In support of fine arts festivals Linda Clark of Miniota has worn many hats over the years, some professional, some amateur and some are volunteer, but all are worn with the same dedication and genuine desire to make the world a better place.
From her early days as a participant in the Birdtail River Fine Arts Festival (BRFAF) to her growing role as a teacher who helped prepare individual and class entries, to a committee member and adjudicator, Clark has given tirelessly to local festivals and those farther afield.
On Oct. 20, she was presented with the 2018 Volunteer of the Year by the Associated Manitoba Arts Festivals (AMAF) at the organization’s AGM.
“The part about Linda I find amazing is that she has always been interested in the festival movement and has worked tirelessly to help it grow,” said Joanne Mercier, AMAF Executive Director. “She does a lot to nurture it, not just in her community, but as an adjudicator she brings her positive approach to many other festivals.”
Clark is dedicated to giving children an opportunity to develop public speaking and musical skills and perform in front of an audience.
“I see huge value in having our students be given the opportunity to be on stage to develop speaking and musical skills, self confidence and so much more,” said Clark.
It’s something that Clark experienced first hand when she began performing in the BRFAF at the age of six. Her classroom teacher helped her prepare a poem to recite and she also sang “The Brown Cow”.
“I guess you could say performing on the stage got in my blood and although I do recall having some nervous moments, I loved it. I still love to sing if someone will listen to me and at my stage I have discovered that the personal care homes are quite fine with my now shakier voice.”
Clark continued to perform all the way up through high school and has maintained her association with fine arts festivals for some 60 years as a teacher, volunteer, mother and grandmother.
Part of curriculum
Throughout her teaching career, Clark used the festival as an extension of language arts, physical education and music curriculum. She helped train her students in public speaking, poetry, prose, classroom dancing and choral singing. She also ensured that her own children got to benefit from the experience of participating in festival.
During this time, she was approached to join the BRFAF executive and over 40 years later, she is the driving force behind the event.
“Without volunteers like Linda, none of our festivals would run,” said Mercier, explaining that 28 out of the province’s 30 festivals are 100 percent volunteer based.
Now retired from being a classroom teacher, Linda continues to volunteer in the Miniota K-8 School, where each festival session she assists students in selecting their poems or prose and also spends time training the students.
Clark began to adjudicate speech arts festivals in the surrounding towns while still teaching and has found this to be an enjoyable way to continue to encourage students in their skills.
Festival under threat
“The future of festivals has been a concern for many years now,” said Clark. “Many festivals have disbanded due to lack of entries and/or interested people to run festivals and that has happened for various reasons.
“Part of it is not just because of lack of students who participate, but finding interested people who are willing to serve on committees, and schools who wish to support the festival. For school, life has become even busier it seems and I understand the curriculum and student demands on staff.”
Clark said there is also a lack of pianists to accompany students in vocal classes; organizers are doing their best to adapt. “We have allowed the use of technology to enter our festival, which I realize would not be allowed in a city festival, but at this point we felt we had no other choice if the vocal section was to continue.”
With three grandchildren in school, Clark is hopeful she can keep the festival going….
“I am just a little bit stubborn… I see huge value in the festival experience.”