Nextfest makes a splash in Old Strathcona with public art and performance festival - Edmonton Journal - Canadanewsmedia
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Nextfest makes a splash in Old Strathcona with public art and performance festival – Edmonton Journal

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500 artists at 90 venues as annual festival of emerging talent takes over Old Strathcona

As Nextfest blooms across Old Strathcona, it’s worth remembering why Edmonton is a great city for the arts.

Theories may abound — including the fact that it’s a far-flung northern community that must create to survive, supported by citizens who get that — but one thing is certain. Edmonton nurtures its talent, offering numerous ways for emerging artists to get a toehold. That fact is more than evident throughout the next week, as the 24th annual Nextfest Emerging Arts Festival (part of Theatre Network’s main stage series) debuts some 500 new artists in more than 90 events in a wide range of disciplines.

There are full-scale theatre productions, as well as dance works and curated gallery exhibits for the public to enjoy. For emerging artists (both in the festival and in the general public) there is an opportunity for growth through a free, professional development workshop series. Plus, a new music curator for the festival — local musician Olivia Street — has lined up a showcase on Saturday, June 1, at the Roxy on Gateway (8529 Gateway Blvd.) featuring Calgary hip-hop artist Cartel Madras, plus the Edmonton three-piece band Bitters, along with “abstract human song-maker” Astral Swans.

For emerging artists like Teneil Whiskeyjack, Nextfest offers a way to expand a personal project.

The theatre arts major has just graduated from Concordia University and, with the help of Nextfest, has taken her “capstone” project from school (a substantive work that emerges from study) and turned it into a theatre and dance performance with four upcoming shows at Backstage Theatre (10330 84 Ave.)

“I knew there was something I wanted to say, going back to my roots, to who I am as a Cree woman, and my connection to the land,” says Whiskeyjack. “We are in a time when we need to reclaim our voices in western theatre and in the arts. These perspectives are so unique in so many ways.”

Whiskeyjack’s half-hour show is called AYITA, which means “where it’s at” in Cree, and is a coming-of-age tale. One of the remarkable things about the show is that it represents a personal triumph for Whiskeyjack; the 32-year-old just completed her degree while working and raising two children — proving that artists can emerge at any age, and any stage, of life.

“It’s a draft,” she says of the show. “It’s something that I’m looking to expand beyond Nextfest as I explore more of myself and my journey.”


Artists Deanne Lee (left) and Colleen Ulliac paint a wall mural at the Nextfest media kickoff in Old Strathcona. The arts festival will take place May 30 to June 9.

Larry Wong /

Postmedia

Indeed, many local artists have taken their experience at the festival and used it to expand their craft from mere possibility to a career. Award-winning Edmonton actor and playwright, Sheldon Elter, massaged his 2018 solo show at Theatre Network, Metis Mutt, at Nextfest some 20 years earlier. Joëlle Préfontaine, now artistic director at L’UniThéâtre, has roots as a youth in the festival. Byron Martin, who now owns and runs Grindstone Theatre, has a dance background once showcased at the festival.

“The great thing about the festival is that it’s all new every year, all different projects,” says festival director Ellen Chorley, herself a Nextfest graduate. “The only mandate is that they are created by artists in the first 10 years of their career.”

With an annual budget of $190,000, including substantial support from Syncrude, Nextfest hosts many southside venues and performances until Sunday, June 9. Folks just wandering the streets of Old Strathcona can also witness artistry in action; the Nextfest Mural Project is in progress in the alley behind 8215 102 St. There, young painter Deanne Lee is working with the seasoned likes of Coleen Ulliac on the fifth mural contribution to the Edmonton community sparked by Nextfest.

“The atmosphere of the festival is just so exciting and it’s just infectious,” says Chorley. “There is so much going on, it’s a lovely place to come and see art of all different types and stuff that’s being experimented on, sometimes for the first time.”

Tickets for many shows are available online for $12, and a day pass is only $20. Many events are free, and family-friendly, too. The easy-to-navigate website nextfest.org is full of details, but you can also call Theatre Network at 780-453-2440 for additional information and to purchase tickets.

lfaulder@postmedia.com

Follow me on Twitter @eatmywordsblog.

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White House to honour Jon Voight, Alison Krauss with National Medal of Arts – CBC.ca

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Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight, singer and musician Alison Krauss and mystery writer James Patterson are among the artists and philanthropists being honoured by President Donald Trump for their contributions to the arts or the humanities, the first recipients of prestigious national medals since Trump took office.

The White House announced four recipients of the National Medal of Arts and four of the National Humanities Medal in a statement Sunday night. Voight is one of Trump’s few vocal Hollywood backers, and has hailed him as “the greatest president of this century.”

Trump is also honouring the musicians of the U.S. military, who frequently entertain at White House events.

Trump will award the medals during a ceremony at the White House on Thursday.

While the honours had been an annual affair during past administrations, they have not been awarded since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. The most recent arts or humanities medals were bestowed by President Barack Obama in September 2016.

U.S. President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to singer Diana Ross during a ceremony in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S., Nov. 22, 2016. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

The recipients of the National Medal of Arts are:

  • Alison Krauss, the bluegrass-country singer and musician, “for making extraordinary contributions to American music.” The White House misspelled her name in its release.
  • Sharon Percy Rockefeller “for being a renowned champion of the arts, generous supporter of charity, and a pioneer of new ideas and approaches in the field of public policy.”
  • The Musicians of the United States Military “for personifying excellence in music and service to country.”
  • Jon Voight “for his exceptional capacity as an actor to portray deeply complex characters.” Voight starred in Midnight Cowboy, the 1969 film that won an Academy Award for best picture, and he won the best actor Oscar for 1978’s Coming Home. He appears in the Showtime series Ray Donovan.

The recipients of the National Humanities Medal are:

  • The Claremont Institute “for championing the Nation’s founding principles and enriching American minds.”
  • Teresa Lozano Long “for supporting the arts and improving educational opportunities” through scholarships and philanthropy.
  • Patrick O’Connell, the chef at The Inn at Little Washington, “for being one of the greatest chefs of our time.”
  • James Patterson “for being one of the most successful American authors of our time.” Patterson wrote a book about Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier who killed himself while awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls. The book includes several references to Trump, including an account of the men’s falling out.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities solicit candidates for the medals and compile proposed winners. The White House, which sometimes adds its own nominees, traditionally approves and announces them ahead of a presidential ceremony.

Trump has had an uneasy if not hostile relationship with many in the arts and the humanities who oppose his policies and have denounced his presidency. He has been largely shunned by Hollywood and has skipped events like the annual Kennedy Centre gala that is one of Washington’s premier social gatherings after some honorees said they would not attend if Trump was part of the ceremony.

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Alison Krauss to Be Awarded National Medal of Arts – Rolling Stone

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Alison Krauss is among those chosen to receive the National Medal of Arts from President Trump. The honorees, including the country-bluegrass musician, actor Jon Voight, and the bands of the United States military, mark the first recipients of arts and humanities medals of Trump’s presidency.

Trump is set to present the medals at the White House during a Thursday ceremony. It’s unknown if Krauss will attend. A rep for the Grammy-winning vocalist did not return a request for comment.

The White House announced the honorees in a release on Sunday night that extolled Krauss’s “extraordinary contributions to American music” and noted how she has “entertained and enriched the souls of millions.” It also initially misspelled her name as “Allison.”

Known for her exemplary fiddle playing and angelic voice, Krauss has released music as a solo artist and with the group Union Station, featuring Dan Tyminski and Jerry Douglas. In 2007 she joined Robert Plant to release the Grammy-winning album Raising Sand. Overall, Krauss has received 27 Grammy awards.

Last week, she was announced as one of the headliners of the 2020 MerleFest, the annual string-music festival in North Carolina.

Recipients of the Medal of Humanities — the counterpart honor to the Medal of Arts — include chef Patrick J. O’Connell and mystery novelist James Patterson.

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Kamloops arts centre vote will be held on April 4

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A referendum requesting voter approval to borrow funds for a performing-arts centre will be held on Saturday, April 4.

Kamloops council on Tuesday chose that date after looking at recommendtions from staff based on legislative timelines, staff resources and how the time of year might affect voter turnout.

The yes-no question will be: “Are you in favour of the City of Kamloops borrowing up to $45 million to construct a Kamloops Centre for the Arts?”

Now that the referendum date has been set, next steps include appointing a chief election officer and deputy chief election officer, likely in early December, and notifying the province.

The Kamloops Centre for the Arts is proposed to rise at the former Kamloops Daily News location downtown at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Seymour Street. The proposal is being organized by the Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society, with a land donation and financial backing from local philanthropists and businesspeople Ron and Rae Fawcett.

The $70-million centre would include a main theatre (1,200 seats), a small theatre (450 seats), a black box theatre (75 seats), along with space for rehearsal, production and meetings for various groups.

The society hopes to secure between $25 million and $40 million in fundraising and grant funding, leaving the city on the hook for between $30 million and $45 million in capital costs.

The city said it would not need to increase taxes as a result of the Tournament Capital Centre being nearly paid off by the time it borrows money for the arts centre.

The city would, however, be on the hook for operating costs, similar to other facilities like the Westsyde Pool, Sandman Centre or Tournament Capital Centre, and $3 million in site servicing for underground utility work.

A previous proposal to borrow up to $49 million for a $91-million performing-arts centre failed in 2015 by referendum, 54 per cent to 46 per cent. If next spring’s referendum question gets the nod from voters next spring, construction could begin in the summer of 2021, with the arts centre completed by the spring of 2023 for a fall 2023 opening.

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