The issue: Lively arts
We say: Help lift up life
The Northern Arts and Cultural Centre opened its doors for an Easter production of Handel’s Messiah in 1984.
Since then, the plucky non-profit charitable organization known as NACC has worked extremely hard to grow and maintain a venue for Northern, national and international artists. NACC also acts as a supporting agency for tours to several communities, bringing a taste of the arts each year to places such as Hay River, Fort Simpson and Inuvik.
With just under 300 seats, it isn’t the largest venue many of the acts that tread its boards over the years have performed in. But it has become a bucket list attraction for many musicians and performers, as it is the only fully equipped live performance theatre in the NWT.
National and international performers such as Jimmy Rankin, Ellen Mcllwaine, Gryphon Trio, Black Umfolsi Group and Ballets Jazz de Montreal have dropped by the same venue as have regional and local acts, such as Leela Gilday, Quantum Tangle, Tanya Tagaq and Susan Aglukark.
There have been countless children’s performers, annual high school productions and numerous community groups using the space for shows.
A mentorship program, meant to give emerging northern artists a platform to launch their careers, is also offered by NACC.
It all started in an unlikely fashion in the early 1980s. As the story goes, then Yellowknife mayor Michael Ballantyne met with Globe and Mail executives at the Wildcat Cafe. The mayor convinced the captains of the publishing giant that Yellowknife needed a performing arts and cultural centre, both to entertain locals and to showcase Indigenous cultures. A national ad campaign followed, teamed with an NWT fundraising drive. So in the end, NACC was built with support from various levels of governments, businesses and foundations.
Along with an incredible number of individual contributions from across Canada.
The old gymnasium at Sir John Franklin High School was secured from the territorial government and NACC was created.
As you read in Yellowknifer on Wednesday in our tribute to NACC’s 35th anniversary, when it first opened its doors, the theatre was mostly concerned with putting on local productions. That all changed when Ben Nind became involved. The longtime director of the theatre was instrumental in bringing in national acts in the 1990s,
Over the years, NACC has had to return to the community for financial help, as funding sources ebb and flow. That while the costs of bringing in talent and also staging shows and workshops in NWT communities continue to grow.
The community responds. And NACC marches on.
One thing we all must remember is how important the arts are to the quality of life in any community – especially this expanse of scattered souls across the NWT.
The exchange of Indigenous arts and culture with creative forces from across Canada and other lands situates NACC well for years to come.
But as with any live-performance venue, it needs people in the seats to make it work. Both financially and artistically.
Yellowknife has a true cultural gem with NACC. It also has good sightlines, comfortable seating and great sound.
Let’s not take it for granted.