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Last Thursday morning the brand new sets for the Mount Royal University/Theatre Calgary production of Romeo and Juliet were loaded out of the rehearsal hall and over to Princes’ Island Park. By that night, the sets were under water, as were the dressing room trailers. (Christopher Loach)
Last Thursday morning the brand new sets for the Mount Royal University/Theatre Calgary production of Romeo and Juliet were loaded out of the rehearsal hall and over to Princes’ Island Park. By that night, the sets were under water, as were the dressing room trailers. (Christopher Loach)

How Alberta's arts scene is grappling with the flood and devastation Add to ...

While the Calgary Stampede is promising its show will go on next week “come hell or high water,” it’s not the only arts/entertainment organization in the city dealing with the devastation caused by the unprecedented flooding. On Tuesday, Calgary Arts Development launched an effort to determine the impact of the flooding on arts organizations and independent artists, so that “appropriate relief” can be provided. Groups are still assessing the damage. The manager of Calgary’s Culture Division, for example, says how public art has fared is still unclear. “We do know we have a number of pieces in the affected areas, but we have not yet been able to get close to them to assess how well they have held up against the raging water,” Sarah Iley wrote in an e-mail late Monday. Here are some institutions that have been hit hard.

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Sled Island

Calgary’s Sled Island music and arts festival is one of the city’s most anticipated events of the summer, with a fine alternative-music lineup that this year included acts such as the Joel Plaskett Emergency and the Jesus and Mary Chain. By Thursday, it was apparent that the festival was in trouble: The Sled Island offices were evacuated early that afternoon; an outdoor event later that afternoon went ahead for a couple of hours, but had to be shut down when the site – in the East Village – was evacuated as well. Staff scrambled and managed to move various acts to dry venues – the John K. Samson show, for instance, was relocated in a flurry to the Globe Cinema. “On Thursday night, we really did everything in our power,” says festival executive director Maud Silva. “But on Friday morning, this entire thing was just beyond us.” The remainder of the festival was cancelled. Still, the show went on – in some cases – with impromptu gigs in bars and even homes throughout the weekend, including a show by headliners the Night Marchers that became a bar gig at a spot called the Rock Lounge. The festival does not have cancellation insurance. “If literally everyone asks for their money back, it would be an incredible financial challenge,” Silva says. She says the support the festival has received so far has been remarkable, and she’s hoping for some federal relief. “I think everyone who was involved this year really believed in the festival and believes it’s important to have us back next year, so they will act accordingly and support us as best they can.”

Shakespeare in the Park

Last Thursday morning, a week before the scheduled opening, the brand-new sets for the Mount Royal University/Theatre Calgary production of Romeo and Juliet were moved out of the rehearsal hall and over to Prince’s Island Park. By that night, the sets were under water, as were the dressing-room trailers. The financial loss amounts to about $50,000, but it could have been much worse; quick-acting staff managed to get $200,000 worth of sound equipment out of the park before it was lost. The cast and production staff are now regrouping. On Monday, they were rehearsing in a donated space in a strip mall in a dry part of town – no sets, no props (props are locked up at Theatre Calgary’s offices, which have been evacuated) – where director (and Soulpepper Theatre founding member) Joseph Ziegler made an impassioned plea: We don’t need all this stuff, he told his cast, all we need is each other. By Tuesday, they had moved to a proper rehearsal space. The cast is planning to perform an intimate show somewhere – possibly a high school – for family and friends on Thursday night, which would have been opening night, and will later open to the general public. A new site has yet to be confirmed, but the production is working with Mount Royal University to stage the show there – without sets.

National Music Centre

The National Music Centre has an astonishing collection of more than 2,000 musical instruments and artifacts – ranging from a 16th-century harpsichord to early synthesizers to Elton John’s old piano. Many of these amazing items are on display at the NMC’s current facility, but some are in basement storage. Early this week, a disaster-recovery team was busy cleaning out the basement, which did get some water, and a museum heritage-restoration specialist from Ottawa was on-site to assess what damage had been sustained to those stored items. NMC officials were trying to source an alternate site for those items. “The core of the collection is safe,” reports NMC president and chief executive officer Andrew Mosker. “The biggest threat we have right now is mould, and we’re doing everything we can to contain it.” The organization recently broke ground on a new $135-million home for the centre in a different part of town, the low-lying East Village. The site was “completely submerged,” according to Mosker, but “hasn’t been compromised at all.” The site – including the old King Eddy hotel, which is being restored as part of the huge project, was completely drained by Monday. “Our construction manager has said to us that the site is stable,” Mosker added. The NMC’s offices and public facility remain closed until further notice, and all public events have been postponed.

Les Misérables

It was not a little fall of rain, of course, but the flooding would not stop this show from going on: Cameron Mackintosh’s new 25th-anniversary touring production of Les Misérables was to open Tuesday night as planned at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. With parts of the TransCanada Highway closed, the company took alternative routes from Vancouver (where the show closed on Sunday) – travelling up through Jasper and down through Edmonton – to get the sets and costumes to Calgary by late Monday night. For Calgarians who can’t make it to a performance for which they’ve purchased tickets, exchanges are being offered for a show later in the 16-performance run.

Stride

The artist-run centre on Macleod Trail SE took in water – at one point it was three feet deep, gallery director Larissa Tiggelers estimates. As a result, there is significant damage to its Project Room space, where Montreal artist Mona Sharma was showing her fibre-based work, and to the gallery’s basement archives, which included publications going back to 1986, when the gallery first opened, as well as a library of rare art books. Work by Toronto-based artist Serena McCarroll, which was installed in the gallery’s main space upstairs, appears to be largely undamaged. The non-profit does not have flood insurance; Tiggelers expects it will incur “some pretty serious costs.”

EPCOR Centre

The EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts remains closed, and all of its events are cancelled for now, including an Esperanza Spalding concert planned for the Jack Singer Concert Hall Wednesday night. Calgary-born-and-raised comedian Chris Griffin, who has gigs scheduled there Friday and Saturday, says he will donate all proceeds from the performances, should they proceed, to flood relief. The flood affected the parkade and elevator shafts at the more than 400,000-square-foot complex; repairs will be required for the elevators, and the parkade requires significant cleaning, which can’t occur until water bans are lifted.

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