A beginner’s guide to exploring the arts

March 23, 2015


Bring a friend, read reviews, find a deal and other words of wisdom from people in the know

By Megan Dart (Originally appeared in M Alumni News -- Spring 2015)

Edmonton’s creative vibe hums at a fever pitch, the song of a city whose passion echoes in its squares, cafés, back-alley dives and boardrooms. Ours is an entrepreneurial spirit with a paintbrush in its hand, a monologue on its tongue, a dance in its bones. Our city is a hotbed of creative talent spanning the artistic disciplines, and defying the “there’s nothing to do” sentiment sneaking out of lips who need only an encouraging smile, a friendly wink and an enthusiastic invitation to remind them: there’s something here for you, too.

On any given night of the week, any month of the year, no matter your interest, there is a YEG-bred artistic movement to satisfy your curiosity: the “think-piece,” its intense social commentary lingering with you long after you leave the theatre. The laugh-out-loud, hand-over-your-mouth,can’t-believe-he’s-going-to-try-it antics of a street performer. The breathtaking vulnerability of a poet spitting truth into an open mic. The locally produced show now playing off-Broadway—the one you are so proud to tell your friends: I saw it first. The twitch of personal connection with a visual art installation that really stirred you.

Unsure where to start? Begin with what you know

Edmonton is home to a broad and diverse arts community driven by creative professionals,” says Sheiny Satanove, executive director of the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton. “We are so fortunate to host such a wealth of talent in our city. It is the passion of those artists that helps make Edmonton a culturally vibrant city in which to live, work and play.”

Edmonton is summer festivals and artistry at -40 degrees, a scene best explored with a sense of adventure and a willingness to learn. “Figure out what you love,” says Cadence Konopaki, managing director of the Freewill Shakespeare Festival. “Start easy. Challenge yourself, but don’t feel like you need to do or see it all. If you’ve always loved visual art, then start there. Challenge yourself to get to more galleries and openings. Later on, you can start challenging yourself by broadening that circle.”

And, lucky for Edmontonians and Albertans alike, the circumference of that creative circle is expansive. Curate your audience experience by doing only a little light homework.

Read reviews and bring a friend

“Read arts previews and reviews,” suggests Patrick Lundeen, executive director of Common Ground Arts Society, the driving force behind the young multidisciplinary found-space performance fest, Found Festival. “There’s something happening every night in this town. Also, bring a friend or two!”

That friend or two will come in handy if you’re the type who wants to see it all, but doesn’t want to break the bank. Maggie Baird, festival manager with the emerging multidisciplinary artistic celebration Nextfest, suggests figuring out what you like by taking advantage of the many deals and post-show events out there.

“Take in two-for-one or pay-what-you-can nights,” she says. “Then figure out what you like. And talk backs! Attending talk backs (where the audience can chat with the cast) are a great way to create a relationship with the work.”

Look for deals—and connections

Connection is key when it comes to broadening your artistic experience.

“Volunteer!” advises Amy Shostak, artistic director of Rapid Fire Theatre. “That way you make a personal connection with the company, and meet great people.” Knowing the artists behind the work invites personal investment, too. And once you’re invested, you’re more likely to be moved.

“Whether I leave a performance in tears, laughing or angry, I’m always glad I went,” explains Ainsley Hillyard, collective artist with Good Women Dance Collective. “In a society where emotional conversations are had through computers, and quality time means a Netflix marathon, I think it’s a gift to feel anything at all. Regardless of whether I loved it or hated it, having a reaction to it makes me feel more alive, more human.”

When it comes down to it, art is all about sharing the human experience, telling stories and building community.

“Have an experience, grow your appreciation for an art form, and learn what you like,” says Murray Utas, artistic director with the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival. “There’s something for everyone in this city. Take a risk on something new.”

And wherever you are—in the heart of Edmonton or halfway across the world—you can take any of these suggestions and find a way into your own arts community. So go on now, get out there.

Find out what's happening in Edmonton now

  • Visit vueweekly.com for a complete list of arts events.
  • Visit yeglive.ca, Edmonton’s best source for local live music.
  • Subscribe to Avenue Edmonton’s “Weekender” for an up-to-date weekly listing of social and cultural events.
  • Check out the Edmonton Journal’s “10 Things to Do” to stay abreast of city events.

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