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Centre provides opportunities for Aboriginal artists
The Aboriginal Arts program at the Banff Centre is providing exceptional opportunities for Aboriginal artists to grow and excel in their chosen professions.
Since its inception in 1993, the Aboriginal Arts programming has enhanced opportunities for Aboriginal artists to research, conceive, and produce work with cultural integrity and artistic merit.
What were once a few course offerings has now expanded to include writing, music, theatre, dance, film, spoken word, screen writing, and visual arts. Not without a roller coaster of ups and downs, much of the current success of the Aboriginal Arts program can be attributed to the dedication of director Sandra Laronde. An accomplished artist in her own right, Laronde was a program participant prior to taking over in the director’s chair. Under her leadership the program reached new heights and has succeeded in attracting Aboriginal artists from around the world as participants, teachers, and mentors.
Not only does the centre provide an escape to concentrate on the arts, it also provides the opportunity to work with other professionals within the field, and creates networking opportunities for artists to engage with one another.
“The program is designed for emerging and mid level professionals to jump start their careers and take them to the next level,” said Kathy Morrison, program coordinator for the Aboriginal Arts program.
Morrison believes one of the keys to the success of the program is to have the best faculty, committed to sharing what they know and being generous as mentors. This approach seems to be working, launching many program participants into the international award-winning spotlight. The list is impressive. Blues guitarist George Leach, writer Lee Maracle, and singer/songwriter Leela Gilday are but a few artists that have benefited from the program.
Gilday, who spent a month as Artist-in-Residence, said it gave her time to focus on the creative process resulting in a higher rate of productivity. The Aboriginal Arts program creates an environment that allows artists to focus on the creative process, free from the distractions of everyday home life. Located in the splendour of the Rocky Mountains, in majestic Banff National Park, the Banff Centre has a steep history in assisting artists to reach their greatest potential.
The Aboriginal Arts program is setting out on a tour in search of talented individuals who could benefit from the Banff Centre’s programs. Having already been to New York, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, dates are now being set to host auditions in western, eastern, and northern Canada.
“We’re doing the auditions to connect with artists and to get the word out about the programs,” said Morrison.
The Aboriginal Arts program also benefits the general public with a rich diversity of artistic programming. Coming up in this season is the Banff Summer Arts festival, which seeks to engage Aboriginal communities across Alberta with exciting artistic programming. Just launched is the CD Above the Treeline as part of the Diverse as This Land Program, a collaboration of five of Canada’s most accomplished Inuit and Dene women artists, including Gilday.
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