Cheryl Foggo and Clem Martini with their daughters in Ward 1’s ravine park
Cheryl Foggo and Clem Martini with their daughters | Photo: Courtesy of Chery Foggo

Cheryl Foggo

Month of the Artist celebrates the valuable contributions artists make to Alberta

Cheryl Foggo

Cheryl Foggo has been published and produced extensively as a journalist, screenwriter, poet, playwright, writer of fiction and non-fiction, and as a young adult novelist. She has a particular interest in sharing the history of Black pioneers on the prairies and has written extensively on that subject in books, magazines, and anthologies.

Follow her on Twitter at @cdfoggo and like her Facebook author page at facebook.com.

What city ward do you live in?

I live in Ward 1.

How do you describe yourself as an artist?

My work has included making films and working in television, writing journalism for magazines, creating theatre both as a playwright and a producer, and writing books for adults, young adults, and children. When people ask me what I do, I say I’m a writer to keep it simple.

Although I’m not attached to any archival or academic institution, I also identify as a historian because a lot of my storytelling is focused on Western Canada’s African-Canadian history.

What does living a creative life mean to you?

I have been immersed daily in the practice of creative pursuits for so long that I’m not sure how to answer this question. It’s almost like being asked, “What does living while breathing mean to you?”

Most of my days are occupied either with artistic creation of my own or the drinking in of the creative output of other artists. I listen to music while I work, make dinner, and go for walks. I fall asleep either to music or narrated stories. I read every day. I write most days, and when a day passes when I can’t write, I’m still spinning stories in my head. My husband, Clem Martini, is also a writer and when we talk about things that happen to us, we often say (with apologies to whoever it was that originated this phrase) “Everything is either a good time or a good story.”

Two of my closest friends are professional visual artists and through them I have learned to see the world in pictures and images. I attend theatre, dance concerts, films, and live music events frequently. One of the greatest benefits of living in the realm of the artist, from my perspective, is becoming a good problem-solver because creativity filters into every aspect of life.

What do you love about Calgary and what is one place you go to find inspiration in Calgary?

The earth and air here have a particular fragrance during and after a rain, which I love and miss when I’m away. I genuinely love Stampede breakfasts and barbecues. I also love it that so many outstanding artists in many fields choose to live and work here.

I never find inspiration when I go somewhere looking for it, it nearly always comes in unlikely places at unexpected moments. I do sometimes visit parks to ground myself or remind myself of things. Those include Bowness Park and the nearby Douglass Fir Tree Sanctuary, the river valley/ravine in my ward, and Heritage Park.

If you could do one thing this year to make Calgary a better place to live, what would it be?

I would revive the Calgary International Children’s Festival. I lament the loss of it deeply.

What piece of advice would you give to an emerging artist?

I would gently suggest that momentum is important in an artistic career. Value and maintain the contacts you make with other artists who share your vision. Practice the skills you develop every time you work and apply them to the next project. Be prepared to be thinking about what you’re going to do next, even as you wrap up a venture.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a documentary film with the NFB called John Ware Reclaimed, as well as collaborating with two Edmonton writers on a new book about historical Black life in Western Canada. I’m also gestating a new work for the theatre in the playwrights group at Alberta Theatre Projects.

To learn more about Alberta’s Black history and the stories I’ll be unfolding in the new book, you can hear about Amber Valley from myself and others in this short documentary produced by TELUS.


About Alberta’s Month of the Artist

January is the Month of the Artist in Alberta, an annual celebration of artists and the value they bring to the province, both socially and economically.

Dedicated by the Government of Alberta, the Month of the Artist is a way to say thank you for making the province a better place to live.

Calgary Arts Development is pleased to share the stories of artists who choose to live and work in Calgary.

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

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