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Creative Manitoba is celebrating our 20th anniversary! To highlight our history and excitement about continuing to support Manitoba’s arts community, we spoke with community members who have made a particularly special mark throughout our past twenty years. These are their stories.

Julia Ulayok Davis

When Julia Davis landed her first leading role in Rainbow Stage’s recent production of The Little Mermaid, she says it was a dream come true. 

“To look out and see all the little ones dressed as mermaids, dressed as Ariel, coming to see it. I just hope I can inspire a whole new crowd because I would have loved this when I was a kid,” said Davis. “It just feels so surreal now to be on the other side of that. It’s amazing.”

Musical theatre always interested Davis, so much that when she graduated from the Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba, she decided to write her own.

“I love the Disney cartoon classic golden age of Disney musicals. And that was kind of the frame that I wanted to use going into this musical. I think when I was first posting it on TikTok, I marketed it as an Inuit Disney princess kind of musical.”

While studying at The Village Conservatory, Davis connected with Paul De Gurse, a theatre musician who was interested in her work. Familiar with the program, he suggested working together through Creative Manitoba’s Mentorship Program.

“It was a really safe space to just bring my stuff in, run it through other people’s minds. Also, give Paul and I space to track our hours and make some goals. So we ended up writing a couple more songs and fine-tuning the synopsis and then sending it out to some people in the community.”

Davis titled the musical Aqqaq, and says they are now looking to expand and see who else they would be interested in working with. She also tries to bring a lot of her own experience and what she’s learned about writing music to her work. 

“It’s based around the legend of the Northern Lights, the Inuit legend of the Northern Lights, I should say, because there are lots of different legends. It’s kind of a story about me and my life and my story with reconnecting with my culture and then also a story about a lot of the different legends.”

As a young artist who graduated in 2020, Davis says it has been comforting to see herself in so many others within the Creative Manitoba community.

“When you graduate into a global pandemic and you’re like, ‘What am I going to do? I want to be an artist so bad.’ But coming out of that now and seeing that there are a lot of people that were in the same position, it’s nice to see all the cool things they’re doing. And see the way that they’re figuring out ways to support themselves as artists.”

Amanda Emms is a freelance writer and activist living in Winnipeg, Treaty 1 territory. Her work includes collaborations with art organizations, non-profits, public health and media outlets. The library is her favourite space.

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