An Ambassador for the Arts

Zach Polis blurs the lines between poetry, photography and filmmaking as a recipient of the 2020 Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund

You can read Zach Polis all over Edmonton.

His words adorn buses as part of the Poetry Moves on Transit series. He’s on beer cans, too: Blindman Brewing’s Super Session ale has a joyful Polis poem called Confetti on the can.

In non-pandemic times, you can hear him hosting events or performing his words live, though for now, he’s shifted to sharing short videos across social media.

“It’s a different kind of connection,” Polis says, of sharing work online. “You don’t get to see people laugh, but you get to see people reshare your work, or go out of their way to say something nice. That brings its own sort of energy.”

Banff Centre 2019, Spoken Word, Rice Studio, Zach Polis

Polis is one of the recipients of this year’s Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund, a $15,000 acknowledgement of his work in the community. A joint project between the Edmonton Arts Council and Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF), the Fund was created in 1997 to support and invest in local artists. Since then, it’s supported more than a hundred artists across disciplines.

While writing has always been part of Polis’s life, when his older sister introduced him to the poetry of Sylvia Plath in junior high, his love of the form blossomed. Polis has done a spoken-word residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and recently spent two years as St. Albert’s inaugural Poet Laureate. Which is all in addition to his work in filmmaking and photography.

“[Zach is] a true ambassador for the arts, a champion of literacy and culture in the region,” says Geoff Manderscheid, who nominated Polis for the Trust Fund. Manderscheid chaired the City of St. Albert’s Poet Laureate committee; he notes that while they had certain parameters for what they thought the Poet Laureate might do, Polis did much more in the role than the committee could’ve hoped.

“His range is really on display on all these things he does,” Manderscheid says.

For Polis, receiving the Trust Fund means he can focus on his art, even in these particularly uncertain times.

“[It] gives me an opportunity to invest in myself and move my career forward,” he says. “Pursuing art or any creative industry is essentially its own entrepreneurial endeavor. Receiving an award like this extends the runway — like an airport — and hopefully it gives more momentum, more momentum, more momentum, until you take off and you fly somewhere nice. It’s just a really exciting opportunity.”

Learn more about the EATF