In December of 2021, Nextfest launched the inaugural Nextfest Emerging Assistant Producer pilot program.
Providing training, support, and mentorship to support the individuals chosen to grow into this role. This program aims to give hands-on experience to emerging IBPOC women, trans, and/or non-binary arts administrators.
Six emerging IBPOC women, trans, and/or non-binary producers were chosen and paired with Edmonton arts organizations. Three producers would work with the Nextfest Arts Company, while the other three producers- Cindy, Deviani, and Kijo -are placed with similar event-driven arts organizations such as Fringe Theatre, Common Ground Arts Society/Found Fest, and SkirtsAfire.
We’d love for you to meet the three Emerging Assistant Producers that are working on Nextfest this year: Nelly Song, Saint Tawfik, and Sare Alemu. All from different perspectives in art, all under the mentorship from Ellen Chorley and Simone A. Medina Polo.
These three truly make up the dream team.
Q: Why did you apply for the Emerging Assistant
Nelly: As an Arts Administrator new to Edmonton, I wanted to connect with the Arts community here. When I heard about the Emerging Assistant Producer’s program and the main focus of Nextfest as an organization, I thought it was the perfect way to learn about the arts community in Edmonton.
Saint: I love hands-on learning, and I’ve always been fascinated by the behind-the-scenes perspective and the inner workings of incredible events like Nextfest. Nextfest is a unique organization that truly puts emerging artists first and continues to improve on how they do that–like in this program.
Sare: I applied for the Emerging Assistant Producer’s Program because I found myself interested in learning more about arts management and the behind-the-scenes work that goes into planning meaningful and engaging arts events that give participants the opportunity to learn and grow as people and as artists!
Q: When you aren’t wearing your producer hat, what kind of art do you like to make?
Nelly: I have not played my main instrument in a while, but I am a musician at heart.
Saint: I haven’t met a medium of art that I didn’t like. These days I write and perform poetry, make jewelry, and have just dipped my toe into filmmaking.
Sare: When I take off the producer hat, I love to make music! I write, play guitar, bass, and dabble in music recording and production! Also, lately, I’ve also been learning how to sew! Learning to make and repair my own clothes continues to be an exciting adventure!
Q: What are you looking forward to about Nextfest 2022?
Nelly: I am looking forward to meeting all the emerging Artists and watching shows as much as I can. I want to experience everything I have heard about from peers about the Nextfest events.
Saint: The energy of so many incredibly talented people coming together–in person!–to celebrate art and each other!
Sare: All of it! But mostly taking in the atmosphere now that everything is happening in one physical place! This is my third year being a part of Nextfest, but my first in-person Nextfest so I am really excited to just take in the energy and the buzz that will fill the Roxy on 124th throughout the festival.
Q: What is your favourite thing about the new Roxy on 124th?
Nelly: Other than that theatre is opened again to the public, I’m excited to be in a space filled with all different kinds of art.
Saint: I love how much energy is already buzzing through the place – you can get a sense of the magic that is to come. I’m a huge fan of all the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Sare: Ok, my first thought is the washrooms because DAMN, whoever designed those did a great job. They’re possibly one of my favourite spots in the theatre aesthetically. I will be taking a lot of bathroom selfies this week, I think. Ok, but other than the washrooms, the location is amazing! I am excited to hang out on 124th Street and check out some restaurants and food trucks I haven’t had a chance to visit yet!
Q: What’s been the biggest takeaway you’ve had from participating in the Emerging Assistant
Nelly: The biggest takeaway I got from this program is that there are no small roles. Everyone involved in the making of festivals is important, and working together creates a better outcome. I also just love how passionate everyone is, it’s encouraging that everyone is still so passionate after the pandemic.
Saint: It’s hard to narrow down! Gaining experience producing has elevated my perspective so much on my own artistic practice and allowed me to be and feel connected to Edmonton’s art world. I feel so well resourced and supported in my art, and I think a huge takeaway is the confidence I’ve gained through it.
Sare: The biggest takeaway I’ve had from participating in the Emerging Assistant Producer’s Program is that often times the best way to learn is to do!
Q: What is your favourite snack?
Nelly: I cannot be biased toward one type of snack. I’m a huge snacker, so all of the above is my answer 🙂
Saint: Halal beef jerky
Sare: tortilla chips and guac are everything to me.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add/say?
Nelly: I just want to say how grateful I am to be part of Nextfest this year, and I cannot wait to talk to all the artists and connect with other artists.
Saint: All my love and gratitude to the folks at Nextfest, particularly Ellen & Simone, for making this program what it is!
Sare: Nothing other than that I love Nextfest and am extremely excited for the next 11 days! Let’s gooooooo!