As most people working in the arts can appreciate, it’s not easy to break in to the ‘business.’ When you’re in school, questions of how you’re going to make it as a writer or an artist can be put off until later. But after the initial excitement and disbelief of graduation dies down, those worries are still there.
The Creative Practices Institute’s raison d’être was to be a landing place for students. Located in a little house in the Oliver neighbourhood of Edmonton, co-founders Brittney Roy and Connor Buchanan dedicated the modest space to supporting local artists and creative professionals in any way they could.
But in May the house was indefinitely closed. The high cost of maintaining the overhead on the two-storey non-profit, coupled with heavy demand on their volunteers, was just too much.
Roy and Buchanan recently filled me in over email on the two busy years they were in business. Both were proud of their internship program. For those with fledgling ideas of working as an arts administrator, they served up crucial practical experience in a wide range of specializations from exhibition or curatorial work all the way to event management. At the end of the program, they were able to provide their interns with references, which helped them find steady employment in the arts.
Another major initiative was the Creatives in Residence program. Rooms in the house were rented out as studios to all manner of artistic folk. While a large chunk remained occupied by visual artists, there were also musicians, writers, and photographers.
One such visual artist was Marina Fridman, who was a resident there for both years.
“Running into fellow Creatives in Residence…often led to impromptu critiques, stimulating discussions, new friendships and inspiration,” she says. She also appreciated the exhibitions put on in the building from time to time, which meant opportunities to network with other members of the arts community in Edmonton. Now, with a reference from Buchanan, Fridman has been accepted at one of the top ten Masters of Fine Arts programs in America on full scholarship.
While Roy and Buchanan have already filled up their professional calendars, the closure of the Creative Practices Institute does represent a gap for the broader artistic community.
And even though both women have cause for pessimism, they still hold out hope that other businesses will step up and take over where they left off.
“I think there will always be people in Edmonton who will take the risk and start something new,” says Buchanan.