Joni Mitchell adds star power to celebrations
For an event launched to recognize the importance of arts and culture in the lives of everyday Albertans, the first Alberta Arts Day ended Saturday with some major star power.
Joni Mitchell, the iconic folk singer, painter and recent Alberta Ballet collaborator, capped off a gala event at the Jubilee Auditorium by accepting an award recognizing her contribution to Albertan and Canadian culture.
Mitchell's presence added a nice touch to a day that was all about Alberta.
In Calgary, events took place at Fort Calgary, the Glenbow Museum, various art galleries, and the Jubilee, where film screenings, literary readings, arts panels, dance and various other performances were held throughout the day.
About 1,300 Calgarians took in the the festivities at the Jubilee, which also included performances by Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, singer-songwriter Kris Demeanor, and Alberta Ballet, which performed an excerpt from Fiddle and the Drum, their internationally-acclaimed collaboration with Mitchell.
Bertha Davis of Strathcona, a longtime WordFest volunteer, spent Saturday in the garden, but made it out to the evening gala. She gave the idea of an annual Alberta Arts Day two green thumbs up.
"I think it's a wonderful idea," said Davis, whose favourite Alberta author is Fred Stenson. "It creates a lot more interest in the arts." Diane Lavender, who regularly attends theatre and dance performances, took in the evening gala with her friend Barbara Bishop. The duo wasn't quite sure what they were about to see, but liked the sound of an arts gala and bought tickets anyway.
"I actually like the variety," said Bishop, a regular at Decidedly Jazz Danceworks and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. "If I don't like one thing, I'll like something else." Alberta Minister of Culture and Community Spirit Lindsay Blackett credited the day to his boss, Premier Ed Stelmach.
"Arts is to society like oxygen is to air," said Blackett before presenting the Grant MacEwan Literary Award to writer Sid Marty.
Marty was one of three artists to take home $50,000 Alberta arts awards. The others were visual artist Alex Janvier, who was honoured with the Marion Nicoll Visual Arts award, while Edmonton playwright Stewart Lamoine claimed the Tommy Banks Performing Arts Award.
Janvier, an instructor at the University of Alberta, is one of the significant pioneering aboriginal artists in the country.
Marty's writings about natural history and western culture, inspired in large part by his real-life work as a park warden, is the author of Men for the Mountains, which was twice named one of the 50 most influential books in the Canadian environmental movement.
Lamoine has been one of the driving forces behind the Edmonton playwriting scene over the past 25 years.
In addition to the big arts awards, a number of smaller scholarships were handed out to emerging artists. Meghan Doraty and Niall Fink each won $5,000 Grant MacEwan Young Writers scholarships. Andrea Earl and Karl Schwonik each won $5,000 to support their post-secondary studies in the arts, as part of the Queen's Golden Jubilee Scholarships for the Visual and Performing Arts.