Everyone in the arts, culture, and entertainment fields knew Alberta Culture Days would be different this year. How different was the unknown for the province-wide festival running Sept. 1 to 30.
In the 2020 edition, the pandemic forced St. Albert Cultivates the Arts Society to host it online. Numbers dropped from just under 3,000 in 2019 to 1,450 last year.
But in a strange quirk of fate, the online presence generated a big uptake from a new kind of participant — global citizens from 10 different countries. Individuals stuck at home reached out to explore and unite with others from across the planet. People from the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Germany, Singapore, Indonesia, and Ireland reserved spaces to events.
“In one particular case, a woman attending had purchased a new camera in California and the store where she purchased her new camera gave her a listing of some online programs she might want to check out and learn about her camera ... Our photography sessions were on this list,” said Heather Dolman, co-chair of St. Albert Cultivates the Arts Society.
“These connections would not have been possible if these sessions were not provided online. If people didn’t know where we were before, they do now,” she laughed.
According to Dolman, there was only one downside to global participation.
“Some people didn’t watch the time zones and they had a problem trying to go in after the event was over.”
For the 2021 edition, organizers have planned a mix of 32 online and in-person events, activities, classes, workshops and performances. Attendees receive a wide choice ranging from music and dance, visual arts, photography, and culinary arts, to literary, theatre, film, and cultural presentations.
New this year is a performance from Tubas of Saint Alberta, a four-man ensemble that refocuses familiar music using a fresh approach. The foursome is game for anything from rondos and ragtime to barbershop and bebop. The Tubas perform Saturday, Sept. 11 at 1 p.m. Depending on weather, they will play outdoors on St. Albert Place's back plaza or in the centre foyer.
St. Albert actors-writers-directors Maureen Rooney and Paul Punyi return with a special online two-hander they created for school workshops more than a decade ago. The 30-minute play, taking place Sept. 9 at 7 p.m., is titled Interview History: V. I. Lenin, Bolshevik Revolutionary Leader and will be followed by a Q&A.
Amplify Festival is teaming up with St. Albert’s Culture Days to offer a movie night in Lions Park on Friday, Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. School of Rock is a heart-warming story of a washed up rock’n roll musician who fakes his way into a private school and inspires his class of losers into becoming champion rock’n rollers.
Last year the Africans and African Descendants Friendship Club offered two online culinary classes. They were so well received, the club has increased choices to four: Jamaican patty making, Nigerian Chin Chin, Ghanian Kelewele, and Cameroon Koki Beans. And if you want to keep those calories in check, the club also presents two online classes in African and Caribbean Dance as well as Efik Ekombi Dance.
This year’s strong African presence also extends to an in-person Mixed Media Art and African Fashion Culture presentation at the Art Gallery of St. Albert on Sept. 11 from 3 to 4 p.m. featuring the work of artist Diana Ohiozebau. The fashion segment offers a demonstration in tying a gele, an ornate Nigerian headdress that functions as a crown to a woman’s beauty.
Visionary Centre for the Performing Arts runs with a series of music, dance, theatre and film selections for children to adults while Gary Glewinski and Kyle Swenson are back strumming their much-in-demand ukulele classes. As in previous years, ukulele classes fill up fast.
“They (Gary and Kyle) have been here for a few years and their programs are very popular. They work well together and they try to keep it fun. A lot of people start a class and once they start it, they like it and want to experience different things. Some already meet in a ukulele circle in Edmonton and St. Albert and are joining as an extra way to play,” said Dolman.
Several high-profile local visual artists are slated to share their creative passions. Doris Charest will create a colourful mixed media landscape while Laura Watmough passes on watercolour techniques for floral art.
Bruce Thompson presents his love of nature and environmentalism through a series of watercolour paintings while Samantha Williams-Chapelsky offers two demonstrations — one on the banks of the Sturgeon River discussing painting outdoors and another on creating a quick acrylic landscape.
Photographer Dawn Kawahara hosts a two-part program including an online photo seminar and in-person photo walk.
Marysia Migorska teaches tricks and techniques combining mediums to create personal gift cards, and visual artist Carol Donald instructs artisans how to make a basic mosaic trivet.
There is also a poetry walking tour, storybook plays for young children, improv for kids, and a literary chat with Nisha Patel
On a last note, Sharon Morin from MIchif Cultural Connections is hosting Table Talk, a conversation about Métis culture and how people can learn more.
“We feel good about this program. It’s well-rounded – some online, some in-person. It’s an opportunity for people to try things they’ve never tried before and find out if they enjoy it. There’s a lot to offer and it’s all free.”
Registration is required. Free tickets are available at www.eventbrite.com.