Airdrie’s enduring and longstanding arts and cultural festival, ARTember, has been cancelled this year due to both limited funding and a lack of vocal public support.
According to Alisa MacKinnon, interim chair of ARTember, the cultural festival is a much-loved event in the community and has served as a means to engage Airdronians with art and one another. The yearly festival is held throughout the month of September.
“I really believe art does a lot of good for communities, both in what it brings to the community as well as what it can spark in a community,” MacKinnon said. “[In previous years], ARTember has been a successful festival.
“Last year, our mixed virtual and in-person events were a pivot for the festival, which still brought a significant involvement across the community.”
The 20-day artists’ showcase, which was cancelled in 2019, went ahead last year. The three-week festival boasted a variety of virtual and in-person offerings around the city, including the Airdrie Film Society’s annual film festival at Bert Church LIVE Theatre, an art gallery hosted by The Store Upstairs, weekly musical concerts at Nose Creek Regional Park, and artist demonstrations.
Additional events included a songwriting contest, and an education component with workshops and tutorials for a variety of age groups and skill levels.
MacKinnon said last year’s festival was well-timed, bringing a revival of culture and community after the COVID-19 pandemic and mandated lockdowns throughout the spring and summer of 2020 had dampened residents’ spirits.
“This festival [is] an easy platform to get us to that reinvigorated sense of community,” she said.
She said the festival, which began in 2010, was previously managed by the Creative Airdrie Society, who disbanded in May 2019 after struggling to fill several vacant positions on its board of directors.
Because the event is no longer registered as a non-profit organization, there are limited streams of funding and as a result, the event was cancelled in 2019.
In 2020, a partnership with the Airdrie Film Society landed the organization behind ARTember additional funding and support, and the festival was able to move forward.
But the recent dissolution of the Airdrie Film Society on Aug. 31 has resulted in the end of that partnership, as well as an end to the annual Airdrie Film Festival.
MacKinnon said additional reasons for not going ahead with ARTember this year included changing health restrictions that made it hard to predict how they could safely proceed with the event, along with uncertain interest from the public.
However, she added she has recently received queries from community members asking if the event is going ahead.
“I think the community has always really enjoyed and supported ARTember and they want to see it happen again,” she said. “[In the future,] I’d hope to see ARTember sustainably continue in Airdrie.”
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