Calgary’s arts a blessing

By Rob Scherf

There’s something intoxicating about the last week of September in this city. All at once the leaves start to change, the mornings start to crispen, and Calgary–much like Cinderella–realizes just for an instant that she, too, can be a world-class broad.

Our little film festival is just one of many in Canada, and although its existence is not as significant as the Calgary International Film Festival organizers would have us believe, it is nevertheless an important element in Calgary’s development as a Big City.

Perhaps strong support for such an artistic event as the CIFF is truly the first step that Cowtown is taking to overcome its oft-decried cultural deficit, and with it, its small town stigma. Numbers for this year’s festival show a determined rise over last year’s (10 per cent more, making the grand total of attendees over 40,000), and the feedback is more positive too. Contrary to popular wisdom, Calgarians do love high culture. What’s puzzling is that those same Calgarians seem timid to show it: The Plaza, once the city’s premiere cinema, has been reduced to showing cineplex films to stay afloat; attendance for art events is steadily dwindling; our philharmonic orchestra is perpetually on the ropes. Are we willing to embrace a major event for one medium, only to let every other facet of the arts atrophy?

The overwhelming success of this year’s CIFF is a good start, but further steps should be taken to ensure that the cultural growth of Calgary is as balanced as it can be. This summer while our music festivals got all the press, the first annual Calgary International Spoken Word Festival was sorely underrepresented in the media, as well as being sorely under attended. Is greater media awareness of Calgary’s smaller events the only thing that stands between an artistic wasteland and a creative Eden? I guess we won’t find out until we’re brave enough to indulge our entire creative sides–after all, a big city would do it.