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Sooke arts academy pushes through pandemic

Amber Academy ready to launch 2021-22 season
Students Sophia Petronas, left, and Beyla Medos strike a pose in rehearsal as lionesses in The Lion King from 2019. Amber Academy launches its 2021-22 season on Sept. 13. (Contributed - Amber Academy)

When Keli Dunn first learned that the Amber Academy would face a curtailment of activities due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, she said it was “a moment of adaptation.”

“It was a lot of work and learning going into it,” she said. “We were able to make it work quite well.”

To be sure, Amber Academy wasn’t the only one shaken the last year, thrown into the deep end of what’s next – as COVID-19 forced a global lockdown. But many did a quick pivot, creating new and creative ways to engage their community.

In Dunn’s case, this included creating a new class to teach students the art of video and film production so that the children could take on the roles of film and editing crew to produce a digital delivery of the spring show to an online audience.

The decision to be proved to be “wonderfully successful,” Dunn said, and Amber Academy’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is available to view online at There is no fee to watch the film, but donations are accepted through the Amber Academy website at

Amber Academy launched five years ago with the idea to empower youth through the arts. So far, more than 400 children have taken part in the classes that range from art to music to acting.

The pandemic has brought several challenges to the youth programs and activities.

Amber Academy was forced to cancel three events in the spring of 2020, which resulted in a significant loss of operating funds to the program. Last spring, there were more losses, but 70 children did participate in the program.

“Fortunately, we were able to secure funding from the Arts and Culture Resiliency Supplement, which gave us the ability to resume our program last season under new COVID-19 health and safety protocols,” Dunn said.

Enter the video and film class. Dunn was determined to find a way for the students to have a production so their friends and family members could see their achievements, even if it meant no revenue from ticket sales.

“Every year, the kids work so hard to put our shows together, it’s something they really look forward to, and they deserve the chance to present their work,” she said.

Now Amber Academy is gearing up for another season with a full range of classes and, of course, more fundraising. The group will hold a 50/50 draw which will go toward its next spring’s production of the Wizard of Oz. Tickets are $5 each or $20 for five tickets and can be bought at Forbes Pharmacy Sooke, Sooke Yarn & Fibre, Sooke Sweet & Pop Shop, and the Sooke Art Gallery. Tickets can also be purchased by emailing or by telephone at 250-888-1921.

Registration information for this year’s classes is available online at Classes begin Sept. 13.

ALSO READ: Sooke, after-school arts program, retells story of Holocaust survivor

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Kevin Laird

About the Author: Kevin Laird

It's my passion to contribute to the well-being of the community by connecting people through the power of reliable news and storytelling.
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