Wednesday, 17 May 2017 13:32

Swift Current Allied Arts Council hosting an upcoming gala to celebrate 50th anniversary

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A half-century of commitment by volunteers to promote the arts in Swift Current will be celebrated at the Swift Current Allied Arts Council’s Golden Gala May 27.


The Arts Council is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017 and the gala will be an opportunity for the community to participate in an evening of fine dining and entertainment to mark this milestone.
“This is not meant to be a fundraising event for us,” Arts Council President Melanie Friesen said. “We truly want to celebrate the fact that we have been around for 50 years. I think that’s quite an accomplishment.”
The event at the Living Sky Casino Sky Centre will include a catered meal, a brief program to highlight the achievements of the Arts Council over the past 50 years and musical entertainment by the group Memory Lane.
“They play music from the thirties, forties and fifties, and so they’re a great group to be dancing to,” she said.
The gala will have a dinner and dance format to give people the opportunity to have a memorable evening in a relaxed setting.
“There will be a program too to speak a little bit about the Arts Council, but we don’t really want to drag that on and on,” she said. “We’re going to have the write-up in the booklet that people can take home. We just want people to come out and enjoy and celebrate with us.”
The Arts Council’s vision is to enrich the lives of people through the arts. It arranges the annual Stars for Saskatchewan concert series in Swift Current that brings emerging and established artists in different musical genres to the city.
“We like to try and promote up-and-comers,” she said. “It’s not just the ones that are already well established. ... That’s one of the intentions of an arts council in a community. It doesn’t mean that you don’t also bring in the somewhat famous people or the name recognition people, but sometimes, it’s just providing an audience for some of these artists that may not get that opportunity if this type of an organization wasn’t around.”
The Swift Current Allied Arts Council is a member of the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils (OSAC), an umbrella organization for community arts councils in the province.
“Actually Swift Current was one of eight arts councils who helped to form that organization in 1969,” she said.
OSAC’s annual conference provides learning opportunities and workshops to affiliated arts councils. The event is also a showcase for artists that can be selected by arts councils to be part of their upcoming Stars for Saskatchewan series.
“They bring in samples of artists that we might want to bring into our communities and then they do what’s called a showcase,” Friesen explained. “It’s a 20-minute kind of a mini concert for all of the different arts councils there, and then at the end of the weekend we have a performing arts booking meeting and each arts council says I’m interested in this one or this one and this one and then we do block booking.”
In addition to artists that are booked through this OSAC conference showcase, the Swift Current Allied Arts Council will also get together with some of the other larger arts councils in the province to select artists.
“When we’re looking to book a nine-concert series we look at various things,” she said. “We try to get a variety of genres. So we don’t want to have all classical music, but we like to always have some classical music. We try to get dance every couple of years, depending on availability, and this year we're having a drama. So we try to mix it up a bit.”
She believes their approach is working, as the Swift Current Allied Arts Council has a subscriber base of about 460 people.
“I think we have 80 to 100 tickets per concert that we can sell over and above people that just buy the season tickets,” she said.
They have made a few changes in recent years to broaden their subscriber base and to make the process to book tickets more convenient.
As a result, ticket sales are now done through Ticketpro.
They are also trying to develop a bigger presence on social media as a means to promote the annual concert series to a broader audience.
The concert series has brought an impressive variety of artists to Swift Current over the year, for example Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman, singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, the acclaimed Canadian baroque orchestra Tafelmusik, and singer-songwriter Jim Cuddy.
The Arts Council has been successful to bring quality artists to the city, but it also achieved another important goal to use the arts as a means to create a sense of community.
“It supports the artists in giving them somewhere to perform, but then it also provides the audience for that artist and then for the audience it just gives a sense of community if you’re involved in the arts,” Friesen said. “There’s always advantages to your well-being to be exposed to arts and culture and so the Arts Council provides that for the community.”
The history of the Arts Council stretches back to 1967, when the City of Swift Current created a group called the Swift Current Arts Council to promote the arts in the community. In 1969, that group’s name was changed to the Swift Current Allied Arts Council and it started to operate independently from the City.
The Arts Council’s original goal was to promote the performing and visual arts. It therefore played a significant role in the promotion of the dream to have an art gallery in the city. It still supports the visual arts through the annual Southwest Open art exhibition, which is hosted by the Art Gallery of Swift Current in association with the Arts Council.
The origins of the Write Out Loud series at the Lyric Theatre, which combines author readings with musical entertainment, can be traced back to the Arts Council’s efforts to promote the arts. In the early 1970s, the Arts Council partnered with the Cypress Hills Community College and the Chinook Regional Library to initiate a literary arts program in the city, called the Southwest Writer’s Project.
Friesen feels confident about the future of the Arts Council in Swift Current and its goal to promote the arts in the community.
“I think going forward the Arts Council is still very strong and it’s just making sure that we can keep ourselves relevant and keep giving to the community the piece that we do by exposing them to artists that they wouldn’t go to on their own,” she said. “That’s kind of the advantage of having the series is that if you buy a ticket, you might not like every single concert, but even if you come just because you have the ticket, you might find something that you really like and you didn’t know you liked it.”
The Swift Current Allied Art Council’s 50th anniversary Golden Gala takes place at the Living Sky Casino Centre, May 27. Doors open at 6 p.m., the plated dinner service is at 7 p.m. and entertainment featuring Memory Lane starts 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $100 and available at the Living Sky Casino box office or online at: https://tickets.siga.sk.ca.

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Matthew Liebenberg

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