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Co-founder of Edmonton Street Performers Festival dies

Dick Finkel, a man credited with playing a leading role in developing Edmonton's summer arts season, has died after a long illness. CREDIT: edmontonstreetfest.com

EDMONTON – One of the founding fathers of Edmonton’s summer arts season has died after a long illness.

Dick Finkel was a co-founder, along with Sheldon Wilner, of the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival in 1985.

A native of New Jersey, Finkel emigrated to Canada in 1972, living in Winnipeg and operating a fine craft store and serving on the board of directors of the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

He moved to Edmonton in 1984, and produced the Street Performers Festival until 1999.

Finkel once described the jugglers, musicians, acrobats and clowns at the festival as “anarchistic, hippy-dippy, creative people” and boasted it had “become a training ground for organizations like Cirque du soleil.”

In a tribute to him on the festival’s website, Finkel was said to have “empowered many artists to become great street performers, and inspired many to present, develop and support the art form around the world.”

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The festival still hands out an annual “Golden Finkel” aware to individual artists whose work represents a significant contribution to the realm of street theatre.

“We have lost a great friend, a mentor, and a man who always encouraged us to do our best for the art of street performance,” said StreetFest artistic producer Shelley Switzer.

“We can be comforted by the millions of smiles and laughs that have blossomed throughout our community through Dick’s hard work; by the elevation of the art form; and by the respect and world-wide reputation of the festival as a place to flourish as an artist.”

Switzer said a celebration of Finkel’s legacy will be made part of this year’s festival in July.

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