Visionary Articles

Calgary’s Arts Plan is the long-term strategy for arts development and investment in Calgary and a legacy of Calgary's year as a Cultural Capital of Canada. The arts inspire our children’s futures, connect our communities, drive our city’s economic growth and energize our lives. Our goal is to work with citizens and artists to craft a bold and integrated plan that sets clear, long-term targets for the resources and partnerships necessary to support a thriving arts sector in Calgary.

Calgary’s first Arts Plan is about dreaming big. It’s about imagining a Calgary at its best, with an arts scene that is diverse, robust and welcoming, and then paving the road to get there. Building a better Calgary starts with foundational questions: What is your vision for the arts in Calgary? What would you like Calgary’s arts scene to look like 10, 20 and 50 years from now?

Answers to these questions take many different forms, and the Arts Plan team is pleased to present you with the thoughts of artistic luminaries in Calgary in an ongoing series of visionary articles.

Towards a Creative Calgary: Realizing the Importance of Fine Arts Education


Sam Gregory was born in England and moved to Calgary with his family in 2005. Sam was one of the founders of Save Our Fine Arts (SOFA), and sat on the executive committee until he moved to Montreal in 2011. Through high school, he performed in numerous jazz and concert ensembles. In his final year, he was awarded the highly recognized Loran Award. He is currently a student at McGill University, studying International Development and Political Science.

I don’t need to write an essay on why the fine arts are vital to a child’s education, and a critical part of our education system. If you are reading this, you likely already know that being exposed to the arts throughout one’s childhood, whether it be some form of music, dance, theatre, or visual art, builds a child’s confidence, encourages creativity, spurs critical thinking, builds strong communities, teaches teamwork and develops leaders. Furthermore, by inspiring students to pursue a profession in the fine arts and by offering them world-class educational opportunities, we will be able to nurture and grow a world-class arts community within our city. If Calgary is to boast that we are a Cultural Capital of Canada, then we need to truly realize the importance of the fine arts in our education system through financial investments and by providing sustainable resources.

Investing in Arts Management

Lara Schmitz works in Calgary as an actor and producer, and is currently General Manager at The Shakespeare Company.

I am concerned with how few people are curious about arts management.

True, Calgary has a multitude of small, independent and established arts organizations, yet how many people who are running these companies really are jazzed by their administrative role? I bet that most small organizations have artists that are masquerading as pseudo arts administrators because they have to and that larger organizations have a few of them as well.


Dale Turri is a resource development professional with a long history of working with arts groups to raise awareness and increase profile. A passionate and active member of the arts scene in Calgary for many years, Dale sits on the boards of Downstage Theatre, Calgary Cinematheque and the EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts. She is currently Director of Development at TELUS Spark.

I am not an artist.

I am an arts consumer and arts lover. I have been involved with the Calgary arts community for over 25 years and have seen our community evolve in some wonderful ways during that time.

In the months leading up to the 1988 Olympics, the federal government seeded an Olympic Arts Festival with a contribution of $7 million. The extravaganza of cultural events that resulted from this previously unheard of influx of cash – topped up to $10 million by the other levels of government – was the genesis of a legacy that continues to this day.

Cultivating Calgary’s Capital

Shivani Thakkar is an internationally recognized artist. Memorable credits include Disney’s Step Up 3-D, Bellydance Superstars’ Bombay Bellywood Japan Tour, Canadian tour of Dvaya: A Confluence of Male Female Spirits, Girish Karnad’s Naga Mandala (USC), numerous dance festivals and various museums including the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, the Smithsonian, and the Glenbow. She serves as judge for competitions and on various juries including the Canada Council for the Arts. 

Being the 2012 Cultural Capital of Canada has galvanized a commitment, awareness, and passion for the arts in Calgary that is unparalleled in the city’s history. This invigorating and inspired year not only did justice to the title of Cultural Capital but has also mined a Creative Capital comprised of a plethora of artistic and culturally diverse talent. The challenge posed to Calgary is “Now what?” It is critical to the city’s future that this strong foundation and kick-start beginning blossoms into a sustainable and dynamic creative culture.

Theatre, the Artist, and the City


Mark Lawes is the founder and artistic director of Theatre Junction GRAND, a centre for creation and presentation of local, national and international multidisciplinary live art. Mark works as an actor, director and creator of experimental performance. In 2012, he was selected as laureate of the City of Paris and l’Institut Français art-in- residence program at Les Récollets, to begin his new work SOMETIME BETWEEN NOW AND WHEN THE SUN GOES SUPERNOVA which premiered in Calgary in March 2013.

The theatre, by its very nature, is political: "political" coming from the Greek "polis" or "city," where the western theatre was born. It was born to establish a mechanism to critically challenge the nature of society, its values, its morals and the ethics of the individual for the wellbeing of the community as a whole. The artist was the catalyst for the improvement of society.

In Defence of Our Culture

Living in Calgary since 2004, Dick Averns is an artist and writer whose practice has received international recognition. Recent projects include deployment to the Middle East as an official war artist, and a residency at the Pembina Institute. Currently he’s working on a public art installation at The Military Museums, incorporating a major architectural artifact from the collapsed World Trade Centre. Dick teaches sculpture and art history at ACAD, and is a regular writer for Akimbo, and multiple art magazines, catalogues, and journals.

Much has been written on quantifying and qualifying the value of the arts, particularly in Calgary and Alberta. This implicates Canada through contextualization, locally, regionally, and via the role of the arts within our culture. It is toward this latter aspect–Our Culture–that I’d like to focus discussion, or rather opt for the dialectic approach: a process of reasoning to ascertain the truth of various opinions. (Well, that was the hope the Greeks imparted.) Cultural relativism aside, let’s take a step toward rationalizing the reality of social forces that shape who, what, when, where, how, and why we are. Our Culture.

Serious Play: A Renewable Resource!


Michael Green has been active in Calgary's cultural scene since 1976. A founding artistic director of One Yellow Rabbit, Michael spent 2012 as Curator and Creative Producer for Calgary's year as Cultural Capital of Canada.

In the future, the average Calgarian’s attitude toward arts and culture, their place in society – our individual and collective perspective toward it – will be very different from what it is today. When electricity is accessible by invisible means, when waste is energy, when passenger jets are replaced by a new wave of luxury dirigibles, Calgarians will gradually lose the suspicion we feel for those things in life that have intrinsic and life enhancing, if not monetary, value. In the future, we will come to value happiness as wealth. Serious play will be as much a part of our quality of life as any financial portfolio.

YYC: 25 Years of Municipal Artist-Ateliers


Mireille Perron was born in Montréal. Her work has been shown in more than 60 solo or group exhibitions in Canada, Europe, and the United States. She is the founder of the Laboratory of Feminist Pataphysics (LFP) and has published several critical texts and co-edited two anthologies. For the last 20 years, Perron has made Calgary her home and teaches at the Alberta College of Art + Design. Perron was the Calgary 2012 Francophone Artist Laureate. 

The year 2040 marks Calgary’s 25th anniversary for its Municipal Artists-Ateliers (MAA). To celebrate this milestone, the Calgary Museum of Modern & Contemporary Material Culture (CMMCMC) presents the exhibition YYC: 25 Years of Municipal Artists-Ateliers. In addition, a series of exhibitions and events will be held throughout the year in the 1,000+ Municipal Artists-Ateliers around the city. All events are free and open to the public.

Art is Rational


Shyra De Souza is an interdisciplinary artist based in Calgary. She attended the Sculpture department at the Alberta College of Art & Design where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts with distinction in 2006. As well as maintaining an artistic studio practice, she has undertaken several volunteer administration and board roles within the arts community, has been awarded a number of grants and residencies, and has exhibited her work in Canada and the United States. 

I am an artist.

I am a pragmatist and a romantic. I am a realist and I dabble in utopias. I walk the line between discipline and rebellion, between production and destruction. This can appear counter-productive at times, but is fundamental to my practice of allowing ideas, processes and my materials to unfold.

Arts professions are not clearly defined vocations. They require steadfastness in taking a difficult path, while remaining open to new thoughts and ideas; making one’s own way, navigating the physical, cultural and economic terrain to find one’s own unique contributions. It is not only us artists who live this way. Innovators, pioneers and entrepreneurs of all kinds complement and champion artistic endeavours in a multitude of ways.

Theatre in Calgary Trails Other Performing Arts in Reflecting the Face of Our City


Kevin McKendrick has worked his entire adult life in the arts. For over 40 years he has served as an actor, director, educator and arts administrator. He is an Artistic Associate with Ground Zero Theatre, and teaches acting at the University of Calgary.


Theatre, the largest of the performing arts, must do a much better job reflecting the face of Calgary. By improving how we reflect the society around us, the theatre community can develop new audiences, artists, board members, and private and corporate donors. Don’t we want to make our theatres healthier, and more interesting?