Jessica McMann is a Calgary-based Cree musician, contemporary dancer, and choreographer. Also a classically trained flutist with a Bachelor of Music from the University of Calgary, her recent compositions and soundscapes explore Indigenous identity and history.
What city ward do you live in?
North Glenmore in Ward 11.
How do you describe yourself as an artist?
I am an Indigenous inter-disciplinary artist. I work in performance (music, dance, art) and composition (music, dance) as well as in traditional Indigenous art forms.
What does living a creative life mean to you?
Living a creative life for me includes actively working on my own projects, but to also engaging in a variety of arts experiences beyond my own work. It is important to me to be creative outside my creative work, to continue to find the joy in exploring. It is so easy for me to get caught up in my artist practice as “work” and forget that taking a sculpture class, or a free paint-in-the-park session can also be rewarding and needed.
What do you love about Calgary and what is one place you go to find inspiration in Calgary?
I find inspiration driven by the land in and around Calgary. Inspiration for me comes from within myself and I have a deep respect and gratitude for the land on which we live. I love that Calgary has such a large park network, and that these parks are huge with lots of space and gorgeous places.
If you could do one thing this year to make Calgary a better place to live, what would it be?
I would like to see accessible and enriching artistic programs available to everyone regardless of citizenship, identity, and gender. Accessible meaning financially and physically.
I would like to see more diversity in what gets presented in festivals, and in the founding artistic institutions here. It is already beginning and it is such an exciting time to be in Calgary with all the artistic growth that is happening. Calgary is already such a beautiful place to live, it can be enriched by artistic diversity and the subsequent support for that diversity.
What piece of advice would you give to an emerging artist?
Diversify your skill set. This includes learning how to network, office admin (for yourself and others), writing (for grants, exhibits, etc.). Learn a bit about the extra work that occurs in your artistic form.
For myself, I have a basic understanding of lighting, sound design, etc. Teaching is also a skill set that can help you, not only does it make you a better artist, but it is an art form in itself. A diverse skill set that surrounds your main practice can help you be successful. And always pursue learning.
What are you currently working on?
I am finishing my thesis project which is a highly structured improvisation that was created with and on the land that I grew up on.
I am also preparing to record my first CD and rehearsing for the mini-tours of my two dance works for young audiences—Powwow Mash-UP and Nimihitowin!—this spring while looking forward to partaking in the Indigenous Classical Musicians Summit organized by Cris Derksen at the Banff Centre in February.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.