Provincial funding helps local musicians share their talent

By Kevin Rodriguez

The Safe at Home Festival lineup./Photo provided by the Manitoba Arts Network.

The Manitoba Arts Network and the West End Cultural Centre brought the Safe at Home Festival to homes around the province thanks to provincial grants.

The festival happened exclusively online from late February to the end of March. Music fans can check out the performances on Manitoba Arts Network YouTube channel.

“Really, this wasn’t much different than any other performance,” said Cohen Sieg, a folk/pop singer-songwriter who performed on March 17 as a part of the RBC Emerging Artists Project. “It involved a lot of time rehearsing my set and the things I wanted to say between songs.”

The festival hosted a wide variety of events like performances, art classes, and art exhibitions.

Performers played at the empty WECC to a virtual audience. After, the performers did a Q&A with the audience through a chat function.

“I don’t see things getting much better anytime soon,” Sieg said. “I’m going to keep doing online shows, whether it be pre-recorded or live-streamed.”

As case numbers drop and artists start announcing shows, some people are still uncertain if they will attend live performances. 

“I am a little worried about going to concerts in person when cases are lower,” said Kylie Mann, a psychology student at the University of Winnipeg.

“I personally don’t think I would go to an in-person concert unless the majority of the population is vaccinated or if the vaccination is a requirement to be able to attend.”

During the Safe at Home Festival, Jorge Requena Ramos, the artistic director at the WECC, said staff followed all COVID-19 guidelines so performers feel safe while performing to their virtual audience.

“We focused mostly on smaller ensembles and people who were bubbled together,” said Jorge Requena Ramos, the artistic director at the WECC. 

Ramos said the funding from the Manitoba’s Safe at Home Grant Program makes it possible for events like this and others to become a reality to keep people entertained in the absence of live shows.

The funding provides Manitobans with creative and engaging activities and events that people can attend from their home.

“The funding was in essence the cornerstone and battery of these projects. These funds can help us do enormous projects well,” said Ramos.

With events like these, the Manitoba Arts Network and the WECC give artists and audiences a way to engage creatively while also staying safe.