Create Calgary: Living a Creative Life

Illustrated portraits of Cindy Ady, Andrew Phung and Nicole Gomes.
From left to right: Cindy Ady, Andrew Phung and Nicole Gomes | Illustrations by Laurel Dziuba

Create Calgary: Living a Creative Life

With Andrew Phung, Nicole Gomes and Cindy Ady

This article was originally published in Create Calgary, a new arts magazine launched by Calgary Arts Development in 2022 to celebrate the work of artists who call Mohkinsstsis/Calgary home. You can pick up a free copy at public libraries, community recreation centres and other places where you find your favourite magazines. You can also read the digital version online here.

We speak with Canadian actor, improviser and comedian Andrew Phung, chef and co-founder of Cluck ‘N’ Cleaver Nicole Gomes, and Tourism Calgary CEO Cindy Ady about what art and living a creative life means to them:

What does it mean to you to live a creative life?

Andrew: “Living a creative life is doing something every day that is creatively stimulating, challenging, interesting and fun for me. Every day, I ask myself, ‘Is this something I want to do? Will this add to my creativity and my joy?’ That’s something that’s really moved me forward for the last decade.”

Cindy: “For me to live a creative life, it’s about seeing what that creative energy brings into the city. People come to our city for a specific reason, but once they’re here, that’s when we see them take in whatever’s happening from a creative standpoint and see what makes [Calgary] wonderful and unique and alive.”

Nicole: “It’s really following your passion, and I think art comes from your own experience. So, when I make food, it’s my experience of life and what I’ve been doing for 30 years. It’s quite a creative process; it takes time, self-reflection and curiosity. Art is curious.”

What Calgary art event/piece/happening/show, etc. do you most look forward to and why?

Andrew: “I’m always on the hunt for things happening in the city because [Calgary] has so many hustlers and movers and shakers who, as we reopen the world, are so filled with ideas that they want to put on and share. But, I always do a show at the Loose Moose Theatre, and, if there’s no show, I always go to a class.”

Nicole: “I love that Calgary has a lot of great galleries and artists. And it’s not just art as in physical pieces of art, but also music and ballet. Honens Festival is especially amazing. So, I follow all the things I love.”

Cindy: “I like the random, street-side artist events; to me, that’s just fun. The last time the Junos were in town, we were able to hire artists who spontaneously got on the CTrain and just started playing. We were even able to bring Chinook Blast to life, creating a winter festival, which hired some 800 artists. So, to me, it is really fun to be able to have people who have really great talent be able to perform in unique places.”

What has or does surprise you about Calgary’s art scene?

Andrew: “I’m always impressed and positively surprised at how well we’re able to pivot. Through COVID, [artists went] online or did shows with smaller casts. There’s also a pivot in the art community of doing work around social justice, ensuring more equality and representation on our stages and elevating voices that haven’t always been heard. So, we’re always pivoting, and we’re always willing to go the extra mile.”

Cindy: “How diverse it is. I’ve always been amazed that we can have world-class ballet, opera, jazz, art and more. It’s a reflection of the people who live here that they bring world-class art to Calgary.”

Nicole: “That there is such a prominent art scene. People think we’re the underdog compared to Vancouver or Toronto because we’re a Prairie city, but Calgary is a lot more diversified than possibly the rest of Canada thinks. There’s a lot of creative young people [here], and it’s a very supportive community.”

What do you want other Canadians to know about Calgary’s art scene?

Andrew: “I want people to know how good we are, how first-class our theatre productions are, how first-class our artwork is and how our creators and creatives are doing such amazing work.”

Cindy: “I’m always stunned and surprised when people are unaware of how much is actually going on. We’re not New York, but we have a lot of high-quality shows and different types of culture and art in Calgary, compared to the size of the city. In the summer, there are a lot of festivals going on one after another, and I’m in love with Chinook Blast because it happens at an unexpected time of the year.”

Nicole: “There are so many things about Alberta that are amazing. And it’s not just [visual] arts either; it’s culinary arts, visual arts, sculpture and music. It’s a lot more than people think.”