The show must go on! The 31st annual Celebration of the Arts
It was back in 1989 that Edmonton Catholic Schools first hosted a Celebration of the Arts. Since then, the annual celebration of music, visual arts, dance, and drama has always been a live event. But due to the ongoing pandemic, packing a concert hall was not an option this year. And neither was cancelling the event. We had a chance to catch up with the team behind the 31st annual Celebration of the Arts to find out how they reimagined the show into a livestream event. And why they hope never to do it again. To watch clips from this year's Celebration of the Arts, visit ECSDCOA.net.
Q: Celebration of the Arts hit the virtual stage this year. What can you tell us about the pivot?
A: As artists, we live by the adage that the show must go on!
For more than three decades, Celebration of the Arts has showcased the work of students in the areas of music, visual arts, dance, and drama as a live, in-person event. With the sudden and unexpected events of 2020, we were forced to cancel our event last year. This event is a highlight for our Edmonton Catholic Schools’ community, and we had no intention of canceling this important celebration of our students’ artistic gifts again this year.
With the ability to leverage technology (and with a lot of teamwork!), we are thrilled to be, once again, providing this performance opportunity to our students.
Q: Why was it important to host a Celebration of the Arts this year and not cancel the show for a second year?
A: Fine-arts education is integral to a students’ educational experience in that it brings to life the full expression of what it means to be human. While COVID-19 has put a pause on many of the ways we are accustomed to expressing ourselves through the arts, teachers, and students have accepted this challenge with creativity, resilience, and malleability. We want to celebrate this!
Edmonton Catholic Schools’ students take the stage for the 2013 Celebration of the Arts.
Q: We know you eager to return to the concert hall stage, but were there any benefits to hosting a virtual event?
A: While there is nothing that can compare to the magic of a live, on-stage performance, there are some benefits to a virtual event. Teachers and students have had the opportunity to learn more about technology and have discovered new ways to showcase students' work. Being virtual also means that we can reach people worldwide as there are no geographical barriers in a virtual show. This year, in our other online arts events, we have had family and friends watching from the Philippines, Poland, Chile, the UK - the list goes on! Going virtual also means that we are not limited to the number of people in the performance nor the audience. Our virtual audience space is truly unlimited.
Students at St. Francis of Assisi perform for the 2021 Celebration of the Arts.
Q: How many performances were featured in the 2021 Celebration of the Arts?
A: There are 20 different performances from all areas of the arts: music, visual art, dance, and drama. We are excited to have over 750 students representing all grades from 100 Voices through Grade 12 participating this year.
You will notice performances and artworks reflecting COVID-19 themes. As you watch, you will see that masks make an appearance, and you will also see pieces with messages of hope and change.
Throughout the show, look for the sweet and funny and look for the serious as students of all ages, skill levels and backgrounds share their artistic expressions. Pay particular attention to the self-portrait slideshow as you see how students have been able to capture, through various mediums, the essence of who they truly are.
We are especially pleased that all of the work is student-created. This includes the music in the opening sequence and the accompaniments to the visual art shows.
Q: The cover art for the event is spectacular, what can you tell us about it?
A: Isabella MacLean is an 18-year-old Métis student who has recently completed her Art 30 class through Alternative Education at the Fresh Start Westmount location. Isabella began sketching and painting in Preschool, and at age six, she started taking afternoon classes at Pygmalion art school. From there, she gravitated towards realism and portraiture, which she still specializes in today.
Isabella left art school at age 11 and continued with art self-taught throughout her teen years. She’s currently working as a commissioned artist while she awaits entry this fall to the University of Alberta in the Bachelor of Native Studies/Bachelor of Secondary Education program. She would like to be a Social Studies and Art teacher in the future.
This piece was commissioned, titled “Flora and Frida.” She drew inspiration from Frida Kahlo’s “Self-Portrait in a Velvet Dress”, Desirée Feldman’s “Frida Floral” collage and lots of spiritual symbolism hidden within the art at the request of the commissioner. It was created with acrylic paints, archival ink, and oil paints on a 36x24” canvas. Her art is displayed on Instagram @inkmac.art and available for purchase on inkmacart.bigcartel.com .
18-year-old Isabella MacLean poses by her painting which is the cover art for the 31st annual Celebration of the Arts