Michael Feehan champions alternative art scene

Feehan believes community-building is as important as artistic expression

Latex balloons, reflective spray paint and silver tape. These are the raw materials of Michael Feehan’s now infamous 2015 Halloween costume – the Talus Dome. The costume was both a satirical riff on the much-maligned piece of public art and a cheeky homage to its balls-out presence on the side of the Whitemud Freeway.

Mike Feehan Talus Dome“I think it has its highest level of engagement where it is now,” laughs Feehan, who graduated in 2015 with a BA in film studies and political science. “People can’t ignore it.”

Community-based arts advocacy (and a bit of rabble-rousing) is something that Feehan is passionate about. At 25, he is the youngest member of the Premier’s Council on Culture and is also deeply involved in Edmonton’s alternative art and music scenes. While still at the University of Alberta, Feehan was among the first group of students to receive a Certificate in World Sound Arts, offered by the Department of Music. The keyboard player then co-founded (along with Travis Dallyn and Nick Leeb) the not-for-profit organization The Creative Clubhouse, a multidisciplinary, collaborative art space.

“I think at first we were definitely looking for our own creative space to be away from our parents, hang out with our friends and be loud!” says Feehan. “But after that, we thought that the space had a lot of potential – something that could be opened up to create art that’s bigger than us.”

The Creative Clubhouse was the host site in 2012 and 2013 for Alberta Culture Days, which helped to spread the news about what they were offering. “Alberta Culture gave us a grant and said we appreciate your vision and we want you to do urban arts programming for a weekend,” says Feehan. Many different types of artists were hired to create a space with few boundaries and where collaboration between the arts was encouraged.

“One of my fondest memories was when someone was painting this great thing on a wall and there was a band jamming on stage and it felt like they were feeding off each other’s energy.”  

Michael feehan graffiti wall

The Creative Clubhouse is a moving venue, though not necessarily by design. Last summer their downtown location was shut down, as were other arts spaces in the area. “It’s an epidemic,” says Feehan, attributing the loss to high rents and a lack of vision on the part of landlords.

He refuses to be daunted.

In September 2015, The Creative Clubhouse organized the inaugural YEGfest event at the Heritage Amphitheatre, which was geared toward the urban art scene – from graffiti to genres of musical performance not typically represented at other festivals in Edmonton such as electronica, hip-hop and indie rock. “People have remained loyal even beyond our original space,” he says.  

Feehan is planning to pursue a graduate degree, but until then remains immersed in Edmonton’s artistic community as an advocate and contributor. Recently, Feehan wrote and directed a short film for FAVA’s Video Kitchen Class called Lost in a Bubble and he is also helping to produce and assistant-direct a feature length film by Patrick Strevens called Driftwood, scheduled to be released in 2016. 

According to Feehan, there is always more to be done, but narrowing his interests is not an option. “I can’t be singularly focused,” he says. “It’s both a blessing and a curse!”

The Creative Clubhouse on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thecreativeclubhouse

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