CALGARY: CULTURAL CAPITAL
By Heather Setka
This is Calgary’s year, and the city’s visual arts community is reaping some of the rewards. Celebrating centennials for artistic and public institutions, Calgary is also Canada’s designated Cultural Capital for 2012. “Calgary is defining what a Canadian city is going to look like in the future,” says Karen Ball, executive director of Calgary 2012 — a non-profit formed to manage the designation’s funding and programming.
Competing against other Canadian centres, Calgary received the Canadian Heritage designation based on “an ongoing commitment” to arts and culture. For the city’s visual artists, the designation has meant an infusion of grant funding (the total budget for the project is approximately $4.5 million), as well as local and international recognition.
Kai Scholefield is a member of the glassblowing collective Bee Kingdom. Calgary 2012 funding sent Bee Kingdom to Pictoplasma — a Berlin arts festival Scholefield calls “an animator’s dream” — as representatives of Calgary’s glassblowing community. He says that as a result, Bee Kingdom “exported the credibility and legitimacy” of the local scene to Germany.
In another Cultural Capital initiative, the AiR (Artist in Residency) program lifts artists from their (typically) solitary art-making spaces and places them in public ones, if not necessarily ones considered bastions of culture.
“The purpose is to expose Calgarians to the creative process where they go naturally,” says Ball. Old Trout Puppet Workshop — the self-professed “motley gang of artists” that has combined visual art with theatre since 1999 — is hosting a residency in the Chinook Centre shopping mall for sculptor and video artist Noel Begin.
Michael Green, Calgary 2012 curator and creative producer, says Old Trout initially applied to host Begin on its own. Meanwhile, Chinook Centre applied separately as a residency spot. Green says the mall’s desire to participate was so unusual that he needed something “equally bold” to match it, and he joined the two together. The residency takes place in February 2013.