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.
As a black, queer country music performer, D’orjay The Singing Shaman is breaking stereotypes and dismantling social norms. With a voice uniquely her own, she’s emerged as one of the most promising artists in the western Canada country scene and her debut album, New Kind of Outlaw, has found commercial success and critical acclaim. All of which would never have happened if she didn’t overcome her debilitating stage fright — at a shamanic training ritual in Chile.
“I grew up in a very musical family. And so, music was always a big part of my life but, by the end of high school, I’d also developed severe stage fright, and real issues with just not liking the sound of my singing voice. And I didn’t really start pursuing music and performance in a professional capacity until my 30s,” she said.
She remembers the exact moment when she overcame her fears. “It was when I was at the end of my shamanic training down in South America (Chile), I was being used as the demo for a healing tool that we were using for our clients. And yeah, the realization just came in real time at that moment, obviously, there had been some activities and situations leading up to that, but there was a moment where my teacher had asked me very directly in front of the class, ‘what is coming up for you?’ And I was like, ‘I want to sing, I’m just realizing that this moment, and not just sing in the shower, like I want to sing and be out there and be on stage.’”
For Layla Folkmann, being raised by professional artist parents meant the artistic life was
all she ever knew. “I never wanted to do anything else,” she says.
She specifically wanted to do one of the things she watched her mother do particularly well. “From about four years old onward, I would just sit and watch her paint. I fell in love with the way she used thousands of colours within one painting. Colours have always been a big part of my life, which probably explains my hair,” she laughs.
She eventually took her colours to Grant MacEwan, where she became fast friends with fellow artist Lacey Jane. The pair bonded while staying late to work after class and, through their mural-making company, Lacey & Layla Art, they have left their colourful marks on structures around the world. “We’ve worked together for so long that it’s pretty seamless, and there’s something so fulfilling about having it available to the public for free all the time, something that brings colour and hopefully joy.”
Thanks to EATF funding, Folkmann will be able to spread colour and joy in ways she hasn’t even imagined yet. “My studio work is not necessarily result-based right now, which is good, because it allows me the freedom to explore a little bit more. It’s rewarding and essential, because otherwise it kind of gets stagnant and you end up just playing your greatest hits over and over.”
Nasra knows why being an Edmontonian artist is important to them. Throughout the years, they traveled, struggled, made risky decisions and yet continued to explore their honest artistic mind through poetry and other mediums for themselves and their community.
“When I was in Toronto and New York, I thought, ‘Am I becoming the artist these gatekeeping big cities want me to be or am I being my authentic self?’” says NASRA.
A queer Oromo/Somali multidisciplinary artist, NASRA has a variety of titles. They were a Youth Poet Laureate of Edmonton from 2016 to 2017, Director of Sister to Sister, an artistic showcase for/by femmes and women of colour, and currently, Director of Black Arts Matter, Alberta’s Black interdisciplinary arts platform. While they see the necessity in traveling to other cities for artistic inspiration and self-growth, NASRA feels equally empowered when exploring new creative perspectives in Edmonton.
“I want to be one of the reasons for local Black artists to stay active in the arts community in Edmonton,” says NASRA. “It takes a lot, financially and emotionally, to create art authentically, and that’s why we need to stick together.”
Meet more artists at work that are supported by EATF.
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