As part of its mission to be a truly “national” arts centre, the NAC produces a series of biennial festivals designed to showcase the artistic talents and culture of the many different regions of Canada.
The instant and resounding success of the first of these festivals, Atlantic Scene in 2003, demonstrated the importance of this innovative multidisciplinary festival format. Performers such as Natalie MacMaster, comedian Rick Mercer, Buck 65 and Marie-Jo Thério, opera singer Measha Breuggergosman and visual artist Christopher Pratt were just some of the more than 500 artists presented in the Atlantic Scene’s 85 events.
Two years later it was Alberta’s turn. From April 28 to May 10, 2005, Alberta Scene featured more than 600 artists in 95 events, making it the largest celebration of Alberta culture ever held inside or outside the province. Notable performers included the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Alberta Ballet, pianist Katherine Chi, blues guitarist Amos Garrett, country singer Terri Clark, jazz musician P.J. Perry and The Corb Lund Band. During Alberta Scene, more than 85 presenters from 13 different countries – among them the USA, France, Britain, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and Korea – were introduced to the impressive artistic line-up, discovering new talent to be featured across Canada and around the world.
In 2007, Quebec Scene featured more than 700 artists from every discipline, including an exciting mix of new works, a number of which were co-produced by the festival: A little tenderness for crying out loud! by choreographer Dave St-Pierre, Norman, produced by 4D art, Les Entrailles by Claude Gauvreau, produced by Théâtre La Catapulte, the nomadic theatre experience of Welcome to… (a city where you are a tourist) by Olivier Choinière, and the commission of Making Real, a major visual and media arts exhibition that explored the artist’s relationship to reality.
BC Scene, which brought together 600 artists from British Columbia, took over the National Capital Region from April 21 to May 3, 2009. Highlights included Diana Krall, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s first Ottawa appearance since 1976, George Ryga’s landmark play The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, Theatre Replacement’s BIOBOXES, the world premiere of Crystal Pite’s new work Dark Matters, and an indie rock showcase headlined by Vancouver’s Black Mountain. The festival’s visual and media arts programming was particularly strong as almost 70 artists took part in 16 exhibitions at galleries throughout Ottawa and Gatineau.
The most recent festival was Prairie Scene, which took place from April 26 to May 8, 2011. More than 500 artists from Manitoba and Saskatchewan took part in the festival, including music legends Bachman & Turner, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Colin James. Other highlights included acclaimed theatre productions Gordon Winter and La Troupe du Jour’s Rearview, stunning contemporary dance by Robin Poitras and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and the world premiere of Guy Maddin’s Tales from the Gimli Hospital: Reframed.
To make these festivals a reality, the National Arts Centre collaborates with more than 70 public, corporate, artistic and individual partners. Extensive media coverage, both print and electronic, ensures that news of the Scenes and their artists crosses the country. To date, the Scenes have generated nearly 800 print media articles and more than 90 hours of radio and television coverage, providing important visibility for artists from coast to coast.
Building on the momentum of these five successful festivals, the National Arts Centre is turning to Canada’s North. Beginning April 25, 2013, 250 artists from Yukon, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut will take over the Ottawa / Gatineau arts and culture scene for a 10-day festival. The National Arts Centre is inviting the North’s most dynamic artists to create a portrait of the region’s cultural diversity at the beginning of the 21st century. Musicians, actors, dancers, visual and media artists, writers, storytellers and master chefs will come together for a festival that showcases, and above all, celebrates a unique region of the country.