Local artists of diverse cultural backgrounds share dance, music, and storytelling from February 4 to 20 in Ottawa-Gatineau.
You won’t stay cold for long with MASC artists warming up the stage at Winterlude this year! A diverse line-up of local artists performs at Jacques-Cartier Park North in Gatineau and Sparks Street in Ottawa (February 4-5, 11-12, 18-19-20).
Here is the complete list of artists:
Jacqui Du Toit
Just Aïssi (Gumboots)
South African Storytelling
South African dance
French Canadian music and storytelling
Franco-Ontarian music and storytelling
Central African music
We feel very fortunate to be working with these artists and supporting them in making their art and culture accessible to schools and communities. People who see them perform at Winterlude this year will be in for a treat.
Ama Ouattara, MASC’s new French Program Director and coordinator of these Winterlude performances.
Kathryn Patricia Cobbler on RogersTV
There’s something magical about going into a community and into a space… so I always love going into schools and doing concerts and just being able to connect with the students there.
I had recently joined the school on scholarship through an arts education organization called MASC and had way less formal training than my peers. It was pivotal because I realized my life opportunities didn’t have to be limited by my financial circumstances.
Stefan Keyes, MASC Board of Directors and former MASC Arts Awards recipient
Whether it’s reporting for CTV News or making cameos as an actor in the latest Christmas movies or Netflix series, Stefan Keyes is inspired and motivated by the women in his life.
Stefan grew up in Ottawa as an only child to his mother in a complicated upbringing. He found happiness through faith and was always supported by the family and community that surrounded him.
Last November, Stefan found himself as a storyline when he was trapped in South Africa due to a positive COVID-19 test and could not return home as planned. What was supposed to be a week where he celebrated a wedding quickly turned into a stressful extra two weeks.
We caught up with Stefan to talk about his journey to the media industry, the stressful time he spent returning from South Africa and the women who inspire him every day.
You were born and raised in Ottawa. What was your childhood like growing up?
My childhood was complicated; but happy. Complicated in the sense that I had to come to terms with the fact I was going to be fatherless my entire life. When society has hyper-normalized the ideas and benefits of a two-parent household, it can skew your understanding of self-worth. Add that to race-related issues, and what it means to be Black in Canada, the complexities of childhood are magnified.
My family ensured that I was a trillionaire when it came to the currency of love. I learned the value of a dollar at a young age; and learned to appreciate how it was earned and spent. I’m my mother’s only child, and she worked weekends, so she would send me to church with other members of the Jamaican community, where I deepened a love for gospel music and singing.
In high school, you did a segment with CBC Radio called Outfront and started writing as a teenager for ‘The Spectrum.’ How did that come about?
In my last year of high school, I looked at the freelance opportunity at CBC as a way to dip my toe in broadcasting to see if I would like it. Many don’t realize, but I sit on the cusp of being an introvert. It was a self-reflective collection of spoken word, singing, and testimony around faith. The producer working with my overly ambitious 17-year-old self, Laurence Stevenson, pushed me to dig deeper and go further. I’ll never forget working with Laurence. I likely tested his patience, but I’m glad he took a chance on me.
On the other hand, writing for the Spectrum was a more natural endeavour. It wasn’t national mainstream media; It was a monthly, local community newspaper that showcased Black success and catered to the interests of Ottawa’s Black community. It was a publication spearheaded by Jamaican-Canadian Ewart Walters, who studied journalism at Carleton University. Having been featured in it several times for various academic achievements, it was natural to start writing for the publication I grew up reading when considering a career in journalism.
Why did you want to get into journalism?
I gave up a scholarship to study musical theatre in New York City, so it wasn’t my first plan, but I’ve been fascinated with television for as long as I can remember. I watched a lot of Fresh Prince of Belair in addition to the TGIF lineup religiously.
Perhaps, that’s where the acting came in. I also watched the news regularly with my mom. CJOH (now CTV Ottawa) was always on at 6 and 11:30; no arguments come news time.
I grew to like news. It gave me a new mission to study journalism and take the presentational and production skills I learned from theatre and apply it to this new craft. My English teacher at the time, Mr. Blauer, was a former journalist himself and encouraged me to consider it as an option as he thought I would do well.
What are some of the more memorable stories you’ve reported on?
Sadly, tragedy always lingers with you, and I’ll never forget covering my first fatality in 2009. It was a triple fatality in Navan at the end of summer. Two of the victims, 18, had just graduated high school and a 16-year-old girl also died. Bouquets of flowers, tears streaming down faces, arms folded, hats turned backwards, and their hearts turned upside down. I’ll never forget the discomfort of doing my job that day asking for comments when all they needed was compassion.
The other time that really sticks with me was when I was anchoring the 11:30 news a couple of years ago and had to stay composed and professional while reporting my friend as the victim of a fatal crash in Kanata. Memorable for all the wrong reasons.
In November, you were stuck in Cape Town, South Africa, after contracting Covid-19. How long were you forced to stay there, and how challenging was this situation for you?
It was a very emotionally conflicting period. I was attending a wedding that had been pushed back several times because of the pandemic. Things were finally looking up, and two or three days after landing, I started getting frantic messages from Canada and the U.S. about Omicron. What was supposed to be a quick one-week trip turned into a three-week extended stay.
I got sick but not to the point requiring a doctor, hospitalization or even prescription medication. I had 3 to 4 days of feeling ill and one day of extremely bad symptoms. The primary stressor was air travel shutting down and countries rejecting foreign nationals trying to reach North America. It was probably a whole week after my original departure date of not knowing how the heck I was going to get home.
Ethiopia was recommended as an option by the Canadian consulate. We found flights and bought them urgently before the prices increased further. A day later, the UN issued a warning about the ongoing Tigray conflict encroaching on the capital Ad-dis Ababa, where we were supposed to go for a connecting flight. The day after that, Canada issued an advisory telling Canadians to avoid Ethiopia at all costs. We cancelled that flight and then received confirmation our only approved option would be through Frankfurt, Germany, on one specific airline before December 13th.
At that point, the complicated rules around when I tested positive and whether or not the virus would still be detected in my system after 10 days were worrisome. Luckily, I received a negative PCR test result.
What was it like for you when you finally got back to Ottawa?
The experience at the airport in Montreal wasn’t great. Travellers from specific southern African nations were treated like criminals about to be put in detention (i.e. so-called quarantine hotels) instead of the same warm dignity afforded to other travellers returning home. My passport and boarding pass for my connecting flight were held hostage by an agent without explanation. He just said, “follow me,” after recognizing where I was coming from.
I was diverted from any familiar airport area and questioned about my trip and quarantine plan. I missed my connecting flight but was granted the clearance to do my second round of isolation at home in Ottawa and flew out on a flight that left several later. At that point, I was getting close to being in transit for about 30 hours.
Despite leaving in the fall and coming back to full-fledged winter weather, it was good to be home in my own bed and hear the sincere collective sigh of relief from those feeling anxious about my situation. Isolating while not sick and having negative test results from Cape Town and the Montreal airport was tough. The rules changed in the middle of my isolation period, and I was released before Christmas. I wasn’t feeling the holiday spirit and had adopted the mindset of a cancelled Christmas. I was heartbroken by the awkwardness of it all and not getting the opportunity to buy gifts for my Godchildren.
On top of your journalism career, you’re also a vocalist and an actor. What are some of your favourite moments that you’ve experienced in acting?
Theatre is my first love; so, while being part of productions featuring the likes of Mel Gibson and Kiefer Sutherland have been amazing, my favourite moments have been on the stage and not the screen.
Performing at the National Arts Centre at age 13 is a favourite and proud moment.
It was an honour given to those of us who scored high marks from an adjudication by Oxford’s Trinity College in the UK. The Ottawa School of Speech and Drama would fly the adjudicator in for our exams back then. I had recently joined the school on scholarship through an arts education organization called MASC and had way less formal training than my peers. It was pivotal because I realized my life opportunities didn’t have to be limited by my financial circumstances.
Who’s someone that inspires you every day?
I’m inspired by the strength and resilience of the women in my life. It likely comes from a family where my mom is the youngest of 10 girls. A few didn’t live to adulthood, but growing up watching the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood and the roles they played as matriarchs, nurturers, counsellors, nurses, and breadwinners is what motivates me. When you have mothers and aunts who sacrifice themselves and live with a purpose driven by love for the next generation, it inspires and motivates you to do your best and not disappoint.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Enjoy the journey and worry less about the destination.
My broadcast career didn’t come together within the allotted timeframe for myself. It heavily impacted my self-esteem, and the harder I worked for it, the less likely it appeared that my goals would align with the opportunities being presented to me. I would let my younger self know that perseverance is heavily linked to patience. The two are inseparable.
Black Legacy Month is just around the corner!
MASC artists return to Ottawa-Gatineau for Black History Month
Masabo, Just Aïssi, and Leslie McCurdy tour with popular performances in February and March 2023
Black History Month (or Black Legacy Month, as some prefer to say*) is just around the corner! MASC artists Masabo, Just Aïssi, and Leslie McCurdy return to Ottawa-Gatineau for the first time in three years to present their popular touring performances for local audiences in February and March 2023.
Masabo is a Vancouver-based performance group led by MASC artist Fana Soro specializing in traditional West African music, dance and story. They are presenting Celebrate Africa! and Masa-Senekela, the cultivating King from February 6 to 10 in Ottawa-Gatineau and February 13 to 17 in Toronto.
Just Aïssi and his Montreal-based African Dance Company share the cultural heritage of South Africa with the gumboot dance developed by miners before the 1970s. They are presenting Gumboot! from February 27 to March 3 and March 6 to 10 in Ottawa-Gatineau.
Leslie McCurdy is an award-winning playwright, performer, and activist living in Windsor, Ontario. The Spirit of Harriet Tubman, her first play, was a finalist for a Canadian Chalmers Award for Best New Play for Young Audiences. Her second play, Things My Fore-Sisters Saw, was filmed for TV and was premiered on the Bravo Network in Canada in February 2006. Both performances are available in Ottawa-Gatineau fromMarch 27 to 31.
Before the pandemic effectively nullified opportunities for touring artists in March 2020, MASC artists Masabo and Leslie McCurdy would regularly visit Ottawa-Gatineau to bring their popular performances to schools and community spaces.
They return to the National Capital Region this year, as will Just Aïssi, to share their important cultural performances with students, teachers, and locals keen to celebrate the rich cultural diversity of Black artists.
*Quote from JustJamaal ThePoet, MASC artist: “I prefer to call it Black Legacy Month because it encompasses all of what the black experience is and not just what we’ve been through.”
For many children, it’s a privilege they simply can’t afford. Just think about the cost of art supplies, drama classes, dance classes, writing workshops, or filming equipment!
At MASC, we aim to bring arts to all children.
That’s why we do most of our work in schools, where students – regardless of economic background – can all benefit from the same arts experiences.
We reduce the barriers that prevent children and their families from accessing the tools they need to explore their own creativity.
Oftentimes the barriers aren’t just financial. Children in remote neighbourhoods can’t always get a ride to a downtown art class; their parents don’t have time to take them to a theatre production, or a music festival.
We actively seek out funding so that our professional artists are paid fairly, and our programs are affordable for all schools.
We never ask our artists to work for free: each program has a fee attached to it, and the schools are responsible for covering costs. However, thanks to our incredible supporters and funders, MASC offers subsidies to underserved schools and communities that may not be able to afford the full fee.
MASC artists offer over 2000 workshops and 800 performances in schools and communities, to over 250,000 people per year.
We want to continue growing so that even more children – regardless of who they are and where they come from – can see a live performance, create a mural together, make a music video, learn about hoop dancing, meet a published author, and so much more.
This Giving Tuesday, donate to MASC and make an inspiring difference in the life of a child in your community.
Matinée Café : Wise Atangana au Centre des arts Shenkman
Ne manquez pas l’artiste MASC, Wise Atangana, au Centre des arts Shenkman mercredi prochain à 14h ! Ce concert fait partie d’une série bilingue qui rend la musique en direct accessible aux aînés, y compris ceux vivant en milieu rural.
Wise Atangana est un artiste musicien et éducateur auteur- compositeur- interprète, conférencier motivateur, originaire du Cameroun. Wise est un artiste pluridisciplinaire, qui se consacre à nourrir les âmes affamées et à inspirer les cœurs et les esprits des personnes du monde entier dans le but de promouvoir le renforcement communautaire et le changement social.
There’s lots to celebrate this October, from Latin American Heritage Month to Inktober! Read our October newsletter for plenty of updates, including an important message about our beloved colleague, Chantal Racine.
Thursday, September 22 (presented in English), and Friday, September 23 (presented in French).
Artist Nicole Bélanger (Thursday and Friday from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm)
Folk music by Kathryn Patricia (Thursday from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm)
Traditional storytelling by Louis Mercier (Friday from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm)
MASC partners with Cumberland Heritage Village Museum to present a cultural program on Thursday, September 22 (presented in English) and Friday, September 23 (presented in French) that will explore memories of childhood while celebrating community connections. Interested older adult groups are encouraged to contact the museum at email@example.com for more information on how your organization or club can enjoy this unique event.
This program is supported by a grant from the City of Ottawa’s Older Adult Plan.
*This program is offered free of charge to participating older adult (50+) community groups in Ottawa.