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25th edition of Nextfest goes digital to continue supporting artists during COVID-19 pandemic

25th edition of Nextfest goes digital to continue supporting artists during COVID-19 pandemic
It's an opportunity to support up-and-coming talent in Edmonton, without leaving your living room. Community Reporter Morgan Black shares more on a new era of performances.

An Edmonton festival dedicated to highlighting the work of emerging artists has moved online to continue to serve the community.

Nextfest is bringing together more than 450 artists to create 11 days of digital entertainment, instead of the traditional spot in and around Old Strathcona.

READ MORE: Coronavirus forces Edmonton-area festivals to cancel 2020 events

“It didn’t feel right to take a year off,” said festival director Ellen Chorley. “We really felt we had made a commitment to our artists.”

Chorley said she believes new artists were the first to lose gigs during the onset of the pandemic in Canada.

“We really wanted to make sure we supported them,” said Chorley.

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The artists involved in the festival are relieved the show will go on. When Jaseena Elvin graduated in the middle of the pandemic, the drama major faced uncertainty.

“What’s the next step from here?” she said.

Many emerging artists feel uncertainty following graduation, even without the challenges brought on by COVID-19.

“A lot of folks have post-secondary education in the art of their choice. So, they’ve invested in their careers… but it’s hard to find opportunities, especially in Edmonton,” said Chorley.

Elvin said she had already been scheduled to perform at the festival, producing a one-woman show called “Me, Myself & I.” She rose to the challenge of taking things to a digital space.

“I had to think very deeply about how I would present this to people and how they would see it looking on a computer, instead of on stage,” Elvin said. “At Nextfest, they have always answered my questions. Always offered me advice. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

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READ MORE: Northlands cancels Edmonton’s K-Days Parade

Over the years, Nextfest has helped many artists get their start in the industry.

“I feel like I grew up in Nextfest as an artist,” said Rebecca Sadowski, a dance curator who has been involved with the festival for more than a decade. “The mentorship that it can give you was so helpful to me and it’s the way I met people I work with today.”

The free event runs until June 14. Anyone wanting to make a donation to continue to support emerging artists you can do so online.