A Campbell River festival that fuses the arts with environmentalism is adapting to the coronavirus for its sophomore year.
The Art+Earth Festival is set to take place Sept. 24 to 27, but unlike its first year, most of the events will be online.
Campbell River Arts Council Executive Director Ken Blackburn was hoping this would be a year of growth for the young festival.
“Obviously the world has changed and like what we had to do with the banner project and the members’ show, we had to rethink how to do things this year,” he says.
The bulk of this year’s festival will feature online offerings with just a few opportunities for in-person events and a handful of hybrid options.
The Art+Earth Festival, which saw the Haig-Brown Festival repurposed into a three-day event is anchored by World Rivers Day, which falls on Sept. 27 this year.
This year’s event will be a smaller affair than the inaugural festival.
“We had hundreds of people cycling through events last year and it’s just not possible this year,” says Blackburn. “We were hoping this would be a year to grow it, but we’ll keep the conversation going.”
The festival will open Thursday, Sept. 24 with the opening of an exhibit by Olivia Whetung entitled Sugarbush Shrapnel, which is on tour from Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery.
“It’s an Indigenous show on traditional knowledge as it relates to the environment,” says Blackburn. “So it’s a perfect subject matter for the Art+Earth Festival.”
Whetung is a member of the Curve Lake First Nation and a citizen of the Nishnaabeg Nation. According to a description of the exhibit, a thread of her work explores “ways that knowledge is carried by language, land and bodies of water.” In Sugarbush Shrapnel, she “expands these material and conceptual investigations to consider her own connections to the complex ecosystem of her home on Chemong Lake, Ontario, particularly the importance of food sovereignty and the fragility of symbiotic relationships in an era of accelerating climate change and the environmental destruction.”
Festival action starts earlier Friday with the online release of Eiko Jones’ new film “Salmon Capital,” which focuses on the history of salmon in Campbell River.
Greenways’ Land Trust follows with an online event of their own, “Zooming in: Campbell River Estuary & Baikie Island. The Zoom event will start at 11 a.m. on Sept 25 and last about 30 minutes. It’ll offer information about the transformation of the Campbell River estuary from an industrial site into a lush greenspace.
Festival action continues Saturday with one of the rare in-person events. From noon to 4 p.m., First Nation carver Orland Hansen (Simituk) will be showing work he completed during his Walter Morgan Studio Artists Residency. Later in the day, there will be a virtual interview with the studio’s other artist in residence, Libby King. King is spending the year working on a literary novel that explores “the rules surrounding the disintegration of platonic female friendships within a landscape influenced by new forms of memoir.”
On Sunday, the 11th Annual Haig Brown Lecture will be delivered by award-winning photographer and filmmaker Eiko Jones. He’ll be talking about his time in Campbell River photographing and filming salmon. “While watching and filming salmon, he has developed a keen understanding of the relationship between healthy salmon runs and the vibrance of the entire watershed,” reads a blurb on the arts council website.
The Haig Brown Lecture will also mark the first time Jones’ new feature film “Heartbeat of the River” will be shown in Canada. The event is a hybrid event that is hosted by the Tidemark Theatre. There will be tickets for limited in-person seating as well as livestream tickets.
“We’re going to be experimenting with a lot of the new technology that we have and a new way to present content,” says Blackburn. “We hope the community will support the arts in this. It’s a new reality. This is something that’s going to be with us now for awhile until full audiences come back but that could be awhile. In the meantime, we’re trying to encourage people to at least support us through buying a ticket and experiencing these things virtually.”
Earlier in the day, the City of Campbell River will be hosting its annual Stewardship Awards at the Tidemark Theatre. Starting at 4 p.m., the awards, which celebrate community members making a difference for the environment, will be livestreamed.
During the festival, Beach Fire Brewing & Nosh House will be shining a spotlight on a locally inspired dish every evening.
Throughout the weekend, the Museum at Campbell River will be publishing pre-recorded virtual tours of the Haig-Brown House on its website. Haig-Brown Readings will also be published throughout the week as read by community members in the study at Haig-Brown House.
Greenways Land Trust will be holding a Nature Mandala Contest. The challenge is to use found natural materials – think leaves, sticks, rocks, pine cones, flowers – to create a circular mandala. The contest is open to artists ages 10 and under. They will need to submit a photo of their design to email@example.com and a young judging panel will pick a winner for the Coho Books gift certificate prize. Photos must be submitted between Sept. 20 and 27.
Like the festivals’ first year, there will also be window poetry this year. Check out shop windows downtown for the newly-produced work.
Blackburn is hopeful the community will continue to support the Art+Earth Festival, even during a pandemic.
“We’re still here,” he says. “We’re still trying to produce programming that has relevance, but it’s going to require some shifts.”
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