With festival cancellations and event postponements since March, the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC) has come up with a way for Yellowknifers on both sides of the speakers to get their concert fix and participate in a live show.
“It’s an innovative way to bring work to artists,” Andrea Bettger says.
Bettger is one of 21 performers at NACC’s Buskers in the Bush festival – a concert series spread out over three August weekends.
Buskers in the Bush runs from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday Aug. 2, 9 and 16. The performances will take place around Frame Lake Trail, with each set lasting approximately 15 minutes.
Bettger says it’s a big city idea done in a way more suitable to a small town, with groups moving around the trail.
“The North is a place where you find more trees than street,” says NACC executive director Marie Coderre. “Having the arts in a natural setting is what the North is all about.”
When the pandemic hit, NACC, NWT’s main institution for performing arts, had to cancel everything. Coderre says they are losing at least $300,000 this year, which is why they have to get creative to find ways of supporting the arts.
Buskers in the Bush is free for anyone to attend, however a $10 donation is encouraged, with all proceeds to support NACC.
Regardless of the money raised, all Buskers in the Bush artists will be paid for their performances through public funding since, Coderre says, it’s important to “do justice to the arts system and pay artists justice in a meaningful way.”
For Pat Braden, an NWT musician playing at the festival’s opening weekend, it has been “devastating to watch a lot of my friends and peers and other musicians and institutions and the whole music industry basically being gutted.”
He and Bettger emphasized the importance of the work being done at NACC and by Coderre who, Bettger says, has “gone out of her way to find ways to help artists stay afloat and keep working.”
Entrances to the performances will be by the hospital and at the Legislative Assembly on the Frame Lake trail. There will be tables for sign up as well as hand sanitizer and masks. Volunteers will also be monitoring the festival to ensure social distancing.
For anyone not able to attend the festival, NACC will be releasing a 10-minute film showcasing the three weekends. The video’s exact release date has yet to be determined but it will be broadcast on the Northwestel channel prior to Aug. 30.
In addition to Buskers in the Bush, NACC has several shows planned in the coming months, including an outdoor series on Aug. 1 with performances by musicians and comedians.
“I think it’s really good that it pulls it out of the black box of the theatre that way, and just pulls it out into the community,” Braden says.