Implementing a Residency Program for Performance-Based Artists in Alberta

The Cause

GWDS’s idea is to increase the opportunity for artists to develop and to support the creation of important new artistic projects. By implementing a Residency Program throughout our season we will provide Albertan artists with high-quality rehearsal space, free of charge, at the newly renovated Ruth Carse Centre for Dance in Edmonton. We are seeking funds to support this program so that we can avoid charging exorbitant fees to artists in need of a rehearsal space while providing consistent access to a functional rehearsal space over a period of several weeks. Ultimately, our Residency Program will enrich the Albertan arts scene by increasing the amount and quality of performance art being made and practiced in Alberta.

Edmonton is home to a large number of talented artists who have the potential to create innovative, challenging work. However, they frequently do not have access to a studio space that allows them to do so. The majority of rental rates in Edmonton are so high that no independent artist can afford them. The result is that our artists’ potential is limited; they are either not able to make work, or, the quality of work being made suffers because artists are not able to rehearse for as many hours as their process requires due to budget constraints. The quality of work can also be compromised  by being created in spaces that lack the necessary components for a successful artistic process such as adequate space and appropriate flooring. The wider-reaching consequence of this lack of affordable space is that Alberta’s presence on the national dance scene is limited. As a result, artists from other provinces assume that our community is stagnant and uninspired.

Our studio is 2060 sq. ft., boasts floor to ceiling mirrors, brand new Marley flooring, high ceilings, a sound system, and newly installed ballet barres, as well as rigging potential. As well, GWDS’s studio is partially accessible, including ramps at the main entrance and studio entrance, and washrooms on the main floor. For the hours that GWDS is not using it for our own artistic activities, we would love to fill it with members of our community. We sent out a call for applications on March 24th 2017, with final decisions to be made on May 26th 2017. We will be offering 3 separate residencies, each 2 weeks in length. Residencies will culminate with a work-in-progress showing, in which artists can share their creation with the public to garner feedback and first impressions.

Who Will it Benefit?

Our residency program will directly benefit up to 20 Albertan artists, as it will have a positive effect on not only the creators, but also their performers and collaborators. In addition to benefitting artistically and professionally, successful applicants will have a greater chance of receiving government  funding to support their rehearsals and for further iterations of their project, as participation in a residency program gives the project credibility and viability.

Our initiative will positively impact Edmonton’s arts community as a whole. Residency recipients will be asked to teach as guest artists during GWDS’s weekly company classes, allowing for sharing of artistic expression between artists and Edmonton’s community. The inclusion of informal work-in-progress showings in our residency program will benefit Edmonton’s audience base for performance art, as they will gain insight into the creative process. This not only generates interest in the final iteration of the work, but it also acts as an educational tool that helps expand and increase the sophistication of the audience for performance work in Edmonton. This, in turn, also benefits the arts milieu as it helps foster a larger,  more engaged and educated audience base.

On a broader scale, GWDS is excited by the potential for our program to benefit all artists in Alberta by helping  to erase the stigma that Albertan artists are not generative or relevant to the current artistic landscape. A residency program will mean that more projects will be created by Albertan artists. It is our intention that, following a residency, the works-in-progress continue on in their development to become  full length pieces that have the potential to tour outside of Alberta. This will allow Albertan artists to share their work with a broader audience, helping them contribute to the national arts milieu.

This program is based on the process of ‘paying it forward’. GWDS is fortunate to have access to multiple levels of government funding which helps to fund our space, although we have had to divert some funds away from our artistic programming to cover our lease. We recognize that the majority of independent Albertan artists are not in the same situation as us, in that they can only access project funding, which is extremely competitive and much less dependable. Support from this grant would enable us to pay forward our success to independent artists as well as allowing us to continue to produce a full season.