Rozsa Arts at the Library

A circus performer at the Central Library
A performer at the Central Library | Photo: Courtesy of the Calgary Public Library

Rozsa Arts at the Library

Calgary didn’t just get a new library when the downtown library opened its doors in November 2018.

It got a whole new hub that connects various Calgary artists and arts groups to the city through the portal of the library.

And if the library staff, including Carolyn Reicher, its service delivery lead of community engagement and strategic events, has their way, the newest library and the oldest—Central Memorial—could dramatically redefine the definition of the word “artist.”

Reicher would like Calgarians—everyone from children to newcomers to old-timers—to make the switch from consuming art to creating it.

“Art isn’t simply something you view, or listen to,” she says. “It’s something you experience, or something you create—or co-create. It involves ideas, inspiration, creativity, innovation, thought, passion, and more.”

What she doesn’t say is that the Calgary Library wants to help enable the city to connect to its creative self.

The downtown library offers an abundance of entry points for Calgarians to tap into their creative selves, at a variety of skill levels and in a number of different media.

Rozsa Arts at the Library is a new program that funds performance arts groups from around town, ranging from emerging and amateur artists and companies to established arts groups.

The program plans to focus on five or six amateur or emerging artists and arts groups a year, meaning priority will be given to performing artists or small groups who might come from a range of different media, including music (vocal or instrumental), dance, theatre, puppetry, spoken word, circus or even magic.

That might not be the library you grew up visiting, but for Reicher, the secret to engaging the community is to activate it.

“The program aligns with the library’s strategic goals of empowering community by connecting patrons to ideas and experience, inspiration and thought. It lowers barriers to participation in the performing arts and supports the library as the preferred path for creative exploration, innovation and inspiration while enriching lives and realizing potentials,” she says.

Before you say wait a minute, aren’t libraries temples to literacy? There’s plenty of opportunities for readers—and listeners, who can access thousands of e-books with a free library card—at the library.

The library also has an author in residence program. In 2019, the inaugural visiting author in residence was Robert L Sawyer.

The author in residence serves as a kind of literary concierge, reading manuscript submissions if an aspiring author has written one (or a chunk of one)—but also is available to do a consultation or maybe even just to lend a sympathetic ear to someone who finds themselves stuck. The program is available to everyone, not just published writers.

There’s also an artist in residence program at the downtown library. Every three months, various artist from a trio of areas—Indigenous art and placemaking, children’s art and illustration and newcomers—take up residence, facilitate workshops, and exhibit their work. Artist in residence have included Samuel Obadero, Glenna Cardinal, and Seth Cardinal Dodginghorse.

Literary Hub

With Loft 112 almost right across the street in the East Village, and the Central Memorial Library being the home of Wordfest and its dozens of literary events, the downtown library has become part of a literary hub of the city—which is exactly the role a great library ought to play in every city, Reicher says.

And while there are those who fret that electronic devices are obliterating our love of reading and writing, she says the library has experienced quite the opposite.

“Rather than seeing a decreased interest in reading, Calgary Public Library has seen a persistent devotion to stories, language, reading, writing, and discussing of issues,” Reicher says.

“In fact, new media means new opportunity to engage people in ideas, imagination, and inspiration. As a flagship location, the Central Library offers excellence in many areas, including unique spaces, innovative programming—the salon series Print(ed) Word, for example—and the connection of Calgarians to new resources, ideas—and each other.”

Reicher points to an entire roster of creative possibilities for anyone looking for ways to express themselves.

That includes a musical instrument lending library and free music lessons at Central Memorial, engagements with Indigenous artists, in dance, visual art, and storytelling, western-themed performances that take place during Stampede, holiday music during December, an instrument petting zoo done in collaboration with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and the STREAM program for children (the “A” is for art).

There’s even an arts focused program during Alberta Culture Days every September, exhibiting local visual artists throughout the year at various branches, and partnerships with festivals such as Sled Island, Fairy Tales Film Festival, the Calgary Underground Film Festival, Marda Loop Justice Film Festival, and others.

If your idea of community includes art, the library is the perfect launch point, Reicher says.

“Art is one of the things that makes us human,” she says. “Art is one of the things in which the Calgary Public Library is investing, because of the difference it makes in people’s lives.”

About Arts in Action YYCArts in Action YYC Stories and data about how arts build a city

Arts in Action YYC captures stories and data about how arts build a city.

Large-scale and small, traditional and cutting-edge, amateur and professional, once-in-a-lifetime and part of daily life—all of these aspects combine into a vital arts ecosystem that helps a city thrive.

Produced annually by Calgary Arts Development, this online report captures the latest data related to Calgary’s arts sector along with a few stories from the community.

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