Right on schedule
This year's festival promises to be a doozy

Paula White
Northern News Services

INUVIK (May 28/99) - Despite a slow start, plans for this year's Great Northern Arts Festival are well under way.

"Let's see...," laughed Marilyn Dzaman when asked how plans are going. "I mean, it's going well. It was a difficult beginning this year."

Dzaman and Tanya Van Valkenburg are the festival co-ordinators. Even though this is their third year organizing the event, Van Valkenburg said this is the first year the two are actually working on their own. Last year, they worked closely with one of the co-founders of the festival.

Van Valkenburg said she and Dzaman took on the task of "cleaning house" this year. She explained there were no financial or organizational structures in place, such as in-house bookkeeping and computerized accounting systems, so the two have spent much of the year so far setting some up.

"Consequently, things like fund-raising were delayed," Van Valkenburg said. "Up until a few weeks ago we weren't sure we were going to find the funds required."

However, that scare has since vanished since the Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development came through, as it does every year, with funding. But Van Valkenburg pointed out that GNAF is still in a deficit at the moment.

"So we have another few weeks to turn that around."

Dzaman explained that every year, the festival must finish with a surplus. Otherwise, it cannot continue the following year. It is by no means, she added, a guaranteed event each year.

"So it's very insecure in that way," she said. "We operate on faith and..."

"Cappuccinos," Van Valkenburg finished with a laugh. "We wish it was easier. It takes a huge emotional toll on us."

Ah, but there is a bright spot in all of this.

"Thank God for the artists," Dzaman breathed.

"Bright, shining lights," Van Valkenburg added.

Dzaman and Van Valkenburg said the artist selection committee has chosen 55 artists out of 140 applicants from outside the Beaufort Delta region to attend the festival. These artists are generally from around the NWT, Yukon and Nunavut. Dzaman said there will be a greater focus on traditional art at this year's festival, such as babiche bag making and porcupine quillwork.

"We encourage traditional artists to participate in the festival, which means bead workers and sewers," Dzaman said. "We're trying to raise the profile of traditional work as an art form."

There are 33 artists from the Inuvik region scheduled to attend the festival as well. Dzaman explained that all the artists from the region are accepted automatically, and are encouraged to apply.

"Last year, Beaufort Delta artists took home $21,000 in commission," Dzaman said. "We see no reason why that couldn't be higher (this year)."

All artists are required to bring six to 10 examples of their work, "so we strongly encourage Inuvik artists to gather work for the festival," Van Valkenburg said.

The two have planned a great lineup of seminars and workshops as well, including a three-day workshop on creating portfolios. Van Valkenburg said by the time it's over, artists will have created their own portfolios, complete with biographies, photos of artwork and packages they can send out to funders or galleries.

"It's a really important tool for artists when they leave the seminar to be able to walk out with that," Van Valkenburg said. "After this seminar, they'll be able to leave with something in hand."

The 11th annual Great Northern Arts Festival takes place July 16-25.