On Saturday, September 6, I attended the Alberta Arts Day Gala, an event which celebrated the arts – visual, literary and performing – in the Province of Alberta. There were arts events happening throughout the Province on Saturday and during the preceding week, but this gala marked a new era in appreciation and support of the arts by the Provincial Government. Lindsay Blackett, Alberta's Minister of Culture and Community Spirit, is a great champion of the arts, and he and the people who work with him are working very hard to focus attention on Alberta art and artists.
Saturday night's event, which featured music, dance and the presentation of awards, was a great success. Three awards, The Grant MacEwan Literary Arts Award, The Tommy Banks Performing Arts Award, and the Marion Nicoll Visual Arts Award, each worth $50,000, were presented to Sid Marty, Stuart Lemoine, and Alex Janvier, respectively.
The gala concluded with Alberta Ballet dancing segments from The Fiddle and the Drum created by Joni Mitchell and Jean Grand-Maître, Alberta Ballet’s Artistic Director. The host of the show, Tim Tamashiro, had hinted earlier that there would be a special surprise guest. That guest was Joni Mitchell. The crowd was on its feet before she got to the podium and gave her the applause that she and the ballet deserved. Lindsay Blackett presented Joni with a special award honouring her and her work.
Mitchell, who was born in Fort Macleod, Alberta, told us that the ballet that she and Alberta Ballet created was her most important work. It will tour Canada and the world next year. Don't miss it.
In 1994 I and 17,999 other folk music fans at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival sat on Gallagher Hill and welcomed Joni Mitchell to the first folk festival concert she had played in decades. As she tuned her guitar and chatted about her music and her life I felt that even if she didn't sing the evening would be memorable. She didn't sing on Saturday night, but she and Lindsay Blackett and Tim Tamashiro and every other performer on stage at the Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary (especially the very young dancer with Alberta Ballet) made the Alberta Arts Gala a very special night.