Cultivating community engagement
The annual Heart of the City Music and Arts Festival will take over Giovanni Caboto Park again this Saturday and Sunday as it highlights inner city artists for the 14th year in a row.
Charity Slobod, an organizing board member for the festival, has helped run the event for six years, and she says its primary goal is always the same.
“The main focus, and the most important point, is really giving a platform and helping inspire inner city musicians, artists, slam poets—you name it,” Slobod says. “If you sing it, you can play it, you can be on our stage.”
This year, about 80 volunteers will help with setup, production and teardown of the free-to-attend festival, and Slobod says the festival’s increased attendance in recent years helped them book a wider range of artists while still adhering to the core mission.
“We’re bringing in larger musical acts, or people who are not immediately part of the community to also kind of help shape the conversation between what happens in the heart of the city as well as what’s happening around the city,” she says.
When it comes to selecting artists for the festival, Slobod says it’s all about cultivating engagement and community participation.
“If they come and volunteer here, or they work here, or their friends spend a lot of time here, we see that interconnectedness as being very important and crucial to our festival,” Slobod says.
This year’s festival features 45 different musical acts, spanning styles from traditional drumming to chanting, metal, hip hop, ambient folk rock and more.
Edmonton-based singer/songwriter Jay Gilday highlights the main stage Saturday night, returning to the festival after releasing his second full-length album, Faster Than Light, in December.
“We predict in a few years, it’s going to be very difficult to get him back on our stage,” Slobod says. “But we’re so excited to have him this year.”
Gilday will be joined by other familiar names like Will Belcourt and John Guliak. Mile Zero Dance marks its first collaboration with the festival since the company’s move to the McCauley neighbourhood.
“Their studio is right across from Giovanni Caboto Park, so it was kind of a no-brainer that we do something together,” Slobod says. “We’re super excited to have performance art and performance dance as part of our festival this year.”
The inclusion of new local voices is a bid to grow the festival even further.
“The more people we get to our festival, the more that when we write for grants we can really talk about its importance and its impact,” Slobod says.
This year’s unique t-shirt design for the festival came from Brandon Quill, an artist from the iHuman Youth Society. It features a yellow feathered-heart with a crow inside that’s holding a sagebrush in its claws.
Quill’s design is another example of the inclusivity that the festival champions. Slobod anticipates another successful festival weekend this year because of it.
“It’s all about diversity, openness, and art,” Slobod says. “We hope people are able to come in and explore art themselves, but also maybe be inspired to be part of it in years to come.”
Sat., June 3 (10 am-10 pm) and Sun., June 4 (10 am-6 pm)
Heart of the City Music and Arts Festival
Giovanni Caboto Park, free