Written by Ryan Charles Parker
For many of us, life without art is empty. No, having access to it is not a matter of life and death, but it can be the difference between meaning and lack thereof. We’ve all had a very tough past few months, and they would have been even worse if we didn’t have access to art.
Suzanne Hermary, Coordinator of the Red Deer Arts Council, put it succinctly:
“Often, as we’ve seen during COVID, the arts are helping us through the most (Netflix shows, musicals on YouTube, art & craft lessons, author readings on Instagram, museum virtual tours)…”
The Red Deer Arts Council is a non-profit organization that supports the arts in Red Deer. They do so in myriad ways, such as promoting and hosting events, giving out scholarships and awards, maintaining an art gallery in the downtown in addition to many other encouraging endeavors. Much of what they did was done with the help of volunteers, such as working events or planning activities.
Suzanne described some of their activities pre-COVID-19:
“We host(ed) monthly First Friday art gallery Opening Receptions at the Kiwanis Gallery (presently on hold as our gallery is in the downtown library, which remains closed) – we also promote the events of any and all other galleries holding First Friday events as well. It’s a great way to tour the galleries, meet the artists…we publish our newsletter and a featured member article in the Red Deer Scene and online each month… a summer open studio tour of artists own home studios was postponed for 2020, but will be back for a 5th edition next year.”
Given the length of article I can write, this only a fraction of what they did. I say “did”, because then the crisis hit. And the organization was forced into coming up with new, creative ways to carry out their work. Like many others did in their specialty, they turned online to continue to do whatever they could to promote and support the arts. As Suzanne explained:
“Our gallery has been closed, so we’ve moved our exhibitions online and we even created an ‘Online Arts Festival’ which has featured written works, dance and art lessons, monologues by local actors as well as plenty of visual art works. This project was funded by the City of Red Deer as a means to create some paid work for artists participating in the event. Our board meetings moved online and also some of our committee meetings, but others postponed as not everyone has the technology and aptitude to deal with zoom calls and the like. Our next big project, the ‘In the Neighbourhood’ Concert Series, came from COVID inspiration as well.”
The “In The Neighbourhood” concert series is a run of sidewalk concerts, promoted and partially-staffed by volunteers, that the Council are hosting throughout different neighbourhoods throughout Red Deer. They are locally-focused, directed at the people in the immediate vicinity and will have a maximum of 200 attendees. They are small gestures, but are sure to be refreshing after what we have all been through.
In summation, the Red Deer Arts Council is vital to our city. Because, as Suzanne rightfully put it: “Life would be bleak and boring without the arts.”