…and so here’s an unbiased article on Nextfest, the best festival around

Pop quiz hotshot!

Take the word “revitalization.”
Do you use it when:

A) Talking about using taxpayer money to help build a new ice hockey arena for a billionaire and other fatcats that don’t want to leave downtown.

B) Talking about an arts festival that’s accessible to everyday folk, and showcases talent from within the community.

C) You can’t think about revitalization right now, thanks to the ridiculous Speed reference.

If you answered “A“- quick, stop reading now! Unfortunately, this article won’t lead to you making more money, so you’ll consider it a waste of your time. Go check your stocks!

If you answered “C” – fair enough. Next question: What are your top 5 favourite Keanu Reeves’ films?

If you answered “B” – well then, you’re in luck, because at this very moment an arts festival is on in Edmonton with that exact purpose!

It’s called Nextfest.  Here’s a bit about it.

(The people interviewed in this article had no notice of the above multiple choice pop quiz, and may not share the opinions expressed within the answer options “A” and “C.” …ESPECIALLY “C.“)

According to Nextfest 2011’s Facebook page, the festival is “Edmonton’s annual rocking and raucous showcase of young emerging artists” and  “is an 11 day celebration of the artistic voice of the next generation featuring new theatre, dance, music, visual art, film and multidisciplinary collaboration.”

Sounds pretty rad. Megan Dart would agree. When I asked her how she felt about Nextfest, she didn’t pull any punches:

To say I love this festival would be a severe understatement. Nextfest provides the rare chance to revel in a sense of community truer than at any other festival in Edmonton, truer than at any other time of the year; a moment when more than 400 artists come together in a raucous, rambunctious celebration of the voice of the next generation. It’s an explosive eleven days of non-stop creative energy, and I’m addicted to it.

Dart would know too. She’s been involved with Nextfest for the past five years. Starting in the audience the first year, she came back the next as a contributing artist. “From there,” she says, her “love affair blossomed” and this time around she’s both the Marketer/Administrator for the festival, AND the curator of NuMusic@Nextfest. Oh yeah, she’s also written a play, called Snout.

What really encouraged Dart to move from patron to artist to curator was being “caught up in the energy of the Nextfest community.” Community means a lot to the people involved with Nextfest. So much so, that what Dart is really excited about is…

…the fact Nextfest is moving to Alberta Avenue this year – we’re taking the emerging arts festival to an emerging neighborhood to celebrate the unstoppable power art has in building (or, in the case of 118 Avenue, revitalizing) community. We’ve adopted The Avenue Theatre and The Old Cycle building as two of our four main venues this year, and we’re sincerely looking forward to working with the artists, businesses and patrons of the Alberta Avenue area.

Working together is what community building is all about, and this is reflected in artistic expression. And the arts community in Edmonton, as acclaimed musician Krystle Dos Santos relates, “is not only one of the best in the country, but possibly the world as far as I have been.” And she’s been involved in the arts community of more than a few places, such as Victoria, B.C., and Foggy London Town, U.K.

Krystle Dos Santos

Now based in Vancouver, what stands out for Dos Santos about the Edmonton music scene is that it is a “much more supportive and stronger self-sustaining system.” She asserts that Nextfest, being “so all encompassing in showcasing so many art forms, feeds the thriving scene and is necessary to keeping the strong arts community alive.” So when the CBC’s Chris Martin invited her to perform at the CBC Music Series at Nextfest, she jumped at the chance, saying she’s “so happy to be able to play a part.”

Plus, she says on being back in Edmonton, “it’s always good coming home.”

This year’s Nextfest is also including an event that’s becoming a staple of the city’s arts community, the Edmonton Show. This will be the fifth Edmonton Show, and it’s held, as always, at the Avenue Theatre on 118th. It’s put on by the Common Ground Arts Society. They go by CGAS for short, and they ain’t around to make a profit, but to instead provide outlets of expression that shows the city all the talented voices it has. Julie Jonas, local musician and on the line-up for the Edmonton Show V, has kindly given us grunt workers here at the Past is Unwritten a break by providing background on the show and its impact in the community:

It began as a medium to showcase the talents of a select group of friends who all happened to go to high school together. We all wanted to re-integrate old passions into our lives and needed a place to do it. After working out some of the kinks in the first couple shows, the reputation of ECGAS skyrocketed and interest began pouring in from every corner of the city. When people like Joe Gurba, of Old Ugly Records, who have a wealth of talent at their disposal and a fairly developed name around town begin to take interest, it’s a win/win because it brings new talent to the stage and loyal fans to the shows. I think it has had a very positive impact for the Avenue area. I know they are trying to turn the area around and a lot of people probably don’t believe it can happen. When you bring this sort of young, spirited, crowd around it brightens the atmosphere a bit and hopefully it can allow people to see the potential there, which is huge.

Jonas has performed at earlier Edmonton Shows as a solo artist, but this time she’s a trio, with Andrew Smetaniuk on the bass and Jeff Lasher on the drums. Not only are they a band, but they’ve been working together since January on a music project for Screen Ember Media, a local media arts company. The Edmonton Show V will be a chance for them to show the dividends of their hard work to the rest of the community. Its connection with Nextfest will widen this opportunity, as Jonas makes the importance of this festival very clear:

It has given up and coming artists the chance to shine for years and I think it’s been a great motivation for artists in Edmonton to keep doing what they are doing. Edmonton really is full of great festivals and it fuels the passions of individuals by giving them an outlet and a chance to be recognized for their skills and abilities. It creates excitement and anticipation for both artists and audiences.

Yup, there’s a lot of emerging talent in Edmonton, and a lot of revitalization. And thankfully, no more Speed references anywhere. It’s coming from the grassroots up in a lot of different ways- by patrons like Megan Dart bringing their unique abilities into the fold and thereby enriching the community – by performers like Krystle Dos Santos coming back to Edmonton to participate in a festival she thinks is important – and by a musician like Julie Jonas being able to showcase her hard work. The artistic potential of all three of these people is enormous, and Nextfest connects them not only with the lucky audiences in the festival’s venues, but the areas of the city the venues reside in, and Edmonton as a whole. Not to be biased or anything, but that’s pretty darn great.

So…50 shows. 11 days. 10 venues. For schedules, specific show info, to pictures and videos, head to  www.nextfest.ca.

Krystle Dos Santos hits the stage at the end of the night on Sunday 5 June at the Roxy! (10708 124 St) If you can make that show, she’s also performing the night before, Saturday 4 June at the Bend Lounge (14743 40 AVE NW) at 9:30, at a show presented by the University of Alberta Swim Team Alumni Society. 

Megan Dart’s play, Snout, is at the Old Cycle Building (9141 118th Ave) on Friday 10 June at 7:00. It’s even directed by her sister Beth!

Also on Friday 10 June, but an hour later at 8:00 PM, Julie Jonas will be at the Edmonton Show V at the Avenue Theatre (9030 118 Ave). The likes of Scenic Route to Alaska are also set to perform! Holy moly.

Now, in closing, If you’re STILL not sure if you should check out Nextfest, let Megan Dart convince you of how rad it is with these words: “not only does it define a true sense of community, it also provides exposure and professional development opportunities for young artists at a time when they need it most – when they’re emerging. Nextfest is a celebration – describing the energy of the festival just doesn’t do it justice. Get out, get involved – once you get a taste, you’ll want more!”

Explore posts in the same categories: "Intellectual" Events, Music from America's Hat, So Russell...what do you love about music?, voices from the underground

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