The Essential Project: performer Brad Brackenridge


“The pandemic has put a halt to a number of scheduled productions. I now have time, as we slowly come out of it, to channel my work in a new direction. Keep moving!” – Brad Brackenridge, entertainer (Photo: Julie Gagné)

On August 31, Peterborough’s Electric City Culture Council (EC3) launched “Essential,” a photography project that raises awareness of the plight of local artists and arts organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Part of EC3’s Peterborough Arts Alive initiative, Project Essential is a series of 17 photos by local photographer Julie Gagné who represents 20 local artists during the pandemic. Each of the photos features an artist or artists at their home or workplace and is accompanied by an artist statement on their experience with the pandemic.

Twice a week until the end of October, kawarthaNOW publishes photos from the series. Today we present the performer Brad Brackenridge.

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Brad Brackenridge, entertainer

Brad Brackenridge - The Essential Project.  (Photo by Julie Gagné, design by Rob Wilkes)
Brad Brackenridge РThe Essential Project. (Photo by Julie Gagn̩, design by Rob Wilkes)

A message from EC3 on The Essential Project

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on individual artists and arts organizations in Peterborough. Performance halls and galleries have been closed, concerts canceled, exhibitions postponed, entire seasons abandoned. Organizations and facilities are struggling to cope with lost revenue and an uncertain future. The “reopening” is not easy, to say the least.

Individual artists have lost their creative income and the ability to work together to create – something that is absolutely vital for them and for their audience. Many have rotated, developed and presented large virtual and digital projects. But nothing replaces the live performance in front of a live audience and the catalytic energy that comes from being together to rehearse, discuss and plan projects, to come together at a vernissage or an artist conference.

Isolated at home, cut off from their communities and the vital element of their artistic practice, local artists have nonetheless found ways to bring our cultural life to life. Silent and almost invisible, they continued to work. But it was not easy.

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Local photographer Julie Gagné began photographing a number of Peterborough residents in their homes at the start of the pandemic and posted the photos on Facebook. The eloquent and haunting images of her portrait project “Within” included some artists, and these incredibly moving images caught the attention of EC3 Executive Director Su Ditta.

Julie’s photos made us think. We have all benefited from the work of artists during the pandemic: we listened to music, read books, watched films, visited virtual exhibitions, listened to living room concerts. How did it go for the artists? Will people remember how essential the arts were in getting through the pandemic in terms of recovery funding and budget planning? Will artistic organizations be supported in a solid recovery plan?

EC3 commissioned theater artist Sarah McNeilly to organize and coordinate, and approached Julie Gagné to do a separate series of photos that spoke about the experience of local artists and what art means in our lives, in good times and in bad times. It is essential.

This arts awareness project is both a witness to the struggles and a testament to the courage and contributions of this community during the COVID-19 containment. Our sincere thanks go to Julie and all members of the artistic community who have helped us continue.

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