Cities for People: Putting Art at the Centre

Culture Days and National Broadcast Partner CTV (Bell Media) invited Canadian journalism and media students to participate in a Student Reporter and Media Internship program during the Annual National Congress on Culture in Edmonton, Alberta on May 7 and 8, 2015. Five lucky students participated in this innovative program including a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the CTV Newsroom in Edmonton and a once-in-lifetime mentoring session with Marci Ien, co-host of CTV’s Canada AM.

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We, as cities, and communities, must create an environment, or habitat where each and every one of us does not just survive, but thrive. That’s the impetus of Cities for People, says Shawn Van Sluys, Executive Director of Musagetes Foundation who facilitated a conversation about the national initiative during #Congress2015.

With partners across the country, Cities for People explores a series of broad themes: CityScapes, New Economies, Citizen Spaces, and Art and Society. At #Congress2015, Van Sluys focused on the work of the Art and Society team who have been experimenting on changing the stories and practices of the community through arts and culture. Their goal is to find a way to make art more accessible in cities, and they recognize that they will need to use different techniques for different cities.

Van Sluys wants to transform unused spaces in cities into useable spaces. For him it is about people contributing to the creation of their city. People should “not just be living in concrete blocks but should have a reflection of themselves in the city,” he says.

The creation of Cities for People reflects the urgency to understand each other across the world. According to Sluys, the arts build empathy and have the capacity to increase love between people of different cultures across the world. With an interest in art education and centrality of arts, Sluys asks: how do we create a more accessible space for the arts? “How do we connect arts in a meaningful way to the urgent issues and concerns in society?”

The SenseLabs project in Lethbridge, Alberta has been looking at ways to address these questions. Participants looked at wasted spaces in the city, such as spaces between boulevards, and came up with a two-week project to “fill” those wasted spaces. A red carpet was placed in all the places that are overlooked in the city.

“Our perception of the world is developed through artistic thinking, and when we are living in a city where every building or potential artistic space can be creatively decorated, then members of the community should join together to make it a better place to live,” says Sluys.

The SenseLabs engaged a group of non-artists to be creative, and discovered that most of them had some experience with drawing that they carried with them from early childhood.

So “how do you make arts central and meaningful in our community?,” asks Sluys.

Cities for People suggest that individuals in a community do not become interested in arts and culture until they practice it themselves. Sluys says we should remove barriers in the cultural industry.

“We are not paying to see that piece of art the same as we do for outdoor concerts. There’s a difference between not paying for art because it’s worthless and engaging audience with complimentary performances and street art,” he says.

The question we ask moving forward is, “how can we hold ourselves responsible for improvements in our city?”

– See more at: http://culturedays.ca/blog/2015/05/12/cities-people-putting-art-centre/#sthash.VGtiMIBX.dpuf

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The Arts Flourish at Congress 2015

Culture Days and National Broadcast Partner CTV (Bell Media) invited Canadian journalism and media students to participate in a Student Reporter and Media Internship program during the Annual National Congress on Culture in Edmonton, Alberta on May 7 and 8, 2015. Five lucky students participated in this innovative program including a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the CTV Newsroom in Edmonton and a once-in-lifetime mentoring session with Marci Ien, co-host of CTV’s Canada AM.


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The 2015 National Congress on Culture brought many laughs, new connections, exciting and insightful new experiences, and most of all, the biggest collection of art in all its’ forms. The biggest take away from the Congress was learning that art does not just mean a painting on a canvas; but rather it can evolve into a dance, instrumental number, song, poetry, multimedia production, culinary arts, and just simply words in relation to media interviews; you’ll see this art get knocked out of the water by Marci Ien, Co-host of CTV’s Canada AM. Marci mentored the CTV/Culture Days Student Reporters on Saturday morning, sharing her profound and insightful stories that inspired the emerging reporters and taught them important tips about the journalism field.

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The Student Interns gathered together with Marci for a group photo

The first exhilarating experience involving art was the red carpet welcome by the improv team. They made “regular folks” feel like celebrities by asking to pose for photographs with delegates and requesting their autographs

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The fun improv team provided a grand welcome to delegates.

Their attempt to make everyone feel welcome succeeded through performance. This selfie-taking skits prompted a lot of conversation at the start of the event and set the tone for the rest of the day. We, as the CTV/Culture Days Student Reporters, were able to experience the making of a Culture Days video titled “What’s Your Story?” directed by Culture Days’ Communications Manager & Content Producer, Elvira Trugila, working with her camera man, Tom Gunia.

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“What is your story?” as taken from different perspectives of the Delegates

Each person took a turn speaking in front of the camera and holding up a sign that said “What’s Your Story?”; many delegates from different cultures participated in the video. It was a fun and educational experience for Student Reporters to be part of a professional artistic video.

During the break between events, the Student Reporters and Congress delegates enjoyed a unique performance by a contemporary dance group which took the hallways of the Citadel Theatre by storm. They presented a series of short dance sequences with an old fashioned record player as their musical source. The women flowed through each motion like a wave in the water, flawlessly and with grace.

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Contemporary Dancers took the hall by storm with their short but memorable routine.

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The art of journalism is often overlooked as it is considered abstract. People often do not consider someone who is using words or photographs, instead of a canvas and paintbrush to connect with audiences on an emotional level, as an artist. During Congress 2015, one talented individual managed to accomplish this through her attentive and careful journalistic skills. Marci Ien conducted an interview with facilitators, community organizers and award-winning interdisciplinary visual artists Eric & Mia. They spoke about their motivation to use performance and art as tools for social action. They are also driven to create a tightly knit community through participatory performance by citizens. These cutting-edge artists were able to answer a collection of focused questions about their emerging art, and struggles as artists. Here, they can be seen answering questions for Marci, while inspiring the entire auditorium.

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Marci sits down to talk with progressive visual artists, Eric & Mia.

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Marci asks focused questions about the emerging art of visual artists Eric & Mia.

On the topic of dance, there was more culture to absorb watching the talented Running Thunder Dancers perform a traditional Native American tribal dance at the Awards Cocktail & Dinner. The Running Thunder Dancers are an Edmonton-based First Nations dance group that promotes health and wellness through their talented routines. Wearing Jingle Dresses (also known as Regalia), dancers performed a healing dance featuring intricate, controlled footwork with poise, endurance and grace. The Running Thunder Dancers brought the entire dining room full of people to life; all eyes watched in amazement as one dancer held several hoops and executed various types of tricks and maneuvers. The dancers put an artistic twist to the start of the evening.

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The Running Thunder Dancers.

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Native American Dancer of the group Running Thunder Dancers

The delegates and the CTV/Culture Days student interns were able to enjoy a lovely Awards Dinner & Cocktail while being entertained by some of the most interesting and unique performers and artists among Canada’s cultural community. This included the Vancouver-based multi-instrumentalist Chloe Ernst performing songs from her debut album “Dedicated State”. The album grabbed the attention of the Canadian Folk Music Awards in 2008, where she won the ‘Emerging Artist of the Year Award’ sending her on tour across Canada playing at folk festivals, clubs, and coffee shops. She is building her career through a loyal fan base and getting to know them one song at a time.

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Chloe Ernst playing the guitar at the Awards Cocktail & Dinner.

Another talented performer during the Awards Cocktail & Dinner was Edmonton’s Lindsey Nagy. Renowned Canadian singer/songwriter Jully Black called Lindsey “the future of Canadian music” after hearing her play at a 2006 showcase. With fifteen years of performing under her belt, Lindsey has performed with the Red Piano Players, Gateway Big Band, Grant MacEwan Showcase Band and many other musicians. In a flourishing career, the singer/songwriter currently performs at the Red Piano and teaches voice and piano.

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Lindsey Nagy performing at the Awards Cocktail & Dinner

_MG_1474Award winners posing with Marci Ien

To top off an rewarding night, all these memories would not have been possible without the talented services of one particular artist and owner of Edge Photography, Paul Thurlin. His photographs did not miss one moment of the 2015 National Congress on Culture.

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Paul & Elvira posing together for the last time during the Congress.

A final thank you to the woman who made it possible for the CTV/Culture Days Student interns to be a part of such an incredible opportunity, Culture Days’ Communications Manager & Content Producer, Elvira Truglia.

All photos by Paul Thurlin, Edge Photography.

– See more at: http://culturedays.ca/blog/2015/06/05/art-flourishes-congress-2015/#sthash.ZY3S6ZUQ.dpuf