Jane Karges is in her second year as the Managing Director of Blue Canoe’s Youth Arts Festival, The Juvenis Festival. She also works with the Kaboom! Arts After School Program as the Social Media Coordinator and sits on the Arts Advisory Committee with the City of Kingston. Toronto born and raised, you can usually find Jane at most arts and/or youth events in #ygk! .
1. Tell us about yourself. What brought you to and why did you to remain in Kingston? How did you become involved in performing arts, acting and live theatre production?
I came to Kingston to attend Queen’s University for an undergraduate degree in Global Development…or so I thought. Two months into my first year at Queen’s, I had joined a play with Blue Canoe as an Assistant Stage Manager and was quickly introduced to a whole new world of Theatre Administration. I quickly ran from the economics-centered Global Development program, threw myself into the Queen’s Drama Department, and haven’t looked back since. The theatre was always a fun and welcoming space for me growing up, but I didn’t foresee myself pursuing performance. It wasn’t until I worked for Blue Canoe that I witnessed the administrative side of theatre and saw the potential for a career in the arts.
Since graduating from Queen’s in 2015, I’ve explored the various arts organizations, community groups, and youth programming in this city. I love the eclectic mix of artists and arts organizations and the fact that Kingston has a charming friendly neighbourhood feel to it with the potential for big-city ideas and initiatives.
2. Speaking of your involvement in the local arts scene, you are also involved in KABOOM, the youth project at the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning, as well as the Juvenis Festival. Why is it important to you to foster the next generation of performing artists?
Through my studies of theatre and my experiences with the arts in Kingston, I have witnessed the awesome unifying power of the arts. Juvenis is a prime example of organizations coming together to produce new arts opportunities for youth. But beyond Juvenis this same thing is happening with the Kaboom! Arts After School Program at the Tett, which partners artists with teens from the Boys & Girls Club and beyond.
More recently, I have come to realize how empowering the arts are to youth in particular. Young people struggle to find spaces in which they can broadcast their views and opinions to the public and be heard. The arts provide a very unique set of tools that allow individuals to communicate and reflect on essentially any topic, often without realizing they are doing so. This is especially helpful and important to young people as they look to define who they are and how they view the world. I am very passionate about creating opportunities for young people to not only learn more about the arts but to publicly share their work. The more engaged our youth are, and the more valued they feel, the brighter the future will be, both for our arts landscape and the world we live in!
3. As the Managing Director of this year’s Juvenis Festival, you get to wear a lot of awesome hats. From administration to programming, operations to marketing, there’s no shortage of things to keep you busy? Why did you decide to take on this challenging managerial position? What have you gotten out of it?
I was very lucky to be offered a job with the Juvenis Festival right after I graduated from Queen’s. It was a dream opportunity for me because like so many other university grads, I was trying to sort out my next steps. Mike Sheppard and the Blue Canoe Board came to me with the very loose idea of a youth arts festival and asked if I’d be interested in helping to develop and manage it. The thought of developing such a large youth celebration in Kingston was really incredible. It’s been a great journey and while it’s definitely challenging, I am so proud of how far this festival has come and so happy that Blue Canoe trusted me to help create it. I think that putting trust in youth to tackle a project such as this one is key to its success. It’s one thing to talk about youth engagement, but another to put a young person at the helm of decision making. There’s no better learning experience.
I am surprised daily by the requirements of this job, sometimes pleasantly and sometimes not. I didn’t anticipate that carpentry would fall under arts administration but thus far I’ve struggled through building most of our office furniture with my co-workers including a shelf and desk- both of which are still standing!
4. One of the main objectives of the Juvenis Festival is to create opportunities for local young artists to showcase their work. How is this lofty goal achieved, and what sorts of productions are on tap for this year’s festival?
We visit school and community groups in the fall to spread word about the festival, then we open up submissions to youth in December. We go through an interview process with all of our applicants and then choose a handful of projects to feature in the festival. We’ve been blown away by the creativity of young people in Kingston. If we had the funding we would love to accept everything!! Our main goal is to create as many opportunities as possible for young people and to ensure that each arts discipline is represented through our projects. We have a sprinkling of Festival produced projects that we include such as our Battle of the Bands and the 48 Hour Film Challenge, Rapid Reel. We have a long list of amazing partners, both arts and community based, and they help us to extend our reach to youth, artists, venues and more. This is slowly becoming a community effort and we hope it continues that way!
Blue Canoe’s roots are in musical theatre so we always get young musical theatre fans itching to put on shows. For example, we are bringing back Blue Canoe’s high school production this year with Zombie Prom: The Musical featuring a cast, band and crew made up of high school students. The show combines Grease with zombies and the director, Jordan Richards, is ensuring that the show’s campy tone does not go to waste.
We’ve learned that Kingston is lacking in original dance productions beyond dance recitals. Kingston native and professional choreographer Kay Kenney is back this year as the youth director and creator of UNFAMILIAR- a contemporary dance piece which will feature 7 youth dancers and her own solo piece, bringing dance creation to the Isabel Bader Studio Theatre.
5. Education is also a central theme of the Juvenis Festival, wherein there is an exciting lineup of arts-based workshops for youth ages 13-30. Can you give us a rundown of what types of workshops are being offered, and give your best pitch to convince someone on the fence to attend?
We surveyed close to 400 Kingston youth this fall about what arts education opportunities they feel they’re missing out on. We came back with a huge list and have whittled it down to roughly 25 workshops which will be offered between April 30 and May 7 at venues across Kingston. This workshop series is free of charge for youth ages 13-30 and they’re valued between $150-$500 per workshop! If you’re looking to try something new or are a knowledgeable artist, these workshops are designed to appeal to both kinds of people and everyone in between.
I’m really happy with the variety of workshops and the depth of the content. For example, we have a Site Specific Theatre workshop led by Aimee Bouchard, a Costume Design workshop led by Anne Redish, an Event Photography workshop with Mark Bergin and Sophia Kendall which will take participants through Juvenis events all week and show them how to take pictures at concerts, plays, etc. We also have 3 round table/panel discussion type events this year which are bringing some incredible voices together to discuss various art forms with youth. We have a Directing Round Table with Chiamaka Ugwu of Toronto and Sarah Phillips from Prince Edward County, a Blog-Writing panel discussion with Anna Ruck, Rosayln Gambhir and Tianna Edwards and we’re in the process of firming up a Film-based panel discussion in partnership with the Kingston Canadian Film Festival.
6. The Juvenis Festival boasts a wide variety of shows, which prominently feature younger performers. Can you give us a glimpse of what shows you are personally looking forward to the most? Which performance/performers do you think will be the talk of the festival?
I would be remiss if I didn’t say I wasn’t looking forward to everything…and a lot of youth out there would probably blacklist me. I mentioned that I’m very passionate about providing youth with the tools they need to express themselves and to show them that their creation and art is valuable is even better. We’re proud of all 9 days of it!
But I must say that I am very excited to see Zombie Prom. Just thinking about the premise of the show makes me smile and we have a great group of high school students pouring their hearts and souls into it. We’ve also got Johnny MacRae coming to town as the feature poet for the Kingston Poetry Collective’s Poetry Show which is being co-presented by Kingston WritersFest. He’s a fabulous young poet from Vancouver and it will be great to have him performing with local Kingston poets. I think that people will be really taken with the caliber and creativity of the work being presented this year from young people in this community.