Celebrating creativity and kids

The annual Calgary International Children’s Festival is just around the corner, and once again it will bring children and families together in the heart of Calgary’s city centre – as it has for the past 25 years.

From May 22 – 26, a variety of shows from across the country and world will be available for families to enjoy once again.

“Part of our mandate is to introduce theatre, music and dance to young people – give them exposure to the best that we can from all over the world,” says executive director David Anderson.

Since the festival started in 1987, more than 1.2 million people have attended, with between 24,000 and 28,000 people attending each year.

The ticketed performances, workshops and free outdoor activities provide a chance to get involved with art in different ways. Kate Newby, former artistic director at the festival, says the importance of the arts is essential to the culture of Calgary.

“Art is important and children are important, and the two together seem like a great celebration,” she says.

Patrons enjoying the Calgary International Children’s Festival’s during the 2011 festival.
Photo courtesy of: Jeff Yee

The festival includes performances and activities intended for various ages. “BAM” is a show recommended for children in preschool to kindergarten; “Nearly Lear” is another show recommended for youth in Grades 8 – 12.

The festival aims to provide young people with a performing arts experience and allow them to explore their creativity.

“It’s creativity and the art that come first,” Anderson says. “And education flows out of that.”

Kathleen Barrette, who volunteered at the festival in 2011, says it is not only fun, but also good for children because it presents them with different art pieces to enjoy and learn from.

A street performance by Allison Riceat the festival in 2006. She incorporates music with circus acts in her performance.
Photo courtesy of: Jeff Yee

“It’s really helpful for them to expand their ideas of what learning is and what the world is,” she says. “And creativity is so important for kids. It helps them learn in different ways and understand the world in different ways.”

Barrette also agrees that art comes first, and says she believes there will always be something to take away from it, even if it’s not intended to be educational.

Since art is the festival’s priority, Anderson says the festival members concentrate on quality.

“We want to make sure that nothing we bring in will ever talk down to a child,” Anderson says. “These are performances with professionals that speak the language of children and respect them.”

As a volunteer, Barrette has been able to enjoy some of the shows, and says, “It’s great for kids to get to go and experience something they don’t get to see every day at school.”

slugo@cjournal.ca