Recap: 2015 Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts

The 28th annual Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts took place last night at the Winspear Centre. This was the second event under Mayor Don Iveson and he seemed to be having just as much fun this year as last! He got in on the break-dancing to start the evening and also joined The Wet Secrets on stage to close out the show. This was also a big year for the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton, which produces the show. PACE has both a new visual identity and for the first time, an Executive Director (Sheiny Satanove).

2015 Mayor's Celebration of the Arts
Hey Ladies in front of the Production World screen featuring art by Jason Carter

The evening was hosted by Leona Brausen, Cathleen Rootsaert, and Davina Stewart, the trio behind the comedy show Hey Ladies which “celebrates Edmonton artists, local businesses, and other home-grown phenomenon.” They’ve called the Roxy Theatre on 124 Street home for the past eight years, so it was fitting to have them as emcees given that this year’s event supported Theatre Network. You can find Hey Ladies at the ATB Financial Arts Barns this season. I thought they did a great job as hosts, bringing just the right amount of energy and humor to keep things humming along!

The Awards

The full list of nominees is available at the PACE website. Here are the winners:

Mayor’s Award for Innovative Support by a Business of the Arts
Happy Harbor Comics, nominated by Jeff Martin

Mayor’s Award for Sustained Support of the Arts
Audrey’s Books, nominated by LitFest and the Alberta Book Fair Society

John Poole Award for Promotion of the Arts
Alexis Marie Chute, nominated by Wes Lafortune

ATB Financial Ambassador of the Arts Award
Rapid Fire Theatre, nominated by the Rapid Fire Theatre Board of Directors

ATCO Gas Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement
The Honourable Tommy Banks

CN Award for Youth Artist
Kieran MacDonald, nominated by Victoria School of the Arts

DIALOG Award for Excellence in Artistic Direction
Amy Shostak, nominated by Christopher Samuel

Mile Zero Dance Progressive Artist Award
Paul Freeman, nominated by the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts

Northlands Award for an Emerging Artist
Ahmed Knowmadic, nominated by Muna Saleh

The 2015 Robert Kroetch City of Edmonton Book Prize
Rudy Wiebe for Come Back published by Penguin Random House Canada

Syncrude Award for Excellence in Arts Management
Karen Brown-Fournell, nominated by Christine DeWitt

TELUS Courage to Innovate Award
Amber Borotsik, nominated by Ben Sures

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!

Tommy Banks is of course no stranger to Edmontonians and last night he was recognized for his “outstanding contribution to the arts in Edmonton.” He’s won several awards over his career (including a Juno and a Gemini), is a member of the Edmonton Cultural Hall of Fame, is a recipient of the Alberta Order of Excellence, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada. In addition to a short video about his accomplishments, we were treated to a couple of songs by the man himself.

2015 Mayor's Celebration of the Arts

One of the first things Mayor Iveson said on stage was how honored he was to be in the same building as Tommy Banks. It was fitting then that when Banks took the stage later in the evening to perform, he called out Mayor Iveson as hip and “probably the only mayor in the whole country” who would try to break-dance on stage!

The Entertainment

The evening’s entertainment lineup, sponsored by Qualico Communities, included:

And in the lobby, guests enjoyed art by Jennie Vegt and Jeff Collins, curated by The Works.

2015 Mayor's Celebration of the Arts

All of the performances were great but just like last year, I was particularly impressed by Mary Pinkoski. I thought the addition of Eva Foote and dancers Jeannie and Jodie Vandekerkhove nicely elevated her slam poetry. DJ CreeAsian brought a fun vibe to the evening and, combined with the incredible moves of Rhythm Speaks, opened the show with a lot of energy. I really enjoyed The Wet Secrets and Capital City Burlesque at the end of the night, even though it was probably a bit loud for some in the audience. Le Fuzz are no strangers to the Mayor’s Celebration and this year they provided the entertainment in the lobby after the show.

Other Thoughts

Was it just me or was there a very noticeable Make Something Edmonton undercurrent to the evening? Perhaps undercurrent is the wrong word as the term “maker” was used more than once throughout the event. It was in the speeches and it was in the art too, with Mary Pinkoski and Eva Foote’s performance and the snippet of Birdie on the Wrong Bus being the most overt. I’m not complaining – I love the newfound confidence that seems to be permeating Edmonton lately. Last night was just another example.

This was the second year for Catch the Keys Productions and they continue to take the event in new and interesting directions. Congrats to Megan and Beth on another excellent evening! The program had a good consistent pace even though more time was given this year to talk about the nominees (which I really appreciated). Elm Cafe was again brought in to cater snacks in the lobby (the fennel brown butter and garam masala popcorn was amazing) along with macarons from Duchess Bake Shop. I’m not sure the attendance was as strong as past years, and that’s too bad because it really was a great show!

For more photos from the evening, check out Diversity Magazine. You can read last year’s recap here.

See you at the 2016 Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts!

  • Joveena

    Thanks for your blog review, you captured the magic of the evening really well. Last night was my 1st time attending the MCA & was amazed at the diversity of Edmonton artists that I discovered last night. I was surprised by the vast swath of unoccupied Sponsor Seats (loge level) on both sides of Winspear — looked to be about 50 seats. If the Corporate Sponsors couldn’t use these prime seats, why not give them away to members of the Edmonton Arts Community groups?