Artstrek - an Alberta treasure

Each summer, hundreds of young Albertans converge on Red Deer College to participate in Artstrek, a summer theatre intensive produced by Theatre Alberta.  While it was not always run by this PASO (Provincial Arts Service Organization), Artstrek has been around a long time.  This was the 56th edition.

Our son Dylan has been attending Artstrek for a number of years.  To describe the impact that it has had on him is almost impossible to describe.  He not only found his "tribe", he has made invaluable connections with theatre professionals, learned important skills, experienced processes that will serve him throughout his life, and become a stronger Albertan.  I'm convinced that Artstrek helped him discover himself and how he fits in the world.  You just can't quantify what that means to a young person trying to find their sense of self.

This was my first time picking up Dylan on sharing day.  Heather did the pick up the previous two summers.  She described the sharing showcase and the tear-filled goodbyes that followed, so I was somewhat prepared.  However, no story or pictures could prepare me for seeing and hearing over 100 emerging theatre artists belting out a song from In the Heights, a musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda.  The power in their voices, the intensity of their resolve, and the pride of accomplishment for what they had learned and experienced was stunning.

As they streamed by me singing, sitting in my favourite spot in a seat on the end of the aisle, it was a sonic sampling of a great diversity of voices.  I felt like I was being surrounded by the future of theatre in Alberta.  I couldn't help but feel that it is a future incredibly bright, unpredictable and exciting.

I knew several of the organizers, supervisors and teachers at Artstrek from my years volunteering on the Theatre Alberta board and working at Keyano Theatre. It was wonderful to connect with several of them and hear their effusive comments about Dylan and the program.  These folks LOVE the Artstrek experience, particularly Exploration III, as this is the older group getting wound up to be unleashed on the world.

Having the funding and the mandate to put on an immersive summer arts experience like Artstrek is one thing, but having the heart and instincts to make it matter is something completely different.  Theatre Alberta has done an extraordinary job shaping this learning experience, and making it a foundational pillar in the career arc of young Albertans considering a life in theatre.  Who knows how many of these 101 participants will go on to post secondary and pursue a professional career in the arts.  Some will, some won't.  Frankly, it doesn't matter to me in the slightest.  What is far more important is that they have had an experience and learned skills that will serve them no matter where they decide to go in life.  The value of that is beyond measure.


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