The story of Flin Flon, Manitoba and their Culture Days 2010 celebration, is an inspirational example of what can happen in a small northern Canadian community that has art in its heart. In this Community Spotlight you’ll hear directly from Crystal Kolt who works with the Flin Flon Arts Council and has been described by others in her community as the “spark” that ignited the amazing Culture Days celebration in what she calls “North Central Canada.”
Throughout the weekend, Flin Flon, MB, Creighton, SK and Denare Beach, SK heard opera, jazz, country, hip hop, classic pop, medieval lite, a cappella voice, instrumental music, choirs, solo voice, musical theatre, heavy metal, rock, fiddling, Metis, Aboriginal, and Celtic Music.
They saw acrylic, batik, face painting, pottery, birch bark biting, caribou tufting, weaving, quilt making, water colour, mixed media art, fibre art, mask making and sidewalk chalk art.
We experienced theatre, improv, storytelling, museums, history, heritage, literature, dance, artist studios, Aboriginal, Metis and global cultures.
We celebrated our very first Couture Fashion show, we celebrated our talented youth in film and the unbelievable happened when approximately 300 people Dance(d) Down Main Street to K’Naan’s Waving Flag.
My name is Crystal Kolt and I am the Cultural Coordinator of the Flin Flon Arts Council. I also organized the CULTURE DAYS events which took place in the area that I call North Central Canada which takes in Flin Flon, MB, Flin Flon, SK, Creighton, SK, Denare Beach, SK and in 2010 this area included Thompson MB, Cranberry Portage, MB and The Pas, MB. I am also on the Manitoba Provincial Task Force for CULTURE DAYS.
I first heard about CULTURE DAYS through Jean Giguere who Chairs the Manitoba Task Force and is on the CULTURE DAYS National Committee. As soon as Jean explained to me that there was a new Pan-Canadian movement starting that intended to celebrate simultaneously Canadian arts and Culture throughout the country, I was hooked. I had felt for quite some time that CANADA needed something to boost its belief in the strength of its Artistic self. Living in a small and rather remote Northern community I was excited to finally have the opportunity to link up with the rest of the Country in solidarity as artists and appreciators of our art. With the backing of our largest media organizations I felt that it truly might be a possibility that we as Canadians would have the opportunity to share our contacts, artists and communities and network as we have never had the chance to network before.
Initially I had thought that Flin Flon and Creighton would have a minor role in Culture Days. Nay sayers thought that it would be too cold, too close to summer for the Schools to be involved, too close to winter to enjoy the outdoors, too new for organizations to want to participate, too new to have a vision of what to do, and eventually there would be those that would think that it was becoming too big, too .... whatever. But of course you always get some of that whenever you start a new initiative. The surprise for everyone including myself was that quite the opposite happened. The weather was gorgeous, dozens of organizations took part, thousands of people showed up, the museums stayed open for hours after closing time, over 1000 students, virtually every student in the Flin Flon and Creighton area participated in CULTURE DAYS events. Calm Air made it possible for Northern artists to have a presence in the National Culture Days Launch in Winnipeg allowing us to feature the fabulous Thompson Soprano Maria Luz Alvarez with Flin Flon composer/pianist Mark Kolt and northern artists, Irvin Head, Elaine Angelski, Sarah Trevor, Linda Mandes and Angelique Merasty. Stittco supplied heat in the outdoor Cafe to keep it cozy in the evenings. Hudbay Mining saw the vision and kick-started us with our initial funds and all other funding bodies followed suite including The Flin Flon Neighbourhood Revitalization Corp, and the Manitoba Arts Council and of course CULTURE DAYS MB. Artists and entertainers came from far and wide to take part in the weekend. Over 100 volunteers manned the over 40 stations that were available for the general public to experience that weekend. Our MP, MLA and Minister of Housing cheered us on with a visit during the inspiring Opening Ceremonies where the Tent was blessed with Sweetgrass as male and female Aboriginal Drumming Groups from nearby Cranberry Portage inspired us with chant and drum. CBC Radio North Country also walked our path recording the event from beginning to end, taking in and sharing with the rest of the north the many beautiful details small and large that surrounded us that weekend.
Initially I approached the Flin Flon Arts Council (The artistic heartbeat of our area) about becoming involved then went directly to the artists themselves as well as the City of Flin Flon, The Town of Creighton and the Creighton and Flin Flon School Divisions requesting support of any kind. Absolutely no one refused me. Both the City of Flin Flon and the Town of Creighton offered venues as Gift-in-Kind.
Creighton School started organizing their very own in house Culture Days. When a local subcommittee started thinking up ways to offer an equally wonderful experience to every child in the area we came up with programs such as SUPERSTAR! and ALL FOR THE ARTS. We found storytellers and mask-makers, visual artists and musicians all willing to help out. Organizations such as the Rotary Club, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women's League, and Lion's Club stepped up to the plate offering what they could... a pancake dinner here, serving at the Gala Cafe there, offering the Hand-Van to take guests around the town. No one said no! And that was what made it into the colossal event that it eventually become that last weekend in September 2010.
Once all these organizations and individual volunteers became involved word spread quickly. But would people come and how would they know what to do? Of course I had had brochures out advertising CULTURE DAYS for many months, I had spoken on the local radio station as well as the CBC and posters were made and distributed around the area and ads were placed in the local newspaper, but in addition to that, I decided to make a glossy gorgeous Program to show the folks at home and visitors where to find the activities and what was going on throughout the weekend. That was a defining decision. Once people saw the programs around town they knew that CULTURE DAYS was a serious event. Something they needed to see!
Leading up to the event I had a hunch that it would be a success when I needed to add tables for people at my monthly hour long (to the minute because I like short meetings) luncheon meetings. During the event itself there were so many memorable moments to count. I have snapshots in my mind of the smell of Sweetgrass and earth in the outdoor Gala Cafe which was decorated with the original 1950 Christmas lights that were on the Christmas tree that would have been in the centre of town 60 years ago. The sounds of the male and female drumming group. Visitors that were visiting Canada from Germany heard about our Culture Days events somehow when they were in Alberta and actually came to check it out. Not only did they have an amazing cultural experience some local people in the community took them out for their other passion... mushroom hunting. I have snapshots images of a 1000 kids experiencing maskmaking, film-making, hip hop, theatre improv, storytelling and museums. We had our very first couture fashion show with 50 designs from Patricia Glanville and 30 designs from Leonne Kabole (Kenya) and Laurie Brown (original Flin Flonner now in Toronto). One of the biggest surprises of course was our Dancing Down Main Street to K'Naan's WAVING FLAG. I really didn't know if there would be 3 or 4 people 'dancing' with me and our choreographer Sarah Moore but I was determined to give it a go. When a few hundred people showed up and others lined the street to watch, it was one of those Hollywood-style-you-need-to get-a-tissue moments. Every age from toddler to senior, guys and girls alike danced down Main Street Flin Flon that morning. Who knew?! Especially in a small Northern Hockey Playing Mining Town. But it did indeed happen and it was a thing to behold.
Because of CULTURE DAYS our community for certain and I believe much more of our Province is starting to understand us. Yes we are a mining community but we are the HEART OF ART in our part of the world and are proud of it. Regarding the Flin Flon Arts Council, we have a cautious optimism now that we can move forward as an Art organization that can support more of Northern Manitoba's arts and culture. There will always be challenges of course, including securing venue rentals and advertising. My advice to newcomers in the CULTURE DAYS world is to start small. It doesn't have to be as big as it turned out to be in Flin Flon however be prepared for anything. I was completely surprised by how quickly it grew in my community. Someone told me a few years ago, 'When you have a problem to solve, speak to an artist.' And it's true that an artist will always find a solution.
What's next for us? Well I guess time will tell but we are looking at organizing a CULTURE DAYS CARNIVAL in 2011 at the stunningly beautiful Baker's Narrows Lodge including their Conference area and outdoor Tent. We would like it to include a Raku pit, soapstone carving, musicians, literary reading, bannock, smoked fish, story-telling and special Culture Days art classes at our new NorVA (Northern Visual Art) Centre and ... it would be fun to Dance Down Main Street again.
Best wishes to everyone and I hope you give it a try!
Share your Culture Days story! Email and upload your Culture Days photos to Flickr. You can also post to the Culture Days blog, add your comments, photos and videos to Facebook or tweet with the #culturedays hashtag and we’ll re-tweet your message.
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