Arts groups serious about community role

Re: “Status of the arts: situation critical” by Anthea Black Cover May 8-14 2008.

Thank you for devoting your May 8 cover story to the state of the arts in Calgary. We at the Calgary Folk Music Festival currently in our 29th year know all too well how the vague uncertainties of life affect the arts. It was only about 10 years ago that we were teetering on the brink of extinction ourselves. Since that time though we have bounced back going from strength to strength. We have managed to spread the word of our event and its ethos far and wide. While we still have to keep an eye on attendance now it’s because of sellout crowds.

Like you we were taken aback and disappointed by Cynthia Moore’s suggestion that “few people in the artistic community move beyond [it]… and… don’t get out into the broader community.” That is certainly not how we see ourselves and given the diversity of our audience how we believe the “broader community” sees us. In my view this success is in part based on the mission that we have set for ourselves to enhance the quality of life in our community through the celebration of music from diverse cultural traditions.

We have taken that aspect of our mission seriously. Members of the folk fest family are among the backbone of the artistic and cultural community in Calgary: CKUA and CJSW the Arusha Centre the various folk clubs in town Clean Calgary VRRI Western Roots Artistic Directors and Staff Teams Associations Alberta.cow the Mayor’s Awards for Business and the Arts WordFest Calgary Professional Arts Alliance and the Prince’s Island Master Planning Group. Why even the Junos recently held in Calgary adopted many of our volunteers and processes. We have taken other fledgling or struggling festivals by the hand to assist with grant applications internal structuring and public outreach. We have allowed artists to use our space to further their own endeavours their own visions. We regularly provide a platform at the festival itself for local artists to reach the thousands of Calgarians Albertans and others who come each year. Our Songwriter Contest held at the Ship and Anchor Pub over four days brought in 220 contestants from all over Alberta. As I write we are busily planning our festival hall a building that will include a public space that will be open to the broader community.

Steve Eichler

chair Calgary Folk Music Festival