The COVID-19 crisis has turned our world upside-down in historical ways, bringing a storm of adversity to small businesses in Calgary. Many of these businesses are now in a critical fight for survival and the future is uncertain. Although tentative “re-entry” measures have been announced by the Alberta government, Family Fun Calgary would like to take the opportunity to introduce and interview some of the local businesses in our city. Let’s get to know each other! You never know what YYC Small Business Profile might become your new favourite.
Today we’re talking to Mandy Morris, from Music With Mandy. Mandy started the Create Kids Fest that began in 2019, after the International Children’s Festival closed down. This year, the festival has gone online and Mandy is here to tell us about it. (Psst! The festival is on June 13, 2020!)
Tell us about the Create Kids Fest
Create Kids Arts Society is a brand-new, non-profit organization that was founded in October 2019 after the success of the inaugural Create Kids Fest that I self-produced in May 2019. We provide art experiences for kids and families in Calgary. One of our primary objectives is to present a children’s festival. This year it looks different than I had ever imagined it would! We are hosting Create Kids Fest 2020 completely online via Zoom and Facebook. Every initiative we have is done for kids in collaboration with kids. This year we had a youth committee work together to create an art project that fits on one piece of paper that can be done at home. They came up with “Dara the Deer.” We are 100% volunteer-run and we excel at inspiring kids and their families through the arts!
What was the inspiration for starting this venture? Where did you get your first idea?
I have spent the past decade working as a performer and music educator. I perform jazz for kids as “Music with Mandy” and my career has taken me throughout Western Canada. One of my favourite venues to play in are festivals. I believe that festivals are an important part of building a community and connecting fans with artists that they wouldn’t have otherwise known. I grew up in Medicine Hat and some of my most fond childhood memories were at local festivals, like the Medicine Hat Jazz Fest that would host a dance on top of the bus terminal every year.
In the summer of 2018, the Calgary International Children’s Festival announced that they would no longer be operating. I was devastated. That festival was a cornerstone of culture and community for Calgary kids. I shared my disappointment with Kodi Hutchinson who replied, “Well, I guess you’ll just have to start your own.” Then I did.
What has been your biggest regret? Your greatest pride or success?
I don’t have any regrets but I have made mistakes along the way which has given me lots of opportunities to learn and grow.
I am most proud of my team and their commitment to the arts and the next generation. Our board is made up of five members who all have different life experiences and we have a team of volunteers who are working hard to bring the vision to life. They are supportive, hard-working, and kind. Create Kids Fest 2020 wouldn’t be possible without them.
What would a typical day look like for you normally? What about now?
Most of my work is as a contractor, so every day is a little different. I do my best to keep my mornings to myself. I use the time to journal, practice, do yoga, walk my dog, and tidy up around the home office. I’ve always worked from home so that has not changed. Once the afternoon hits, I usually spend a few hours on the computer, on the phone, or in meetings connecting with local artists, organizations, and kids. Sometimes I’m rehearsing or collaborating, other times I’m performing or presenting workshops at libraries, museums, and preschools, or I’m busy getting caught up on admin work. Then I work as a music teacher at Chinook School of Music during the evenings, usually ending around 8 or 9. Before COVID-19 hit, I would also teach on the weekends at the Young Canadians and hold rehearsals with kids who were part of Music with Mandy performances and recordings.
How have you adapted to the COVID-19 crisis and how can the community support you at this time?
I would have never imagined that I would be producing an online festival, but here we are! If you’d like to help you can donate at createkids.ca/donate. And you should definitely attend our workshops and festival which are taking place on June 13! Information is available at createkids.ca/events.
Introducing YYC Small Business Profiles is a Family Fun Calgary series that will contain a random selection of businesses chosen at the discretion of the editor for interest and curiosity.
Looking for more tips on how to keep your kids occupied during the COVID-19 crisis? Find our best ideas, activities and inspiration here!