This year has been hard for everyone. For Edmonton Fringe, it’s meant closed theatres, cancelled events, lost revenue, ever-changing plans, and, most impactful of all, not being able to do what we do best: help artists connect with audiences. But through it all, we have adapted, re-imagined, and kept the ghost light burning bright. And now, this August we’ll fringe together again. These innovations, technologies, and lessons are thanks in large part to EPCOR’s Heart + Soul Fund.
We sat down with EPCOR’s Jennifer Addison, SVP, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, to chat about how they’ve lifted up the arts and helped sustain artists and arts organizations.
We’re celebrating 40 years of iconic Fringe moments. What is your favourite Fringe memory?
Jennifer (J): A long time ago (don’t ask me how long ago!) I was an Arts student in the University of Alberta’s Drama Department. I had many friends in the BA and BFA Acting programs, all of us committed to everything to do with live performance. After my first year at the U of A in the program, I remember seeing some of my friends write, participate, and perform in Edmonton Fringe productions.
I was so proud of them for showcasing their talent and passion for the performing arts. The Fringe provides so many opportunities to new and emerging artists. For me these days as a mom to young theatre lovers, I can’t wait to take my kids back to Fringe so they can experience the magic of fringing once again.
Can you tell our fringers a bit about the EPCOR Heart + Soul Fund?
J: We know that arts and culture contribute to the heart and soul of any community and these sectors were hit hard during the pandemic. What we were hearing is that many organizations were experiencing revenue losses and facing costly re-programming initiatives. Almost overnight, organizations like the Fringe were forced to become online content creators and faced some very difficult choices on how to move forward.
EPCOR established the Heart + Soul Fund in 2020 with support and consultation from community partners and leaders working in philanthropy, business, government, and arts and culture. These conversations were integral to the design and details of the fund, helping ensure it provided the most tangible impact to organizations that bring joy and vital social supports to our community.
Overall, since 2020, we’ve distributed more than $3 million in pandemic relief and recovery funding to arts organizations, theatres, festivals, and attractions, which is in addition to the more than $1 million we provide in community support every year.
Why is the EPCOR Heart + Soul Fund excited to support the Edmonton Fringe?
J: The past year and a half has presented numerous challenges – including unprecedented damage to the arts community. Theatres and arts venues were initially forced to close their doors, and many of our beloved festivals were canceled. Even more devastating was the impact on individual artists, creators, performers, support staff, and volunteers. So many people either lost work, or had their incomes severely disrupted.
It was extremely important to EPCOR that our funding helped support the artists and cultural community members whose artistic practices and livelihoods were directly impacted by the pandemic.
The Fringe is a cornerstone of Edmonton’s vibrant performing arts community and a well-known global festival that brings talent and tourism to our city every year. Ensuring Edmontonians can re-engage in their favourite Fringe traditions is ever –more important this year, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to support this programming.
Tell us about a moment where you’ve felt the good that the EPCOR Heart + Soul Fund has brought to the community.
J: Our communities counts on us to keep their utilities working. But they also count on us to be there during difficult times. This is one of those times.
My favourite ‘feel-good’ moments have been hearing the stories from artists who found themselves suddenly without work in their field, and with no real certainty on when a return to work might come. When they had an opportunity for paid work to perform in new ways throughout the pandemic with help from the Heart + Soul Fund, it has made such a huge difference for them. Same goes for some of the arts organizations that said they couldn’t have pulled off their event or project without EPCOR’s support, or that we “saved them.”
The talent, the energy, and the innovation was all there – being able to provide the incremental funding to make their ideas come to life has been so rewarding. But the best part has got to be seeing all the various relaunch strategies start to come together. I can’t wait to be back in a theatre!
This year’s theme is Together We Fringe, so considering your past (or current) Fringe experiences, finish this sentence: Together we _____.
J: Together we Thrive! Fringing is such an essential part of a thriving performing arts community, and the Edmonton Fringe Festival is no exception. Let’s fringe and thrive together again!
“Together, we share our gratitude! EPCOR has restored the heart and soul of Edmonton Fringe. Their support has allowed us to reimagine the Fringe experience and bring community together again after an exceptionally isolating year. With their help, we’ve safely, mindfully supported artists in the return to live performance.
We’ve brought audiences together to share in that magic moment that happens when the house lights go out and stage lights come up. We’ve found ways to get our industry back to work. Thank you, EPCOR. Together We Fringe: A Fringe Theatre Event – however small, however scaled, however safe – would not exist without your generous support!”
– Megan Dart, Interim Executive Director, Edmonton Fringe Theatre
What happens here in Edmonton doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. It’s going to be a long road back to the Edmonton Fringe experience we’ve built together over the past four decades.
Will you help support the future of Edmonton Fringe? Your gift will help us imagine what’s possible for the next 40 years for fringing.
Thank you for caring, thank you for the last 40 years, and thank you for supporting the future of Fringe.