Elly on the Arts: Expanding summer shows during COVID-19

Crystal Kolt and her phenomenal co-conspirators at the Flin Flon Arts Council are certainly earning their keep in these challenging COVID-19 avoidance times.

We have long been of the opinion that the FFAC (read Crystal Kolt here) gives more bang for the buck than any arts organization in Manitoba. We have even been heard to say that, with the amount of cultural life Kolt can provide to our region on the budget she has worked with, how much more could she do with better funding? Now with two more short-term employees at the FFAC office, we are seeing the absolute truth of that statement.

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Danielle Yungwirth and Kari Rutherford have been working in positions created by federal grants for student-related summer employment during the COVID-19 crisis. They have seemingly jumped in with both feet and kick-started (is that a mixed metaphor?) a summer of musical events in and around Flin Flon that has been magical.

The musical community in this area has really blossomed in what our dear friend Keith Reed refers to as “the Renaissance” with ever-more polished performances for growing audiences coming seemingly every week. When COVID-19 struck the world, it all stopped and we hunkered down for several months of social distancing and hand-washing. These amazing young women, assisted often by Jacob Harvie with the Flin Flon Neighbourhood Revitalization Corporation, have been hard at work to bring it all back, slowly at first and safely.

By the time you read this, we will have had the opportunity to see paid concerts by The Usual Suspects and The Whyte and a free concert by Small Spaces, all socially distanced at the Blueberry Jam main stage at the Flinty Campground. We will also have seen two iterations of Street Corner Concerts, the travelling twenty-minute sets by several local performers playing in rotation at various locations around town - a brilliant idea in our humble opinion.

That’s before we even get into the August calendar. On August 4, we will be treated to “La Vignette” on the Blueberry Jam stage with an immensely talented trio of Janelle Hacault, Kristy Janvier and the afore-mentioned Kari Rutherford. This will be an unforgettable experience for those lucky enough to see it.

On August 8, there will be an evening event on the Blueberry Jam stage, featuring the band Black Swan and starring the incredible vocal skills of Jenn McLean. Go to the FFAC website at flinflonartscouncil.ca to order your tickets. There is another Street Corner Concert scheduled for August 15 and an evening with Joanna Dauk and Lane Laderoute on the Blueberry Jam stage to help celebrate Pride weekend in Flin Flon. Finally, there will be an afternoon show August 23 at the Blueberry Jam stage with local performers the No Name Band featuring Ann Ross, Doug McGregor, Holly Freeborn and Lyle Wallaker.

All of the events are meticulously planned to maintain distance, health and safety - that’s why you have to register in advance. Hand sanitizing supplies are always available and you will be escorted to your seat by an usher. Please bring your own chair and wear a mask, for the safety of other audience members.

Even in these COVID-19 times, that’s what a little extra funding can provide. Perhaps we can translate these experiences into adequate ongoing funding for arts and culture in our community after we get a vaccine and we can move around safely again. When crowds can gather again, we could recharge the economy and reboot the spirit of the population. Arts and culture can lead the way to resilience and economic diversification.


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