I don’t need to write an essay on why the fine arts are vital to a child’s education, and a critical part of our education system. If you are reading this, you likely already know that being exposed to the arts throughout one’s childhood, whether it be some form of music, dance, theatre, or visual art, builds a child’s confidence, encourages creativity, spurs critical thinking, builds strong communities, teaches teamwork and develops leaders.
Calgary’s Arts Plan is the long-term strategy for arts development and investment in Calgary and a legacy of Calgary's year as a Cultural Capital of Canada. The arts inspire our children’s futures, connect our communities, drive our city’s economic growth and energize our lives. Our goal is to work with citizens and artists to craft a bold and integrated plan that sets clear, long-term targets for the resources and partnerships necessary to support a thriving arts sector in Calgary.
Calgary’s first Arts Plan is about dreaming big. It’s about imagining a Calgary at its best, with an arts scene that is diverse, robust and welcoming, and then paving the road to get there. Building a better Calgary starts with foundational questions: What is your vision for the arts in Calgary? What would you like Calgary’s arts scene to look like 10, 20 and 50 years from now?
Answers to these questions take many different forms, and the Arts Plan team is pleased to present you with the thoughts of artistic luminaries in Calgary in an ongoing series of visionary articles.
I am not an artist.
I am an arts consumer and arts lover. I have been involved with the Calgary arts community for over 25 years and have seen our community evolve in some wonderful ways during that time.
In the months leading up to the 1988 Olympics, the federal government seeded an Olympic Arts Festival with a contribution of $7 million. The extravaganza of cultural events that resulted from this previously unheard of influx of cash – topped up to $10 million by the other levels of government – was the genesis of a legacy that continues to this day.
Being the 2012 Cultural Capital of Canada has galvanized a commitment, awareness, and passion for the arts in Calgary that is unparalleled in the city’s history. This invigorating and inspired year not only did justice to the title of Cultural Capital but has also mined a Creative Capital comprised of a plethora of artistic and culturally diverse talent. The challenge posed to Calgary is “Now what?” It is critical to the city’s future that this strong foundation and kick-start beginning blossoms into a sustainable and dynamic creative culture.
The theatre, by its very nature, is political: "political" coming from the Greek "polis" or "city," where the western theatre was born. It was born to establish a mechanism to critically challenge the nature of society, its values, its morals and the ethics of the individual for the wellbeing of the community as a whole. The artist was the catalyst for the improvement of society.
Much has been written on quantifying and qualifying the value of the arts, particularly in Calgary and Alberta. This implicates Canada through contextualization, locally, regionally, and via the role of the arts within our culture. It is toward this latter aspect–Our Culture–that I’d like to focus discussion, or rather opt for the dialectic approach: a process of reasoning to ascertain the truth of various opinions. (Well, that was the hope the Greeks imparted.) Cultural relativism aside, let’s take a step toward rationalizing the reality of social forces that shape who, what, when, where, how, and why we are. Our Culture.
In the future, the average Calgarian’s attitude toward arts and culture, their place in society – our individual and collective perspective toward it – will be very different from what it is today. When electricity is accessible by invisible means, when waste is energy, when passenger jets are replaced by a new wave of luxury dirigibles, Calgarians will gradually lose the suspicion we feel for those things in life that have intrinsic and life enhancing, if not monetary, value. In the future, we will come to value happiness as wealth. Serious play will be as much a part of our quality of life as any financial portfolio.
The year 2040 marks Calgary’s 25th anniversary for its Municipal Artists-Ateliers (MAA). To celebrate this milestone, the Calgary Museum of Modern & Contemporary Material Culture (CMMCMC) presents the exhibition YYC: 25 Years of Municipal Artists-Ateliers. In addition, a series of exhibitions and events will be held throughout the year in the 1,000+ Municipal Artists-Ateliers around the city. All events are free and open to the public.
I am an artist.
I am a pragmatist and a romantic. I am a realist and I dabble in utopias. I walk the line between discipline and rebellion, between production and destruction. This can appear counter-productive at times, but is fundamental to my practice of allowing ideas, processes and my materials to unfold.
Arts professions are not clearly defined vocations. They require steadfastness in taking a difficult path, while remaining open to new thoughts and ideas; making one’s own way, navigating the physical, cultural and economic terrain to find one’s own unique contributions. It is not only us artists who live this way. Innovators, pioneers and entrepreneurs of all kinds complement and champion artistic endeavours in a multitude of ways.
Theatre, the largest of the performing arts, must do a much better job reflecting the face of Calgary. By improving how we reflect the society around us, the theatre community can develop new audiences, artists, board members, and private and corporate donors. Don’t we want to make our theatres healthier, and more interesting?
Having spent 20 years as an artist/arts executive in South Africa, I moved to New York City – then Mesa, Arizona – and in 2009, to Calgary. I have lived in six cities with populations between 500,000 and 8 million before coming to Calgary. Based on what I experienced in these cities, here is the Calgary I see:
Calgary is safe, friendly, welcoming, clean and orderly. It is proud of its deep, traditional western roots, and the “can-do” pioneering spirit that drives it ever forward. It is a caring city, and people actually go out of their way to understand the “other,” and to be understood. A gentle strength underpins human interactions here, and competence is assumed without swagger. Built on this strong foundation is an ever-evolving, diverse and multi-dimensional “new” Calgary. It is a city of contrasts: modern yet traditional; big city yet small communities; conservative yet open-minded; bold yet prudent; western yet global; and proud yet humble. Calgary is creating its “now” story, and as it develops an updated foundational narrative, it is also discovering its new DNA. For someone earning a living in the arts and cultural sector, there can be no more exciting, dynamic and creative moment in time to live in this wonderfully confused city!