Administered by the Edmonton Arts Council and supported through initial funding from John and Barbara Poole, Edmonton Community Foundation, Clifford E. Lee Foundation and, since 2017, the Eldon and Anne Foote family fund, EATF has supported over 120 artists working in a variety of mediums, from multimedia to music to visual arts to film (and much in-between).
The Fund recognizes an artist’s work and contribution to the community and provides financial stability with $15,000 awarded to each recipient to renew, develop, grow, create or experiment with his, her or their art form.
Here are three of the 2021 EATF award recipients:
A multidisciplinary artist who has worked in music, theatre and film, Cayley Thomas’s artistic journey hasn’t followed a straight and narrow trajectory. Since graduating with a BFA in Acting from the University of Alberta in 2013, the Edmonton-based artist has explored different avenues — with her unique artistic vision as the common, guiding thread.
“These days I am trying to cultivate the permission to explore the things that make me feel most alive,” she says.
She has found great success as a musician with vocals that evoke feelings of yesteryear, and accompanying instrumentation that is modern in its composition.
“It usually begins with a curiosity about a particular project. But in terms of the songwriting, it’s kind of like making a quilt — you have all of these little squares of various song ideas. And in order to create something cohesive, you need to figure out how it all stitches together. So, it’s definitely a process,” she says.
After two challenging years during the pandemic, which closed many avenues for live performance and in-person connection, she reflects, “Every now and then someone will reach out to me that I don’t know personally, just to say that they’ve connected with something that I’ve made, and, to this day, it just feels like a miracle. I suppose it’s trusting in the mystery of that, because I don’t think we ever fully know the impact that we may have on the world.”
As a playwright, producer, and educator, Ellen Chorley is a passionate advocate for the arts. It’s a love that stems from her youth, growing up as a self-professed theatre kid who found community and acceptance in creative pursuits. Today, she works to help future generations do the same.
“Making art in high school and as a young person completely moulded who I am in every sense of the word. I had some incredible experiences with drama teachers and voice teachers at that age who really empowered me through art,” she says.
Today, in addition to working as the festival director with Nextfest Arts Company, Chorley keeps busy by empowering others as an instructor at the Citadel Theatre’s Foote Theatre School. She’s also found success as a playwright, with her play, Everybody Loves Robbie, taking home the Alberta Literary Award for Drama in 2021. Although the play isn’t strictly autobiographical, it’s loosely linked to her life as a theatre kid — and full of experiences that resonate with theatregoers.
“It was very much written from the heart — it’s not an actual story that happened to me, but there’s a lot of me in it,” she says. “It’s very close to my own experiences of that love I found making art.”
As a queer, Arab award-winning playwright, Makram Ayache is already an established name within theatre circles in Edmonton, Alberta and the rest of Canada. His motto for projects remains the same since his first play, Harun, the 2020 PGC Tom Hendry award winner, “I’m always looking for a question that I can’t answer. That’s always my starting point.”
“For my most recent play (The Hooves Belonged to the Deer) I was inspired by something Maya Angelou said about social justice. Angelou said something along the lines of when does a longing for justice become a lust for revenge? And that question became a sort of lighthouse that guided my writing process,” he said.
“You know I remember something Michael Phair (the first openly gay elected politician in Alberta, who was on the Edmonton City Council from 1992 to 2007) said, ‘Coming out hinders homophobia and homophobia hinders coming out’ and that inspires me to reach out to the wider Arab community and help them understand where these stories are coming from,” said Ayache.
He considers his plays an “archive of my emotional history” and added, “this fund is a sort of safety blanket that helps me explore other mediums I’m interested in — TV, film, web-series, novels and non-fiction books. It’s an honour to be awarded this grant and it has opened pathways for me to explore.”
He also mentioned his dream project. “I want to write for Marvel. Maybe an Arab character in X-Men, maybe an Arab superhero. Please spread this rumour,” he laughed.
Visual arts are finding space in books, festivals, and movie theatres. How does art get there? These Edmonton artists at work are behind some very interesting projects.
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