MATTERS OF THE ART
As with every other sector, the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the arts community. We look back on a year of struggle, innovation and resilience in Calgary's scene,
Jan. 8: Calgary-shot Fortunate Son debuted on CBC.
Very loosely based on the family history of Calgary producer Tom Cox, this CBC drama plunged viewers into the tumultuous world of antiwar protesters circa 1968.
Jan. 15: Jann Arden inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
It was to be celebrated at the March 15 Juno Awards, which were among the first major casualties of COVID-19. Many musicians were en route to Saskatoon when the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced its cancellation on March 13. This also meant that Arden would not get a chance to be honoured in front of her peers.
Jan. 23-26: Big Winter Classic.
Given that most music festivals would be cancelled within a few months, the fifth annual Big Winter became all the more notable with an expanded lineup that included some top names in local, Canadian and American indie rock. Among the bands participating were Nashville punk-rockers Bully, Philly post-punker Ron Galla and Los Angeles noise-rock duo No Age.
Jan. 23: Contemporary Calgary opened its first public exhibits.
Calgary art lovers had been following the slow evolution of Contemporary Calgary, located in the former Centennial Planetarium, for a decade. Jan. 23 marked its grand launch with two exhibits: Museum of the Moon by U.K. artist Luke Jerram, which was a scale model of the moon suspended from the facility's 13-metre dome; and Planetary, which included the work of 30 local artists who had taken part in the facility's inaugural Collider residency.
Jan 25: Katie Ohe retrospective at the Esker Foundation.
The pioneering Alberta artist was the subject of her first major retrospective in more than 20 years at the Esker Foundation, tracing the 83-year-old sculptor's career from figurative sculptures in the early 1960s to playful, kinetic pieces she finished not long before the exhibit launched.
Feb 1: Calgary-born soprano Aviva Fortunata returned home.
Among Fortunata's most cherished childhood memories was watching opera at the Jubilee Auditorium. So the soprano, who now divides her time between Toronto and Berlin, was delighted to return to her hometown to play the lead in Vincenzo Bellini's Norma on the Jubilee stage.
Feb. 4: Jean Grand-maitre announced he will step down.
Alberta Ballet's longest-serving artistic director announced he will step down after a three-year transition period that will see him passing the torch to Christopher Anderson in 2022.
Feb. 8: Glenbow opened Vivian Maier Exhibit.
Calgary's big-ticket art events continued in February when the Glenbow Museum opened Vivian Maier: In Her Own Hands, a travelling exhibit that focused on the mysterious street photographer's self-portraits.
Feb. 20: Tribal aired on APTN.
The Calgary-shot Indigenous police procedural Tribal made its debut on The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, the brainchild of Ron E. Scott and starring Jessica Matten and Brian Markinson.
March 13-24: COVID-19 wreaked havoc.
The impact on the arts in Calgary was immediate and devastating. Within days of the world shutting down, all tours were cancelled, there were layoffs at the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, The Banff World Media Festival was cancelled (although events would eventually shift to an online format),
The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo announced it would postpone until the summer (eventually it cancelled its 2020 event altogether.)
March 15: Arts Commons closed.
Downstage Theatre's world premiere of Sunny Drake's Men Express Their Feelings closed, making it the last production to be presented in the Arts Commons.
March 26: Calgary Arts Development announced a relief fund
Calgary Arts Development, representing hundreds of artists and 169 organizations, creates a $1.1-million fund for short-term COVID-19 relief.
April 4: City of Calgary announced all festivals and events with audiences of 50 people or more cancelled or postponed until June 30.
The announcement led to the immediate cancellation of Sled Island, scheduled to run June 24 to 28. Within a few weeks, the Calgary, Canmore and Edmonton folk festivals and Country Thunder and dozens of others also cancelled after the city expanded the shutdown until the end of August.
April 5: Calgary singer-songwriter and actor Tom Jackson hosted star-studded Almighty Voices to support fellow musicians.
Jackson creates Almighty Voices, a 12-episode Youtube series that features many artists from Sarah Slean, Chantal Kreviazuk, the CPO, Buffy Sainte-marie and Liona Boyd among others.
All performers were paid and donations were accepted for the Unison Benevolent Fund, a charity that provides relief services to the Canadian music community.