Headshot of Bethel Afework, Photo by Novio Kareem
Bethel Afework | Photo: Novio Kareem

Bethel Afework

A need for artistic space leads to a creative community playground

Cherie McMaster

What started as a desire to have somewhere to hang out and create grew into an idea and then into a reality for Bethel Afework. The founder of Raw Voices, and now the executive director and co-founder of The Alcove Centre for the Arts, she has helped create a community recreational space where people can spend time, learn something, perform or take in a performance themselves.

“The Alcove Centre for the Arts… is like a gym for arts or a creative playground. And so we call it a recreational art space or recreational community art space,” she says. “And so that’s pretty much where the idea of Alcove birthed, through various conversations with friends that felt like there weren’t really places to spend time. And even though a lot of my friends wouldn’t have considered themselves artists, they wanted to come in and just paint somewhere….

“So when you come into our space — we’re open five days a week and anyone can come in, use a variety of creative supplies that we have there, and it ranges from performance, you know, instruments to visual arts to textiles. So really anything that you can do in your living room, you could do at Alcove.”

Starting a community hub is no easy task, and securing a space for your vision can be daunting and difficult. According to Afework, the key is to not go too big too soon. “Start small. Don’t start with a space… what is important is the concept, and so if that concept could be replicated in a variety of spaces, then you’re kind of working towards getting a space naturally,” she says. “…I dream big all the time, but then it’s like, when it comes to wanting to get to that dream, it’s like, okay, but what could I do tomorrow? What can I do next week? What can I realistically do this quarter, this year?

“People see a space being run and they see people leading a space, but they don’t understand that leadership sometimes isn’t just telling people what to do, you know, it’s just going and doing that thing yourself. It’s filling the gaps when they need to be filled.”

Tune into this week’s Storytelling Podcast to hear more from Bethel Afework and how The Alcove Centre has and continues to evolve and serve the city’s arts community.


About The Storytelling Podcast

Sharing diverse stories of creativity in our city, The Storytelling Podcast shines a spotlight on artists and projects that connect Calgarians to the arts. Part of The Storytelling Project, this series raises awareness about Calgarians who, by living creative lives, are making Calgary a better city, affecting positive change and enriching others’ lives.

Have a story to share? Email us at submissions@calgaryartsdevelopment.com.

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