The world is complex – as is the city of Calgary – and the art that reflects it should be too. The Arts Commons Incubator program is designed to support this idea and the artists who are increasingly choosing to move between and blend artistic forms. Prioritizing artists from communities who reflect the diversity and vibrancy of Treaty 7 territory, this program is for artists whose work is in conversation with the world around them.    

The mission of Arts Commons Incubator is to accelerate these artists’ careers. As the largest arts centre in Western Canada and a gathering space for all artistic disciplines, Arts Commons is uniquely positioned to grow, celebrate, elevate, and learn from these artists.

Applications for the inaugural cohort of Incubator artists are now closed. If you have any questions about the program, please contact

Arts Commons Incubator will offer program artist opportunities in networking, professional development, mentorship and performance, exhibition and teaching. There will be opportunities to connect and present with a variety of spaces like TD Amplify Cabarets, ArtsXpeditions, Broadcast Lab, +15 Soundscape, ConocoPhillips Hub for Inspired Learning program - and much more. 

Incubator artists will be invited to meet, discuss, share, support, and challenge each other, the professional artists connected to Arts Commons, as well as arts leaders in the broader arts community of Calgary.

These events and workshops will focus on career development and capacity building, artistic approaches to social change, and applying artistic practices to other areas of life, work, and culture.

Using Arts Commons’ network of local and visiting artists, this element of Incubator will build relationships between participants and leaders in their fields of interest.

 Incubator artists will be given paid opportunities to connect the unique avenues of their practice with audiences through Arts Commons Presents performances, Arts Commons Visual and Media Arts spaces, or Arts Commons Education initiatives. 

Each season of the Arts Commons Incubator program will be designed and facilitated by Incubator Fellows. These Fellows – which will change from season to season – will guide the direction of Incubator offerings, curate exhibitions and performances, and will also receive direct mentorship and support in their career development and exposure to Arts Commons audiences.

The inaugural season of Arts Commons Incubator will be directed by two Incubator Fellows – Calgary-based interdisciplinary artists, curators, entrepreneurs and founding members of the THOTNATION/SANSFUCCS collective, Jae Sterling and Contra. Jae Sterling and Contra will be curating the cohort of 25–35 Incubator artists through an application process opening this summer. 


@jaesterling | @sansfuccs 

Jae Sterling is a multidisciplinary artist and founding member of the THOTNATION/SANSFUCCS collective. Beginning as a musician, he has extended his art form over the years to include painting (acrylic & oil), digital design & mixed media, streetwear design, and written essays.  

Through his early years in Kingston, Jamaica to the landscapes of North America, Jae has spent the past few years developing his artistry by weaving his experiences growing up in Jamaica, South Florida, and coming into adulthood in Canada into all his projects. In 2019, his exploration in hip hop led him to be one of 10 artists selected for the National Music Centre’s Alberta residency program. Sterling has so far released four music projects and has toured in Alberta & Ontario.  

In 2020, Sterling embarked on an ambitious year-long multimedia exhibition, Riding Horses with White Men (RHWWM). This exhibition debuted in Calgary in summer 2020 and is currently touring across Canada into 2021. The success of RHWWM led to him being one of Calgary’s first Black muralists, painting The Guide & Protector in Chinatown.  

Jae’s more recent work, falling under the self-styled title of BULLY, veers towards examining race, sexuality, violence and art’s ability to retell and heal histories while simultaneously violating them. In 2021 Jae intends to release a collection of essays from the RHWWM exhibition and launch BIG BULLY apparel. 


@cartel.contra | @sansfuccs

Contra is a multidisciplinary artist who navigates the Canadian arts and culture landscape as a musician, director, producer, and creative strategist. Her most prominent project to date is through her work in Cartel Madras, an expansive and experimental music project now signed under Sub Pop Records. As a founding member of the THOTNATION/SANSFUCCS collective her artistic journey has also brought her into the world of art direction, visual production, and creative strategy. Challenging cities, industries, and narratives to allow new voices in is at the very centre of how Contra pursues all her creative endeavours; furthering culture and allowing art to thrive.  

Using her eclectic professional background within the creative sector, Contra has been able to combine her artistry with business strategy and marketing acumen with initiatives through her collective. Through her work in Cartel Madras, she has developed counter-culture showcases for new artists while touring extensively within Canada & The United States giving her an immediate, essential and thorough pulse of the underground across Canada. In 2021 she expanded her expertise into overseeing the creation and production of art exhibitions, digital series and documentaries. 

Read the full vision statement from our 2021-22 Incubator Fellows here.

When is the deadline?

Deadline to apply is August 31, 2021.

Can my artist collective apply as a group or do we all need to apply individually?

Yes, artist collectives may apply as a group. Make sure it is clear on your application that you are a group and list the name of a main contact person. If your application is successful, we will ask for information from the other members of the artist collective.

Can I apply if:

  • I’m under 18?
    • No. You must be at least 18 years old by September 1, 2021. You must also be legally entitled to work in Canada.
  •  I’ve never been to a university, college, or have not received specific training in the artistic discipline I’m working in?
    • Yes. Many professional artists / artistic practices are developed through trial and error, lived-experience, mentorship, etc. However, be prepared to speak to your specific education, however you articulate it – even if it is not formal or accredited, this is valuable information so the curatorial team can best understand your professional artistic journey.
  •  I’ve left my artistic practice and am returning to it?
    • Yes. Many artists leave their artistic practice to focus on other career paths or to manage changes to their personal situation. The important factor is that you are committed to a professional arts practice – e.g. this is a career, not an activity that you pick up and put down lightly.
  •  I’ve never exhibited or performed publicly / professionally?
    • No. Arts Commons Incubator is best suited for emerging and mid-career professional artists. If you have not had public performances or professional engagements, we would recommend that you seek out that experience and apply at a later time.

What are the professional development sessions about?

The specific topics of the professional development workshops will be decided in the fall. However, the workshops will be focused on three distinct themes:

  • Career and capacity building: the need-to-know business elements of being a professional artist.
  • Big ideas and collaborations: the content or subject matter piece – the themes/ideas that are at the forefront of artistic thought in that moment.
  • Applying artistic processes to other sectors: how to teach and apply creative thinking/problem solving through art-making to other areas and industries.

What are the networking sessions about?

Networking events will be decided in the fall based on the selected artist cohort. However, these events will connect Incubator Artists to existing networks, arts leaders, civic thinkers, and other artists – both visiting and local.

Will I have the dates for professional development and networking ahead of time?

Yes. All dates will also be communicated as part of the offer Incubator Artists will receive.  

What is the time commitment required from Incubator artists?

The Incubator schedule will vary at different times during the season, but artists can expect to spend approximately four hours a month (between Oct 2021 – Aug 2022) in professional development, networking, and or mentorship events. When artists are exhibiting and/or performing, there will be a greater time commitment required and Incubator artists will be paid according to industry standards. Time commitment and expectations will be outlined as part of the offer that is presented to invited artists. 

What are the possible paid opportunities for performance and/or exhibition?

Performance, exhibition and teaching opportunities may include, but are not limited to:

  • TD Amplify Cabarets: a veritable buffet of performances from artists working across music, dance, spoken word, poetry, drag, burlesque - the list goes on - curated by a local professional artist with something to say.
  • ArtsXpeditions: the series of summertime pop-up performances from Arts Commons Presents in public spaces in each quadrant of Calgary.
  • Broadcast Lab: a screening space for experimental film, video, art, animations, and short documentaries, broadcast on three separate media monitors throughout Arts Commons.
  • +15 Soundscape: a multichannel sound system that provides opportunities to local and national sound artists located on the +15 level.
  • +The ConocoPhillips Hub for Inspired Learning: an immersive program where kids interact with and learn directly from local actors, writers, musicians, and artists.
  • Arts Commons Education Artist-in-Residence Program: bringing artists to schools for customized, curricular themed projects engaging students and teachers in multidisciplinary, arts-based learning.

Artist fees for these engagements vary as the series themselves range in duration, complexity of work, etc. however, fees range from $150 to $1,400.00 per engagement.

Are you looking to present existing work or new work from artists?

We are looking to present the artistic work that is most important to the artist applying. That said, the artist fees are associated with presentations, therefore the fees do not cover the commissioning of new work. We encourage artists to read and/or watch the artistic vision statement from our Incubator Fellows to understand the overall direction of the season, which will inform whether this vision aligns with artist interests and practices.

Do I pay to participate?

No, there is no cost to participate in the professional development, networking, and/or mentorship elements of Arts Commons Incubator – these are offered to advance Incubator artists’ knowledge and networks and career. Selected artists ARE compensated for the work that they exhibit and/or perform for audiences, and all selected artists will have at least one opportunity to exhibit and/or perform for audiences.

Can I be selected to perform/exhibit in more than one series?

Yes. Selected artists will perform or exhibit in at least one series and may be included in as many series, performances, and/or exhibitions as selected by the curatorial team. Artists will be provided and artist fee for work for each of the confirmed engagement.

Will I be notified if I am NOT successful?

Yes. All applicants will receive notice no later than September 30, 2021.