Its all about the journey…

It’s been just over a year now since the Yellowhead Rotary Arts Festival Society was granted funding to build a regional ‘Creative Campus’.   A year since I got the part time job of assisting that society in building arts capacity in my region of the Yellowhead.  I am amazed at the amount of intensive administration that is involved.  Keeping track of phone calls, and promotional materials, and photographs and time as required for reporting to the funders.  Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I am lucky if I can keep track of my phone let alone the calls!

That is not to say that I am ‘disorganized’ as much as just busy…chasing new things, putting out fires (usually ones I have started) and trying to educate myself along the way.  As I sit at the desk tonight surrounded by gas receipts, magazine clippings and business cards scattered amongst the jump drives, sticky notes and camera batteries  I wonder if I am truly accomplishing anything!  I mean – this blog for community updates is even 2 months out of date!

Well, I think its time I told you what this regional arts coordinator has been up to since the Cinderella Ballet – the last blog on this site.

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The Glass Managerie followed quickly on the heels of the ballet.  Two fantastic presentations that the community flocked to at the end of this years Arts Jasper programs.

March also saw two of Jasper’s finest ‘string’ musicians – Lisa MacDonald and Monika Schaefer take on a Celtic Hour performance.  Before the month was out Anna Carnell and Friends had a month long exhibit at the museum, Anna and the other artists gave us a whole new appreciation for art and the use of rock in imagery and context.

The edit suite has been extremely busy finishing up on Grace Kohn’s production of the Children of Autumn, which is now available in DVD format.  (contact Grace for your copy!)

Then out of the blue we were asked to babysit a hostel while friends went out of town.  So from an edit suite surrounded by screens and technology to outdoor plumbing and no running water…a bit of a culture shock.  But what an amazing treat.  After a long day of ‘administrative stuff’ we were driving up the road to the hostel and the clouds were low enough to be meeting the land – tiredly I looked at David and said ‘Look at the air – its just hanging there’.  Falling asleep in extreme silence and all you can hear is your heartbeat took a couple of days to get used to.  I am still unsure if a heart is supposed to be that noisy!

While we left our urban abode for the rustic cabin in the woods we were graced with a visit from Tessa Nunn and Jeff Collins.   These artists are always a wealth of information about the bigger picture – being from the big city – and we were glad to share our art world with them.  Tessa is involved in arts programming at the UofA and will be sharing her expertise with us when the Jasper Community Habitat for the Arts is brought to life this summer.  Jeff’s experience with board governance and non profit etiquette have already been put to use.

The annual Yellowhead Rotary Arts Festival took place in April.

Over 1000 entries this year in music, voice, instrumental, writing, pottery, visual arts…venues and performances all over the region, some of Alberta’s top artists in their genre are brought in to adjudicate the works and after 10 years a team of 15 core volunteers bring the arts alive for two weeks!  Amazing. 

Jasper had two days of events in the schools for band and voice.  Our elementary school students even wrote their own prose this year!

The Campus has two intensive workshops in Jasper this summer/fall – FilmCamp for youth at the Palisades and Artists in the Pines for ArtsDays/Culture Days.  Posters, emails, postcards, press releases.  And when the Habitat comes on line these types of events will be monthly!  Traveling exhibitions, lunch programs, after school programs….   There’s that heartbeat again!  (or is it an art beat?)

Thank goodness for outings like the groundbreaking at the Activity Centre or my excursions to the outdoors would be even fewer.  New spaces, new ideas…like the artists call for new bike rack designs.

The details should be finalized soon and you can contact Barb Dyck at the Activity Centre to put in your design ideas.   A few more stats on Jasper’s cultural identity and the application to the Cultural Capital program will be complete…all fingers crossed that Jasper is a Cultural Capital for 2011 on time to celebrate the Thompson Bi-Centennial.

And then there was the horoscope in April:  There will be good news coming your way that involves your entire community or perhaps an organization you have recently become involved with.  Its an excellent time to begin long term projects. The horoscope was followed quickly by a letter from the province saying they approved of the Jasper Community Habitat for the Arts.  This lead to measuring the elevator to see if the piano would fit and finding a temporary home for the 12 computer systems that Computers for Schools have donated to the Habitat!

(I think at this point in the story I should mention that I am only one body in a team that works on some of these initiatives. )  (and it might be worth mentioning also that the artists I frame for have the patience of saints!)

The computers are headed into the communities of Jasper Hinton Edson and Grande Cache as part of the Creative Campus learning materials for the filmmaking courses that run regularly.

This in turn lead us to the Banff Centre to learn more about artists user agreements, studio space use, programming for public spaces, non profit corporate status, copyright…

As I stood on the Banff Centre grounds surrounded by inspiration I realized that there is a lot of supportive people in our lives, and while there are a lot of things our Habitat for the Arts won’t have right away – we have the same natural Rocky Mountain inspiration.  I didn’t know if I was jealous of what Banff had or thrilled to know that that amazing place is only 3 1/2 hours down the road!  A friend told me to always go with the positive so I am excited for what we found and can build relationships with.

By now you are probably wondering what the Jasper Community Habitat is.  Well…we are almost ready to tell you.  A few more crossed t’s and a few more dotted i’s and we can share it all!!

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Children of Autumn

Children of AutumnFor 2 hours on Saturday night over 200 people watched in delight as the children of Jasper performed the Children of Autumn.  Jasper singer and the play’s writer Grace Kohn along with musician and composer Greg Deagle ‘graced’ stage left while the troupe of children in costume and masks walked the audience through an enactment of mother and daughter rediscovering the innocence of youth.

A mother finds herself drawn by her daughter to experience feelings and situations that as an adult we have developed ways of avoiding.  The first feeling they experience – on a cautious journey into a dream created by a whimsical forest, forest creatures and masks – is that of folly.  A lively forest sprite frolics before the child and her mom to the childs delight – but as most adults the mother cannot accept such ‘folly’ and becomes more interested in getting home…and the enchantment continues until the masks are removed…

The masks the girl and her mom meet in the enchanted forest lead each person watching in their own interpretation…I must say, the performance of the distressed mom facing her masks led to more than one emotion in most viewers.  Grace has created this delightful tribute, to revisiting the innocence of childhood through dance and song, in efforts to raise money to purchase and supply free hypebaric oxygen sessions to children with disabilities in Jasper.

Not going to give it away – the play is completely scripted and composed.  It is hoped that other communities will wish to host the production in their town.  Check out the Children of Autumn website to support the cause or to bring this exciting program to your community!