Owning the Stage

5 Artists 1 Love celebrates the artistry and creativity of Edmonton’s Black community

Darren Jordan created 5 Artists 1 Love 17 years ago, with the hopes of seeing more Black representation in Edmonton’s art scene. The show, which originated in 2006, is held in February during Black History Month and showcases the work of five Black Edmonton-based artists.

“It’s free food, it’s free music, free entertainment, it was accessible to the community. That’s always sort of been at the heart of 5 Artists 1 Love is that we have these events that would invite you into a space that you probably felt that you didn’t belong and make you feel comfortable,” explains Jordan.

Keeping the art show free has always been a priority for Jordan, but as the show expanded to the Art Gallery of Alberta, that became challenging.

“I needed to find a means of generating income that would facilitate paying for this new phase of our art show. So, what I did is, I wrote this music show and we performed it at the Yardbird Suite,” says Jordan.

That concert in 2010 was a success and led Jordan to expand 5 Artists 1 Love to include a yearly concert. The musical production has been performed at various venues, including the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) and the Triffo Theatre at MacEwan University to capacity crowds. This year, the concert was held on June 17 at the Winspear Centre.

“I think that it is important that we’re not just doing these events in a hall, we are able to hold space in world-class venues to share this… that’s why I’ve worked towards holding that space at the Winspear and at the AGA because they are the pinnacle for visual and performing arts in North America, that’s the top,” says Jordan. “A lot of us sometimes feel that we don’t deserve to be there and I want to dispel that myth”.

The theme of this year’s concert was “A Juneteenth Story: Freedom, Family, Food.” Juneteenth represents the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. Alberta has a direct connection with the day.

“Canada actually at the time had this policy, where they wanted people to come up and work the land in the western prairies,” Jordan says. “They offered some of these emancipated people land, and the opportunity to escape the systemic racism of Jim Crow laws they were subject to… And, so, these families moved up here and they established some roots and they worked the land but there was pushback from the already established community and it wasn’t all that they promised… But it wasn’t easy and to make things worse I think after a certain period of time there was so much public pressure on the politicians that they stopped the program.”

Though the program ended, many of those families’ descendants are still living in Alberta.

The first half of the concert will explore Juneteenth and how people across the world celebrate freedom. The second half of the show will be “inviting people to the Black cook-up,” and have music associated with the iconic event.

Edmonton Community Foundation has been a sponsor of the event since 2018 and, as Jordan says, it has “helped us elevate the show to another level in terms of production and creativity.”

The fact that the event is being held outside of Black History Month is something Jordan hopes to see more of.

“I have always believed we should be celebrating the talent that the city has and the talent that we have in our community every opportunity that we can, don’t just leave it in for one month.”

This story comes from the Summer 2023 edition of Legacy in Action.