by Matt Hanson
CALGARY — The 10th anniversary of IGNITE! is upon the city of Calgary, as emerging artists celebrate one of the most inclusive and most extraordinary of festivals. Under the auspices of Sage Theatre, a company that produces three main-stage productions a year, the IGNITE! Festival for Emerging Artists will inspire over 100 emerging, multidisciplinary artists in Calgary to further their careers in the arts and to learn from seasoned professionals. Also offering free workshops open to the public, the festival will run from June 18 to 21 and will feature over 20 leading and distinguished artists in mentorship roles.
Festival director Michelle Brandenburg, who produced Sage Theatre’s recent play, michel & ti-jean, has worked at IGNITE! for three years now. Despite having taken last year off, she is enthusiastic and proud to present the unique vivacities in store for attendees and participants at IGNITE! 2014.
“I strongly believe that it takes a minimum time of 10 years to emerge in a community. Sage Theatre’s IGNITE! is a place for artists of all disciplines to make connections in the community that will carry them through the first 10 years and beyond,” Brandenburg says with charming sincerity. “We’ve moved locations for the first time. Up until this year, we were always based at Pumphouse Theatre and now have moved downtown, in the Calgary Tower, with shows at Lunchbox and Vertigo and with Swallow-a-Bicycle doing a site-specific installation tour of the Calgary Tower.
“We generally always have a dance component — theatre, dance, music in the format of a cabaret — and less popularized art forms — a magician, sketch comedy — then the site-specific tour. There are cross-disciplinary things happening: one dance piece is digitally heavy with a lot of graphic design work; the theatre work is true creation, encompassing puppetry,” Brandenburg says, outlining the festival’s artistic landscape. “We have a professional development component for directors and designers, hands-on financial planning workshops bringing the artist to their training facilities, to impart some skills about being financially successful in the arts, about being self-employed, but being able to purchase a home.”
The 2014 IGNITE! Festival invites emerging artists, as well as the public into fertile ground, where collaborative professionals help build a stronger foundation for the greater community through artist sustainability. “Where you establish your post-secondary schooling is often where you end up spending the majority of your career. It is necessary to form a community and get to know artists going into the professional scene with you. This allows you access to people and resources that you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to otherwise,” says Brandenburg. “A vibrant city needs a vibrant arts community. If Calgary wants to maintain growth, it is really important that corporate Calgary and artistic Calgary find ways to mingle.”
In past years, IGNITE! has seen the emergence of exemplary successes, such as playwright Meg Braem, who was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Dramatic Literature. Other notable mentions include a film artist, who received his first paycheque out of university for work in his artistic field from the festival, and, this year, turned out two feature films.
“Moving the festival to the heart of Calgary business and taking over parts of the Calgary Tower, with help of Aspen Properties, is a huge collaboration, showing the importance of the arts in a business-economic climate,” Brandenburg says with a punchy resolve. “I find those things to speak to the longevity and the value that should be placed on the arts. The energy that emerging artists have about the future and their career possibilities is boundless and that, for me, is one of my favourite parts of IGNITE! It gives me inspiration for the entire year.”
IGNITE! runs at the Calgary Tower from June 18 to 21.#yycarts, AB, Alberta, emerging artists, Ignite!