Meet nine exciting artists at The Virtual Indigenous Artist Hub

Art by Dawn Marie Marchand. Graphic design by Amelia Scott.

By Liz Nicholls,

This month you’ll get to meet and mingle with some of the country’s most exciting creators — nine Indigenous artists from Alberta, across Canada and beyond.

The meeting place: The Virtual Indigenous Artist Hub.

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The Hub is an intersection of video interviews, a new one every Tuesday and Thursday. They’re all hosted by Rebecca Sadowski, a charismatic Métis artist of apparently limitless talents — as an  actor, dancer, choreographer, poet, writer, weaver … a veritable poster-person for the term “multi-disciplinary.” 

Rebecca Sadowski in The Sash. Photo by Tracy Kolenchuk.

The series is brought to you by Punctuate! Theatre and the Dreamspeakers Film Festival. And as Christine Sokaymoh Frederick, executive director of the latter, explains, if the world had been a different sort of place in 2020, you’d be experiencing The Hub live — in the lobby of the Citadel’s Rice Theatre, after every performance of After The Fire.

Set in the immediate aftermath of the terrible Fort McMurray fire, Matthew MacKenzie’s play, co-produced by Punctuate! and Dreamspeakers, was to have run in April-May as part of the Citadel’s Highwire Performance Series. And, as Frederick describes it, The Hub, “a plethora of offerings from Indigenous artists” in a cabaret setting, was designed “to maximize that experience.”

When Highwire, along with Dreamspeakers and Alberta Aboriginal Arts’ Rubaboo Festival, was cancelled, the Hub team set about refurbishing the series for a journey online. Says Frederick, “we were bolstered by the encouragement of the Edmonton Arts Council,” which readily agreed to repurpose their grant. “We wanted to get some money into artists’ hands as soon as possible to buoy them a bit through this crisis.”   

The virtual version of The Hub, curated by Frederick and MacKenzie, introduces us to an impressive array of creators, and them to a broader audience. “Music, theatre, visual arts, film, improv, dance … they’ll challenge, burst through, people’s cultural expectations,” says Frederick, herself an actor/playwright.

The series deliberately embraces both emerging and established artists. “We wanted a mix of art forms, and artists at different points in the trajectory of their careers.” And there’s a kind of mentorship momentum to the gathering: “what would excite them and propel them forward?” 

Artist Dawn Marie Marchanc. Photo supplied.

The Virtual Indigenous Artist Hub launched earlier this week with Smoky Lake-based visual artist/writer/community activist Dawn Marie Marchand, whose bold and colourful work you’ll see as a backdrop on the Hub website. And it continues July 2 with Edmonton playwright and storyteller Josh Languedoc, whose solo show Rocko and Nakota: Tales From The Land has toured the country.

Improviser Joleen Ballendine at Subito Festival Internationale de Théâtre d’improvisation Bretagne. Photo by Quentin LeGall.

Next week you’ll meet Edmonton dance artist Ayla Modeste (July 7) and improviser/screenwriter Joleen Ballendine (July 9), well known to Edmonton audiences as a Rapid Fire Theatre star.

The Hub also includes theatre artist Tai Amy Grauman (July 14), dance artist Skye Demas (July 16), theatre artist Theresa Cutknife (July 21), Peru-born Edmonton-based audio-visual artist Pachakuteq Espinoza Bravo (July 23), And the July 28 grand finale, which demonstrates “how precious it is to have time with Elders” as Frederick puts it, is Sadowski’s interview with Jerry and Jo-Ann Saddleback.

Check out the schedule and find out more about each artist at Punctuate! Theatre.

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