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Let’s stART at the very beginning

Karen Gross, left, and Alanna Griffin are giving student artists a head start. (Photo by Claire Waque)
Karen Gross, left, and Alanna Griffin are giving student artists a head start. (Photo by Claire Waque)

Alanna Griffin and Karen Gross know that a career in the arts requires ingenuity and creativity for survival. The two Dalhousie and King’s honours students in theatre have taken the future into their own hands and organized the stART festival, a multi-institutional interdisciplinary arts showcase featuring spoken word, theatre, visual and literary art pieces premiering at the Bus Stop Theatre in March.

“It is different than in other jobs,” Gross says of involvement with theatre. “The arts are more niche…that’s just the reality of an arts career: [it’s] self-regulating.”

To be successful in the arts requires self-driven work, so the opportunities to engage can seem limited.

“But the opportunity exists still,” says Griffin.

The two coordinators are working to provide more opportunity for students in Halifax to engage with their future careers through mentors at the festival.  For Griffin and Gross, stART attempts to bridge the gap between the theoretical education that university provides and the practical nature of careers in order to help students with the transition from education to workplace.  Both have an understanding that transitioning from student to professional will require more experience than what is covered in their education, suggesting that “practical experience certainly is the limiting factor in any artisan’s career.”

While working at a career counselling center, Griffin was inspired by the need to seek “mentorship as your own initiative.”

The two coordinators are attempting to help students emerging as professionals in Halifax take this initiative, and bridge the gap between university and work.   They hope to “foster an infrastructure of transition” in the artistic community in Halifax.  After all, the two fourth-years recognize that “this is our start, too.”

While it was challenging for Griffin and Gross to get word around about the festival, they hope that their networking will help to establish some infrastructure for communication between students and professionals in the future.  The founders hope to expand stART across Nova Scotia.

A fundraising preview event for stART featuring the talents of artist Mitchell Wiebe, director Mary Vingoe, and many more professionals will take place at the Bus Stop Theatre on Friday, Jan. 17 at 8pm. Post-secondary artists can find submission information by e-mailing

Correction: The sub-head which appeared in the print version of this article read “Student organized festival gives a taste of theatre by post-secondary artists.” The online version has been corrected to read “art” rather than “theatre.” The Gazette apologizes for any confusion this may have caused. 


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