CANMORE – Canmore's artsPlace has expanded its online concert series and launched new programming to help connect the community to music and the arts during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
The new schedule of events for artsPlace will see two free online concerts a week by local musicians, and a variety of free or low-cost programs for valley residents to access creativity from their own home this spring.
"We at artsPlace have a deep belief that in difficult times we need the arts and creativity more than ever," said communications manager Paula Krupa.
"In a way, the arts have always played a key role in social innovation and social healing – this is natural in a time of crisis."
While the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Alberta was reported on March 5, by March 17 a state of public health emergency had been declared in the province. Businesses, non-profits and government facilities began shutting down, including artsPlace.
It was a rapid transition for artsPlace, with three programs developed to offer online and live music performances on Facebook and YouTube scheduled. Free spring break camps were also created for school-aged children in the community and filled up quickly.
"That was a real pilot program and we learned from that to go forward with more programming," Krupa said.
"We continue to look for innovative solutions to support our community, including vulnerable populations."
This week, the arts organization released details about upcoming online musical performances, as well as opening registration for new online programming. There are six online concerts scheduled so far, said Krupa, and a mixture of online arts programming for children and adults.
"We have seen already that the content we have been releasing has kept us connected and uplifted," she said.
"We remain committed to bringing arts to the Bow Valley community in any way we can and also supporting our artist community.
"Some [programs] do have a modest fee attached to them. That is to balance our commitment to provide barrier-free programs with our own financial sustainability."
Beginning in May, there are seven programs for adults and eight for children and families.
Canmore-based author and photographer Stephen Legault taught an online course over the past month through artsPlace on stories of hope and resilience. He will be teaching two upcoming programs this spring, including a multidisciplinary course on creativity in a time of crisis.
Designed for anyone interested in the idea of change and how our community moves forward in a time of crisis or challenge, Legault said he hopes it attracts people from diverse disciplines and backgrounds.
"We are sort of breaking new ground in many ways, as we will be teaching it entirely online and it is multidisciplinary," he said.
"I want people to see that times of crisis are periods of human development, that we undergo massive transitions - and creativity is what leads that transitional experience.
"My greatest fear right now is that we will not seize that opportunity as a society. We are starting to see that dynamic tension in the world that we need to get back to the way we used to do things before it is too late. While nobody wants to prolong the crisis ... let's make sure we learn the lessons this crisis is teaching us."
In addition to the concerts by local musicians and new programs, artsPlace has been building the online creative content available on its website and social media. That includes a daily five-minute standup routine by local comedian Scott Dumas, who prior to the pandemic was hosting regular comedy nights sponsored by Raw Distillery.
"My original thought was, 'how does this work without a crowd,' " Dumas said with a laugh.
"Doing a show in front of nobody seemed silly to me ... you need connection between people [for comedy]."
It was suggested he keep it short – and PG-13 – and the 5 p.m. daily online comedy series was born.
While putting together the daily comedy video has provided artsPlace with content, Dumas said it has also helped him cope with the current situation.
"Part of it is trying to give back to artsPlace and part of it is doing something every day and keeping my mind stimulated," he said.
"I am just trying to figure out what it is I want to do every day."
On Thursday (April 23), the next live concert will feature jazz musicians Tracey Wilkins and Jon Day at 7 p.m., followed by a performance by Banff's Amelie Patterson on Monday (April 27).
Go to artsPlace's website to register for programs, find out more about live performances and access creative content by local artists.
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