Truth be told, Calgary doesn’t get much respect for its artistic culture. By and large, Calgary’s reputation is one of workmanship, careerism, and professionalism, with a greater concern on making a living and a lesser concern on creating a world-class city. But, this isn’t entirely true. In fact, Calgarians, according to Maclean’s magazine, participate in fine art and culture more than any other Canadian city. We just don’t have the unique and quaint different districts, the way Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver do. The majority of our cultural enthusiasts flock to an area covering about 14 blocks of downtown Calgary,where they can find the most of Calgary’s fine art and dining venues, including the EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts, the Grand Theatre, Vertigo Theatre, the Glenbow Museum, the Art Gallery of Calgary, Cantos Music Foundation and Art Central, as well as Stephen Ave., the Calgary Tower, and Olympic Plaza. This area, under the direction of the Cultural District Renaissance Society of Alberta, is known simply as “the Cultural District”, and it is home to a variety of theaters, shops, restaurants, and events.
A great way to get the most out of Calgary’s Cultural District is to experience “First Thursday”, which takes place on the first Thursday of every month, the next one being April 7, 2011. On these days, the Cultural District shares a mix of activities, oftentimes for free. There’s always lots of variety, such as gallery openings, theater, dance, food and wine tastings, meet-the-artist events, etc. And, participants can spend the whole day, from breakfast until 2am!, wandering from site to site, taking in as many or as few of the events as they want. It gets quite lively after 5pm, when the workers finish their day jobs! Information about First Thursdays can be found online or at Art Central.
If you want to experience Calgary’s artistic scene, but also are looking for deals to save you money, pick up a “Pigeon Card” from Art Central (or a number of other locations), and check online for the most current deals of the month. You can also register for a Pigeon Card online. These savings can vary, but checking from time to time can be a great way to save some cash while having fun!