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Backstage views with Carlos Foggin: September ripe with cultural offerings

"September in Alberta is ripe with fantastic arts and culture events; so many events in fact, that one is spoiled for choice. It’s a cultural buffet."

Editor's note: This is the first submission in a new monthly column series from Carlos Foggin, the director of the Balzac-based Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra.

September in Alberta is ripe with fantastic arts and culture events – so many events in fact, that one is spoiled for choice. It’s a cultural buffet. You can have anything you want – for a month, at least…and most events are free.

Once summer ends, we settle into our predictable household routines. The average child is involved in at least three extra-curricular activities, often taking up five or six evenings every week. Until the kids are out of school in June, it’s heads down and full-steam ahead just to manage the household and get the kids off to hockey, baseball, ballet, piano, basketball, swimming, riding lessons, or tutoring.

Driving “Mom’s Taxi” leaves us exhausted. Laundry, meal planning, church, music camps, dance competitions, and sports tournaments eat up the precious “weekend 48” so quickly it makes our head spin. And it begins again at 6 a.m. every Monday.

Are we busy? Absolutely. In fact, you could argue we’re run ragged. Yet, despite this insanity, society would have us believe not filling our schedule to the brim is a sign of laziness. Surviving off caffeine and sugar injections via drive-thru coffee chains is considered the newest sign of great parenting.

More is not more. We know it’s true. Yet, we have a hard time following this mantra. The best experiences in life are usually right under our noses, if we slow down long enough to see them.

In our rush to give our kids a great life with all the opportunities and experiences we didn’t have, we neglect to take care of ourselves. This doesn’t mean we all need to paint with oils or start playing the cello overnight. In fact, jumping in with both feet is a surefire way to burn out before you’ve begun.

Start small. Want to try your hand at a cooking something new? You’ve probably got a neighbour who is a great cook who would love to give you some tips. If you burn it, that’s fine. You can order a pizza. Next time, make some adjustments and it will be delicious. If you find you love it, consider enrolling in a class.

Want to dust off your trombone again? Join the community band or community choir. Put no pressure on yourself. Commit to the experience with no expectation of results. Give yourself just 30 minutes a week to creating something. There is no competition, no score-keeping. The results don’t matter. It just matters that you are having fun, being intellectually stimulated, and developing your ability to see creative possibilities.

Finally, we must acknowledge that long-term creativity cannot exist in a vacuum. We are a social species. While it important to have a judgment-free place to explore our creativity, a bit of expert guidance, and the occasional shot of creative adrenaline are important to keep us motivated.

It’s okay to start small. Order the blue cheese or try your steak medium rare. Patronize an ethnic restaurant and order the special, or go for sushi.

Perhaps you're probably already at this point. You’re already outgoing and adventurous. Next, you could try out a contemporary art gallery or check out the staff picks at your local library. Once you’ve built up the courage, go big – check out a live play, the symphony, or an opera performance. You don’t need to know anything about art to experience it, and yet you’ll instantly recognize when you’ve found something great.

You might just find it’s something you can’t live without. If you don’t like it, regroup and try something different next week. There is a whole wide creative world waiting for you right here in Alberta.

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