Arts Commons looks to expand its community role

October 31, 2023
Leadership Film, TV & Creative Industries Team Calgary Digital Media & Entertainment
3 ARTS COMMONS 1000 x 750

New Arts Commons vice-president of programming Sarah Garton Stanley, left, with Arts Commons president and CEO Alex Sarian.

Photo credit: Wil Andruschak © Postmedia Network Inc.

Joel Schlesinger © Postmedia Network Inc.

Arts Commons’ new head of programming views Calgary’s premier performing arts centre as more than a place for Calgarians to experience inspiring theatre, dance and live music.

It is also a gathering place for all to explore what it means to be part of a fast-growing, diverse metropolis, says Sarah Garton Stanley, the new vice-president of programming at Arts Commons who is often referred to as SGS.

“It really is a place for hope, healing, creativity, where imaginations can be set free and everyone can be excited about the future,” says SGS.

Renowned for its free public art galleries, six performance venues and many studios — Arts Commons is the 560,000-square-foot downtown home for resident companies such as Theatre Calgary, Alberta Theatre Projects, Arts Commons Presents and the Calgary Philharmonic — as well as hundreds of community groups that utilize the downtown facilities every year.

Yet, both SGS and Arts Commons president and CEO Alex Sarian say the organization has a larger role in Calgary’s social fabric.

“We are more than an arts and culture institution; we are a civic institution,” Sarian says. “That really means envisioning the arts as being in service to a greater social good.”

Starting in 2024, that civic role will only grow as Arts Commons prepares to break ground on the largest cultural infrastructure project in Canadian history, which will include a new 200,000-square-foot facility, a re-imagining of the adjacent Olympic Plaza and a complete modernization of Arts Commons’ existing building.

“It’s not only a physical transformation; our programming is changing to reach beyond our current walls,” says SGS, an award-winning, internationally recognized director and programmer.

Successful community initiatives such as Indigenous-led Monday Rap Night YYC from Tribe Artist Society, where artists meet, eat, talk and rap, illustrate this growing role for Arts Commons as an important outlet for expression and connection in challenging times.

Having worked all over Canada, SGS notes Arts Commons’ civic role as a thriving arts and culture institution was already evident when she arrived to take on her new job on Sept. 20.

“My hope is to move Arts Commons further on this path, and expanding its role as Calgary’s artistic hub that enriches the lives of everyone.”

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.

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