Left to right: Ben Reed, Mike Bowerman’s head, Stewart McDonough, and Miguel Cortines


It’s one thing to name Calgary is the Cultural Capital of Canada in 2012, but another thing to make it real.  Calgary’s official Cultural Ambassadors are all over it – demonstrating on a daily basis what our Cultural Capital title really means.  C.I.A rounded up four Cultural Ambassadors – Mike Bowerman, Miguel Cortines, Ben Reed, and Stewart McDonough – to get their perspectives on culture and find out what they’ve been up to around town.


C.I.A.: How are you involved in culture in Calgary?

Mike Bowerman: Over the past three years I have been active in supporting the cultural shift to social and environmental values that is taking place in Calgary and Alberta. I’ve done this through networking and events like Innovation Exchange that connect people who are committed to improving Calgary for everyone. Participating in this community building with so many others has been fun and rewarding. Recently, this work has extended to include plans for a physical space for this same community of change-makers. I see these social and environmental values as deeply woven into culture, and see them shifting locally from a subculture to the mainstream.

Miguel Cortines: I have been involved in diverse cultural activities with the Mexican Canadian community in Calgary. Particularly, I have been involved in the organization of “EL GRITO” Mexican Independence Day Celebration since 2005. I was part of the Organizing Committee, responsible for the first time representation of Mexico at the Calgary Stampede Parade, where the Mexican float won the first prize as best entry in the cultural section. I am also working with our Board of Directors at Casa Mexico in developing our vision to create a Cultural & Entrepreneurial Centre representative of Mexico and the Americas Region.

Ben Reed: I am a torch bearer for curiosity and innovation – hoping to inspire collaborative initiatives wherever I go. From Protospace to the Western Canadian Robotics Society to EpicYYC, I use my nerd power to challenge Calgary’s citizens in technical and artistic feats while cross-pollinating disciplines to achieve amazing results. I current work in the Applied Research Department at SAIT mentoring students & implementing new and theoretical technologies in hopes that one day we can be known as the MIT of Canada.

Stewart McDonough: I help promote Calgary’s culture through our work at Tourism Calgary. I partake in the city’s culture with my young family. And I contribute to culture through volunteer projects: Timeraiser and TEDxYYC.


C.I.A.: From your perspective, what makes Calgary the Cultural Capital of Canada?

Mike Bowerman: Calgary has grown in so many ways in recent years and I think it is the rate of growth that makes us the Cultural Capital of Canada. Our summers are now filled with festivals and street fairs that are getting better every year, we have an increasingly vibrant music scene thanks to Folk Fest and Sled Island, we are seeing new restaurants and bars opening continually, and we have an amazing outdoor culture as well – not just the parks, path system and hiking, but even outdoor theater like Shakespeare in the Park.

Miguel Cortines: Calgary is a vibrant city from the cultural point of view and from other aspects. It is incredible to see very active and diverse groups working in different cultural projects all over the city. Its multiculturalism is amazing. You learn so much about other cultures and at the end you discover that everything is connected in some way. Calgary is an evolving city that is transforming itself into a more cosmopolitan city. You can feel it everywhere.

Ben Reed: We have a fast-growing, curious and adventurous populous that isn’t afraid to break free of cultural stereotypes. Calgary’s beautiful scenery, plentiful resources & particular combination of  local and international sub-cultures allows our creative class to develop faster than any other city in Canada. We’d rather do things our own unique way than replicate what’s already been done.

Stewart McDonough: Calgary is a compelling story that’s still unfolding. Its cultural identity is nascent, still forming, evolving, coalescing. It’s defining itself every day and the results so far show a diversity of talent, a welcoming community, a new-found confidence and an unconventional mix of tradition and new growth.


C.I.A.: What do you hope comes out of this year – the year of Calgary being the Cultural Capital?

Mike Bowerman: It would be great to see Calgary’s year as Cultural Capital produce more experimental culture. There are people with great initiatives – pop-up art galleries at LRT stations or in alleyways, portable outdoor movie projectors, LED-art installations outdoors, or some street art murals. These are the cultural changes I love seeing and hope to see more of supported by groups like Awesome Foundation Calgary and Village Brewery. I hope Calgary 2012 inspires more people and groups to undertake or support street art and entrepreneurial experimentation.

Miguel Cortines: I hope that 2012 is just the ignition starter of a long term project to promote more cultural activities and projects. It is a great opportunity for Calgary to be seen locally, nationally and internationally as a great centre of energy but also as a great centre that supports arts and culture for major projects. We all are very proud to see projects of the magnitude of the National Music Centre, for example. I would like to see Calgary as a leader city for more major arts and culture initiatives.

Ben Reed: I hope to see this creative energy continue to evolve in years to come – this year is just the catalyst that sets off the grand reaction. I want to see students dancing in the street, children launching lego men into space, suburbanites creating their own festivals outside of the core – and maybe even see the big corporations adapt and support the communities that are growing all around them.

Stewart McDonough: Two things: 1. That we’re successful in telling new stories of our city and adjusting/enhancing people’s perceptions of Calgary as a vibrant, modern and youthful city with myriad experiences around every corner; and 2. That Calgarians embrace their city’s cultural offerings and lose the ‘there’s nothing to do this weekend’ or ‘there’s nothing going on downtown’ attitudes for good. I also hope people gain an appreciation for culture in its many forms, from ballet to winter sport world championships and from food trucks to fine dining.


C.I.A.: Tell us about one of your favourite moments of Calgary culture this year so far.

Mike Bowerman: The High Performance Rodeo’s 10-Minute Play Festival was fantastic this year. Six theater troupes are given one line of dialogue and have to create an original 10-minute play from it in only 24 hours. The performances were incredibly creative in their interpretations and brilliantly and hilariously executed as well. It really spoke to the depth of talent in the local arts community, as well as to the boundless imagination in people generally. It was a definite highlight of Calgary culture for me.

Miguel Cortines: Calgary Stampede Parade for me was great. I had been in some parades before, but this year in particular was very emotive. I saw aspects that I did not see or perceive before. The Marching Bands from different countries were awesome. Watching the people reserving seat spots one night before the parade was incredible. Some of them were camping in 6th Ave. Being in the morning with the Mexican contingent was a great moment.

Ben Reed: It’s gotta be the Scoperta Chairs! The Protospace Crew has taken them out to many festivals and events throughout the summer, bringing many a smile to the faces of the young and the elderly. These chairs are ridiculous and ugly, but they’ve got character that provides joy and inspiration to all who gaze upon them :)

Stewart McDonough: I love the many ways you can enjoy Folk Fest over the course of the weekend: Thursday night’s backstage view of Chris Isaak; Friday night date night with my wife sitting on the hill watching Shad for the first time; and taking my daughter to her third Folk Fest well before her third birthday – it’s what I call an epic weekend.


C.I.A.: What makes Calgary Awesome?

Mike Bowerman: Calgarians make Calgary awesome! It is Calgarians that are building all the new and innovative events and organisations in the city. People like Shannon and Maria Hoover at Endeavor Arts, who are creating workshops for electronic fashion, Ben Reed and the crew at Protospace who have created a prototype lab that has produced robotic furniture, Jasmine Antonick and Beakerhead, or community leaders like Tori Maclean who leads StartUp Calgary. I have so many things to do because great people have made things happen. Not to mention that we also have a stunning natural environment, which is hard to beat.

Miguel Cortines: Its people. Calgary is a mosaic of diversity. All and each one of the people in this city is contributing with their talents, customs, dresses, expressions, ideas, vibrations, and more. Calgary is awesome because is full of awesome people as you and me. Let’s make it greater.

Ben Reed: The people – a city is nothing without it’s populous, and ours is bursting at the seams!

Stewart McDonough: The city’s gravitational pull is growing stronger, attracting and keeping its biggest talents. A new generation is now working with established community builders in an atmosphere that’s more creative and collaborative than ever. We are in fact capitalizing on a year that has become the turning point we wanted it to be rather than the point in time it could have been.