk album. O’Donovan was a part of the Grammy-winning 2013 album The Goat Rodeo Sessions, which featured talents like Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Yo-Yo Ma. Just last year, Jarosz’s Undercurrent collected the title of best folk album.

Although they’ve known each other for over a decade, this is the first time they’ve formally toured together. O’Donovan has played in Calgary before, at the Calgary Folk Music Festival. She notes how I’m With Her have a particular affinity for festivals – they all met at one, and decided to form their band at one.

“I think there’s a great sense of community that we all kind of grew up with and had at festivals,” she says.

While the band name may conjure thoughts of the language used in the current #MeToo movement, O’Donovan said it predates that.

“It’s a nod to the camaraderie we feel as a trio and as a band… it was an all-for-one, one-for-all type of mentality,” she says. “We all really respect each other, and there’s a great deal of admiration and confidence in each other that I think is really special and really rare, and that’s what I’m With Her means to us.”

The trio’s latest album See You Around has been well received critically, and O’Donovan says the live shows have given them a chance to exercise different muscles when it comes to how they perform the tracks.

“The songs on See You Around have evolved this year and it’s been really fun to play them live night after night and sort of keep on finding new ways to express ourselves,” she says.

But the thing that has remained constant is the special relationship they’re able to establish with the audience. “I think one of the things that makes acoustic and folk music so appealing to an audience is the intimacy,” O’Donovan explains. “I just saw Paul Simon a couple of days ago (with band mate Sarah Jarosz) at Madison Square Garden, and at its core it felt like a folk concert. He’s up there with a 16-piece band, but we felt like we were just at a folk club, listening to what it felt like for people who saw Paul Simon back in the ‘60s.”

Though O’Donovan says the band has a wide range of influences, she names Simon and Joni Mitchell as two of her biggest. When it comes to the future of I’m With Her, she says the main goal is simple: to continue to create together, write music, and keep performing with the same passion and excitement.

I’m With Her will be on stage at the Jack Singer concert hall on October 2 at 7:30 pm.

Hot Art Round-Up: Sep 27 – 30



Opening Reception Lyndal Osborne: Mutation of the Commons
University of Calgary, Nickle Galleries: 5 – 8 pm

Amy Gaulin: Landscapes at The New Edward Gallery
New Edward Gallery, opening reception 7 – 10 pm



2018 Alberta Culture Days at cSPACE – September 28-29
cSPACE King Edward, Friday 11 am – 8 pm, Saturday 10 am – 5 pm

Stride Art Gallery Casino Fundraiser
Elbow River Casino, September 28 – 29, 11 am – midnight

Alberta Culture Days, Blackboard Gallery
cSPACE: Friday 11 am – 5 pm, Saturday noon – 5 pm

Alberta Culture Days, ACAD
September 28 – 30, various times

Dispatches From the Wrong Side of History
Boutique Gallery, NVRLND.YYC: opening reception 3 – 9 pm

Open Studio with Kaitlynn Copithorne
cSPACE: 4 – 8 pm

Unpacking IKG: 60 Years a Gallery
ACAD, Illingworth Kerr Gallery, 5 – 8 pm

Etsy: Made in Canada – Calgary
Genesis Centre, Friday 5 – 9 pm, Saturday 10 am – 5 pm

Studio M* Open House
September 28 – October 2, various hours and events

CAAF Connection: Studio Residents’ Exhibition
cSPACE, Calgary Allied Arts Foundation: 6 – 8 pm

Laura Hansen – The Sounding
ACAD, Marion Nicoll Gallery, 6 – 8 pm

Searchlight – Closing Reception for Brandon Hearty & Chris Zajko
The Bridge Inc, 7 – 9 pm

Launch Party
Glenbow Museum, 7:30 – 10 pm



Farmers & Makers Market Alberta Culture Days & Dandy Beer Garden
cSPACE King Edward, 10 am – 5 pm

Escape to Art – Calgary
Upland’s Recreation Center, 10 am – 5 pm

Centre Street Lion Community Welcome
Rotary Park, 11 am – 2 pm

Print It Yourself Festival
Alberta Printmakers, 11 am – 4 pm

Mural Reception
Arts Commons, noon -2 pm

Ripple Effect Public Reception
Leighton Art Centre, 2 – 4 pm

Bee Kingdom September Glass Sale
Bee Kingdom: Saturday and Sunday noon – 5 pm

Culture Shock Vol. 4: An Urban Arts Showcase and Breaking Event
Genesis Centre, Antyx Community Arts: 2 – 9 pm 

Kevin Day / feedback loop of commensurability
The New Gallery, 8 pm – midnight



What a relief! Steamroller Printmaking Event
Prairie Dog Brewing, Alberta Printmakers: 11 am – 7 pm

Utility Box Biking Tour
Calgary Marlborough Community Association, 2 – 5 pm

Calgary’s 9th art Biennial aims to engage audiences of all kinds


The diverse, cutting-edge performative festival known as the art Biennial is entering its third week, with tons more planned until its conclusion on October 7th. Where Calgary asked Desiree Nault, Artistic Director of the Mountain Standard Time Performative Art Festival Society (M:ST), the group that hosts the event, what’s new and exciting about the 9th Biennial in Calgary.

Courtesy Didier Morelli.

How is this 9th Biennial different than those before it? In this iteration of the biennial we have focused our energy on supporting the creation of new artworks by visiting national and international artists in the form of residencies. The Toronto-based collective Life of a Craphead (the group responsible for the Entertaining Every Second exhibit in early September)will be staying on for the next month doing research in Calgary. The National Music Centre has welcomed Suzanne Kite and Nathan Young for a one-week residency to experiment with the NMC’s collection, and internationally renowned Jin-me Yoon is staying on for two weeks after the biennial to do site visits in and around Tsuu T’ina Nation with the support of local artists Terrance Houle and Seth Dodginghorse.

We were very happy to add the National Music Centre to the list (of partners) this year. New additions also include local outreach organizations HIV Community Link and The Alex Community Food Centre who are helping us present Disclosure Cookbook, an artwork by Mikiki and Jordan Arseneault. This artwork involves making extravagant dinners with people who are HIV positive, and digitally publishing anonymous quotes culled from the dinner conversation in order to question existing HIV stigma and criminalization.

Could you tell our readers a bit more about some of the artists performing at the Biennial and the topics they will seek to explore? Many of the artists take on or challenge settler colonialism, the affective or invisible power of politics over the human body, and the responsibility that comes with inherited histories and familial trauma.

Suzanne Kite and Nathan Young are recording noise from local power stations in order to map and listen to the land. During the live performance they use a variety of instruments and wearable interfaces to weave these sounds into music and visuals. This process is driven by their interest in the divergences in Western and Native American ways of understanding truth.

Adriana Disman and Steve Roggenbuck both perform in the evening on Saturday October 6, and have very different methods for dealing with contemporary politics. In her performance, Adriana Disman investigates the daily invisible violences that are the result of living within large and common systems of power, and the individual unspectacular suffering that results. Roggenbuck is an American poet who became well known on YouTube about five years ago for reading what I would call love poems. He uses pop-culture and language that is common on the internet, that may be over used and commodified, but filters it through his own funny, spontaneous, adoration for the world in a way that feels newly meaningful.

What are you the most excited about for this Biennial in particular? I am very excited about some of the projects that require registration. It takes a bit of extra work to e-mail us and say that you’d like to be involved, but well worth it because of the opportunity to be directly involved in the artist’s process, and in some cases, like Disclosure Cookbook, to even co-author the work. As an example, Jin-me Yoon will be holding two workshops where participants will enter a solitary sensory deprivation tank for 90 minutes at FloatLife, and then will come together over tea to have a facilitated conversation with Jin-me on subjects concerning colonialism.

Meanwhile at Theatre Junction Grand, Emma-Kate will lead the performance workshop possible performance. This will be a meaningful experience for any artist who is interested in performance or the body as it deals with ‘impossibility.’ The workshop asks the question, how does your body react when it encounters actions that are not possible or futile? Can the body create new meaning or futures, even if we don’t yet have the language to identify them?

How does the Biennial serve to bring together the Calgary arts community? I can’t not include that my heart beats faster when I think about all of these incredible minds: academics, artists, performers and our amazing staff, volunteers and board members getting together and sharing their experience. Performance art can seem like a very niche discipline, but it is not really, everyone has a thinking/feeling brain and body that wants to be activated by lived experience.

M:ST seeks to really dive into the works presented at the biennial and we do a lot to make this happen. This year we are working with some very generous faculty at the Alberta College of Art + Design to present the symposium Tempaurality, which unpacks the theme of listening as it occurs in the Biennial.

We also do our best to make our programming as welcoming as possible, free, presented in accessible spaces, and wherever possible have non-gendered washrooms. Our online texts for this biennial are also published in French and English.

What does the Biennial mean for the future of performative art in the city and across the province? This is a great question. I am really interested in the unseen, the experiences in art that are private. I don’t know how to survive the hyper consumption and reflexive culture that I am a part of without saving space for intimacy, privacy, and the potential for co-authorship. Audiences of M:ST have agency in their viewing experience and sometimes even in the artwork itself. This is not uncharacteristic of performative art, but it is uncharacteristic in the face of spectacle.