Swiss Army Clarke

Mieko Ouchi sees Dave Clarke as not just one artist, but a conduit for all things art. This is why she nominated him for the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund.

Saying that Edmonton Artists Trust Fund (EATF) recipient Dave Clarke wears many hats is an understatement. In fact, to proportionately explain just how many hats he wears, he would need several more heads.

“I’ve worked as an actor, writer, researcher, educator, adjudicator, composer, and sound designer in Edmonton since 1991,” says Clarke. “These occupations have a lot of overlap. My preference is to work in co-operative, creative environments, and I have a lot to offer beyond my actual role in a production.”

The EATF, established in 1997 by John and Barbara Poole, the Clifford E. Lee Foundation, and Edmonton Community Foundation (through a transfer of funds from the Community Fund), recognizes an artist’s work and contribution to the community as well as providing financial stability to renew, develop, create or experiment. Over the past 22 years the EATF has invested in more than 100 multimedia, literary, music, dance, film, theatre and visual artists; and contributed more than $800,000 to the arts economy.

With this in mind, long-time collaborator and friend Mieko Ouchi thought Clarke would be a perfect fit for the funds.

“Dave is one of the most flexible, open-minded and thoughtful collaborators I have had the pleasure of working with,” Ouchi says. “He welcomes change. And that is a rare and precious thing. Something to be treasured. I am very proud to have been his friend and colleague for 30 years, to have worked with him on over 30 projects, and to have nominated him for the EATF.”

Ouchi sees that with this funding, Clarke’s diversity can not only play a big role in the continued success of the community, but be a catalyst of the necessary change in the Edmonton art scene.

“Edmonton’s arts community is fascinating to me,” Ouchi elaborates. “It is deep and wide and a big enough tent to hold many diverse people and forms. It has offered many the opportunity to self -produce, to explore multiple disciplines and cross mediums and to build amazing experiences, skills and talents. It has been a supportive home base for many who have also had their work travel further afield. I also always appreciate its working-class heart, and the deep and sincere love that everyday citizens have for the art and artists in their city.

“But there are still so many things: histories, barriers and harms, that we need to deeply acknowledge and amend. It has not been a fair and equitable place for all artists, participants and audiences to access. I’m glad to see our local arts community recognize this, along with the wider world, and to begin to truly listen to equity-seeking individuals and communities and to embrace real and permanent change. It gives me hope to see the actions I see being taken across the city and across disciplines to do better and be better.”

Ouchi also mentions that Clarke has had a hand in many causes and movements. His political involvement on a grassroots level has inspired artists and citizens of all backgrounds. Currently, Clarke is doing his best to work within the parameters of the pandemic. He is forward-thinking, but still holds true to the roots of the past.

“My whole life I’ve understood the power of live entertainment in contrast with mediated entertainment through screens. Live entertainment binds people together in the real world of rocks and trees, breathing together, laughing together, even more important now that a revolution of mass media has transformed our day-to-day cognitive experience. Live entertainment is good for social cohesion; screens not so much.”

As for what he is working on now, Clarke’s plates are full. So are his hats. And I guess, so are his metaphorical heads and hearts.

“I’ve worked on some theatre projects that didn’t quite get to stage (yet); most recently a production of the play Mary’s Wedding adapted for a Métis and Indigenous cast,” Clarke explains.

“An audio version of the Guys In Disguise show Dragula (yes, an audio-only drag show) that I recorded and designed is on Bandcamp. Right now I’m in the initial stages of creating and producing a podcast series called Unsettling Edmonton which makes direct connections between the original Edmonton 1880 Settlement and our modern city.

”Recent cultural shifts around commemoration and naming present a golden opportunity to get into the weeds on Edmonton’s early history with a much broader scope; not just the history of British Empire pioneers who have their names on many buildings, parks and neighbourhoods, but also their interactions with Indigenous bands and the Métis.”

Learn more about the EATF