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Photo by Nazeefa Ahmed

An overview of Sled Island 2024

By Ansharah Shakil, Nazeefa Ahmed, July 10 2024—

On June 21, Sled Island hosted a variety of conference panels that aimed to educate artists and creators on succeeding in the business. Self marketing, tax management and harm reduction panels included speakers from industry and mentors who provided advice to up-and-coming creatives in Calgary.

“In a World of AI, How Can Artists Create Connection?” aimed to encourage artists to use artificial intelligence as a tool to enhance one’s art. Panelists encouraged creators to embrace change and build connections in a world of increasing automation.

“[Artists] get to explore all of these different tools that is available on the market right now and see what will come out of it,” said Sally Njorge from the Trico Changemakers Studio.

Addressing the rise of AI-generated music, the panelists believe that AI makes music and artistry more accessible, if used strategically.

“These tools lower the barrier of entry,” said Evan Hu from the AltoSante Digital Health Venture Studio. “You don’t really need to know anything about music or song making to write a prompt.”

However, Hu cautions on the exploitative power of AI and how artists should be prepared for the industry to change dramatically over the years as AI adapts to the subtle nuances of human creation.

“It’s coming like a freight train whether you want it or not,” said Wu. “It is going to be able to write music, compose and imitate. Maybe not right now but I would give it 10 years and you will not be able to distinguish recorded music from AI.”

For SuKha Never Dies, however, AI was a way she believes others could reach music through her segregated upbringing. The Bangladeshi singer spoke of her childhood in Saudi Arabia and how the internet changed the way people saw the other — she believes that AI can be just as transformative.

“We are so lucky to have something that can teach people who don’t have access to different things,” said SuKha Never Dies. “I think AI is so helpful with managing your finances and I had to figure out all of that by myself in my early twenties.”

Sled Alley is another example of an inclusive, free, family-friendly event that still fulfills the meaning of Sled Island. This year Sled Alley took place on June 22 all day beginning at 12pm, presented once again in partnership with the Calgary Downtown Association (CDA). Sled Alley is an intrinsic part to promoting downtown as a bright and lively space for all to enjoy. 

Sled Island organizers spoke about wanting to make Sled Alley a bigger event this year, and they succeeded by holding it in a larger space — from the alley behind The Palace Theatre onto 1st Street, between Stephen Avenue and 9th Avenue — with even more decorations like balloons and comfortable seating places. Sled Alley featured refreshments in the form of food trucks, ice cream trucks and a Dry Bar with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. There was also a compound mobile skatepark and an interactive gaming experience. Alcove Centre for the Arts held a collaborative art station, and local artists had the opportunity for their talent to shine in the Sled Alley arts market with offerings like records, stickers and bookmarks. And of course, the Sled Alley DJs created the perfect atmosphere for the event with their music.

Over at Modern Love, Valerie Hunt hosted an unbelievable set of performances by local drag queens in the Sled Island Drag Brunch, held on June 22 from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Every single performer had the crowd having the time of their lives, cheering so loudly you could hear it from the Modern Love patio and from outside the venue. The song choices were on point and catered perfectly to each queen, from their overall persona and signature dance moves down to their elaborate and magnificent outfits. 

Photo by Daman Singh

Then there was the effortless grace of Dmitri Dmitria to “YA YA”, an example of a performance that was incredibly entertaining but also clearly spoke to each member of the audience. 

The brunch ended off with the absolutely unforgettable experience of Valerie Hunt getting on stage for “HOT TO GO” in an irresistibly riotous performance with magnetic stage presence. Within moments they had half the audience doing the “HOT TO GO” moves and dancing along. It was the kind of performance you wanted to last forever, but when it did end, Valerie Hunt expressed appreciation for partaking in Sled Island to loud applause. 

“Drag is an integral part of the community,” they said, “[and] when Sled Island shows up for us, we show up for them.”

More information about Sled Island 2025 can be found on their website.

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