Calgary: Culture Capital of Canada 2012

The Calgary arts community, and the city proper, is abuzz with anticipation about the recent announcement, made by Heritage Minister James Moore, naming our fair locale “Culture Capital of Canada 2012.”

What does this mean? For starters, it means money — money, and funding, exclusively available to local artists. Read on to see how you might be able to qualify for the more than $3.5 million that has been set aside for cultural projects in the city next year, funded jointly by the City of Calgary ($2 million) and Cultural Capitals of Canada ($1.6 million, administered through Canadian Heritage).

The funding will be managed by Calgary 2012, an independent, non-profit organization that helps showcase the city’s culture and create legacy projects to encourage future achievements. The goals of the organization are written in big corporate: to raise awareness of the richness of Calgary’s cultural assets; to empower cultural celebration and participation in every community in Calgary; to build a stronger sense of identity and have local and national impact. Still, it’s good to note that the organization’s curator is the decidedly non-corporate veteran arts producer Michael Green, of One Yellow Rabbit Theatre and the High Performance Rodeo annual arts festival.

Grants of $2,012 to $20,000 are available to the arts community based on a vision of “creative, connected, communities” and exploring the three Calgary 2012 themes of Looking Back, Calgary Now and Looking Forward. Green is already holding information meetings with local arts leaders, and promises that juries will be looking for projects that emphasize partnerships and populist outreach. (Though not a lock for funding, “East of Deerfoot” has become a notable recent rallying cry, after a visiting speaker noted that there are no cultural facilities in Calgary east of Deerfoot Trail.) Some of the announced highlights include an opening ceremony, a mass participation event in fall 2012, artists-in-residence, cultural exchanges and a closing symposium. Many, many more are sure to follow.

Existing arts programs will likely be seen as elitist in the 2012 paradigm; this will force applicants to dig deep and develop innovative ideas to broaden their arts programs and to partner with other groups and cultural and community venues. The first grant deadline is December 2, 2011. Grant applications are now open — what are you waiting for?

2012 was already set to be a milestone year for Calgary: It marks the centennial anniversaries of the Calgary Stampede, the City of Calgary Department of Recreation and the Calgary Public Library, as well as the Grand Theatre and the Pumphouse (home of several theatre venues). To say that 2012 will be a year of artistic celebration, then, is to understate, and then some.

Image courtesy of Andy van der Raadt.

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