Reflecting for the Future featuring Daisy Deville

Welcome to the first edition of a regular feature on SubText , where we get thoughts and opinions from artists in our community about a positive vision for the future of art and creativity in Calgary and Western Canada.

In a town like Calgary, it’s easy to fall prey to artistic malaise. With our roots in the common sense colonial cowboy/pioneer culture, one which prioritizes hard work and traditional values over bleeding edge aesthetic expression, creatives of the left-of-centre sort can feel left out in the cold. Though there are some advantages to creating art out on an island, proverbially speaking, many times expressive people feel like they’re in a never ending fight to keep their dream and their vision of engaging art alive.

Burlesque Burn, Daisy Deville’s nine year project supporting her art form in Calgary

Burlesque Burn, Daisy Deville’s nine year project supporting her art form in Calgary

That struggle is neither unwelcome nor unusual for a true artist, and the last decade has undoubtedly seen great progress for our city’s creative culture. For those of us fighting the good fight, little lights at the end of the tunnel present themselves continually. One need look no further than the recent talk in Edmonton about official public mandate for harm reduction at underground dance music events to see an example of positive public engagement on behalf of esoteric art forms. It’s not a stretch to say that efforts to professionalize and legitimize dance music via efforts like the Alberta Electronic Music Conference have aided the community in the effort to raise positive profile for that issue, so hard work does pay off - enough, anyway.

This feature series is an exploration of the people in our community who are fighting alongside us to create positive space for a varied and dynamic creative culture in Calgary and Western Canada. We have asked a number of creatives the same question, and will here present their thoughts, minimally edited, for you, dear readers, to learn, think and ruminate on efforts we can all take to push our scene forward in an inclusive and thoughtful fashion.

What is that question, you ask? It comes in two parts, and it goes like this:

What is your vision for the best possible future of arts and creativity in Calgary and Western Canada? What tangible efforts and practices should the promoters, producers, artists and patrons of our city put in place to create a multi-faceted, equal playing field for artistic voices?

This question reflects not only artistic priorities, but cultural and political ones. In a time when economies and governments are more erratic and worrisome than ever, everyone is wondering how they can be included and reflected positively in the world around them, so hopefully by asking this question of a number of creators and leaders in our community, everyone can learn and gain perspective and move the needle in the right direction.

Daisy performing at  Le Cirque De La Nuit  in April, 2019.

Daisy performing at Le Cirque De La Nuit in April, 2019.

Daisy Deville has represented the art form of burlesque in Calgary for over a decade now, and in that time has been part of the foundation of a current reinvigoration of that art form. She’s not only produced dozens of events over the years, she’s literally started dozens, if not hundreds, of entire artistic journeys through her legendary Burlesque Burn school of burlesque.

A true relentless creator, she not only teaches and promotes for others, she is constantly crafting the tools of her art form by costuming, sewing and rhinestoning everything she can get her hands on, and in so doing has rounded herself into a complete package weapon of fierce feminine artistic expression.

She shared her thoughts with SubText on our question of a positive artistic future for our local culture - read below.

What is your vision for the best possible future of arts and creativity in Calgary and Western Canada?

Daisy Deville: The best possible future from my perspective would be: equal parts accessibility to creative spaces for artists; fair compensation for contracted arts and performances; equitable relationships between venues and artists or performers; positive communication channels within artistic communities; and an open-minded approach from city and bylaw regulators etc when it comes to artistic, music-centric and fringe events!

What tangible efforts and practices should the promoters, producers, artists and patrons of our city put in place to create a multi-faceted, equal playing field for artistic voices?

I believe there are a multitude of ways we can be better, but for starters:

- Stop asking your artists to do their art for free or for 'exposure bucks'. Even if you're fundraising - you are paying literally everyone else involved (are you asking the bar staff to work for free? The food to be catered free of charge?) - why not the entertainment?

- Be mindful in your casting / promoting decisions. You have the power to represent a broad spectrum, the power to provide an opportunity that could change a career, the opportunity to discover talent outside of your go-to circles, and the ability to influence the casting/promoting practices of others.

- If you are an artist, producer, promoter - try to support other people's events when you can. And try and pay the full cover if you can.

- Create and advocate for safe spaces. Be respectful backstage. Avoid hurtful and harmful gossip. Be professional. Learn how to call-in when necessary vs. call-out.

- Set an example in terms of pay, professionalism, inclusion, representation.

- Patrons: support your local arts by coming out to events, sharing, liking pages, engaging with posts - and cheer enthusiastically when we do something you like. ❤️

Written by James Nason with thoughts by Daisy Deville