Organizers of the 2018 Arctic Winter Games have apologized to northern artists after asking for unpaid performers to appear at March’s events in Hay River and Fort Smith.

The call for performers drew fierce criticism from a range of professional artists earlier this week, largely because the Games billed the unpaid work as an “opportunity” to showcase their talents. Many performers believe promises of exposure in place of payment don’t appropriately value their talents or time.

“The 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games would like to apologize for the way that our call for northern performers and musicians was perceived recently,” read a statement issued late on Wednesday.

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“It was not our intention to disrespect the arts community, but rather to fulfill the mandate of the Arctic Winter Games to promote not only athletic competition and social exchange, but also cultural exhibition.”

Organizers have promised to “revisit” their approach to cultural performers at the Games, which may yet see some form of payment arranged for those who play. Some of those performing at the opening and closing ceremonies are already guaranteed payment, and a revised call for performers will be issued “in the near future” according to Wednesday’s statement.