With a shared vision and passion for promoting the performing arts in the North, a small group of volunteers formed what would become Yellowknife’s Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC) in the early 1980s.

“It started with a few people being interested in doing something different 35 years ago.”

That “something,” says NACC president Jean-Francois Pitre, was the desire to bring theatrical talent — from musicians and actors to dancers and playwrights — to a northern stage.

At a NACC-hosted celebration marking the milestone Saturday night, Pitre said the non-profit organization has remained true to its vision over the past 35 years.

Brendan Burke/NNSL photo.
Thirty-five years after its launch, Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC) is “thriving,” in a time when small theatres across the country are struggling, says president Jean-Francois Pitre.
Dec. 7, 2019.

“Offering something you wouldn’t get otherwise, that’s always been the mandate of NACC — to push the performing arts to a new level,” he said.

As some small theatres struggle to keep the lights on, Pitre said NACC is “thriving” under a model that encourages new ideas and focuses on “quality over quantity.”

“A lot of theatres have had a really hard time in the last few years to survive. We’re doing quite well. Our books are in good order,” said Pitre.

NACC’s success in a town of some 20,000 people, said Pitre, is a testament to Northerners love of the arts — and the overall quality of the centre, which continues to attract top tier international, national and northern talent year after year.

Its acoustics are recognized as some of the best in Canada, said Pitre, who added NACC has become a bucket-list stop for many artists and tourists alike.

Now a cultural fixture in the capital, Pitre said the enduring success of NACC has helped put Yellowknife and the territory on the performance art map.

“I think it gives Yellowknife a higher stature, more like mini-Edmonton, if you want to call it,” NACC’s president told Yellowknifer.

“To have a facility this nice — with all the lighting and the sound — for a small place like Yellowknife, it’s great,” he said.

Brendan Burke/NNSL photo.
Carmen Braden, left, and Pat Braden entertain guests in the NACC lobby Saturday ahead of the night’s main act, Kofi Hayford.
Dec. 7, 2019.

In the last 10 years, NACC has expanded to provide programs across the territory, part of a continued effort to nurture northern, home-grown talent.

Artist-led workshops are brought to schools in NWT communities, including Fort Smith, Hay River, Fort Simpson, Norman Wells and Inuvik, in a bid to inspire and support youth in pursuing a passion for the performing arts.

A mentorship program, meant to give emerging northern artists a platform to launch their budding careers, is also offered by NACC.

Looking ahead, Pitre said NACC will continue to stick with what’s worked: bringing northern audiences a “good quality show,” an approach he says has paid off over the last three plus decades.

Brendan Burke

As the Yellowknifer’s crime reporter, it’s my job to keep readers up to speed on all-things “cops and courts” related. From house fires and homicides to courtroom clashes, it’s my responsibility...

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