Month of the Artist begins as venues reinstate COVID-19 protocols

· The Pulse
in the Arts Roundup

This September marks the third annual Month of the Artist in the province, as the local arts and entertainment industry adjusts to the return of COVID-19 restrictions.

With a lengthy list of daily in-person events and exhibits, plus a directory of online offerings, the aim of the month-long celebration is "to recognize and support local artists, many of whom have lost work because of the COVID-19 pandemic."

"Art is a profession like any other that requires hard work and dedication," Minister of Culture Ron Orr said in a statement. "For a year and a half, artists in Alberta have had to drastically change the way they work - even putting their careers on hold while facing extraordinary challenges during COVID. Many of us turned to the arts to help us cope with our personal trials and to lift our spirits. I am grateful to every artist in Alberta for making our lives better through their creations."

Events listed on the Month of the Artist site are independently programmed, and include some that have been running throughout summer, like Imagine Van Gogh and Latitude 53's Mamanaw Pekiskwewina/Mother Tongues: amiskwacîwâskahikan. In-person events happening this weekend include Arts on the Ave's Kaleido on Tour and Grindstone Theatre's Mural Massive.

A photo from Kaleido Family Arts Festival. September 2021 marks the third annual Month of the Artist in Alberta. (Kaleido Family Arts Festival/Marc J. Chalifoux)

Alberta's current artist-in-residence, singer-songwriter Joal Kamps, will debut his latest project on Sept. 11. The next artist-in-residence is also set to be announced sometime during the month.

Alberta is the only province to celebrate local artists for a full calendar month. It was initially scheduled in January during its first incarnation in 2019 but the month was switched to September in 2020 to coincide with Alberta Culture Days.

The Alberta Foundation for the Arts is also in a celebratory mood these days — as it reached its 30th birthday, the granting body launched a social media campaign to encourage citizens to #TakePartinArt throughout the month.

Amid the official celebrations, local venues have started announcing whether they'll require patrons to be vaccinated to attend shows and events. Indoor venues like the Starlite Room and Citadel Theatre announced proof of vaccination policies and the Starlite was set to open last weekend, but was forced to cancel events due to the new restrictions announced on Sept. 3. The Starlite Room owner Tyson Boyd cited that some artists are now asking for vaccine requirements in their performance contracts as well.

"We're calling upon our municipal, provincial and federal government to implement a vaccine passport immediately in order to efficiently allow us to process large audiences so we can help get our industry back off the ground," Boyd said in a press conference at the venue on Sept. 7.