“I feel a shift, culturally, of understanding the relevance of the arts in our everyday lives; of taking arts into workplaces as more of a tool of being fuller human beings.”
These are the words of the irrepressible Laurel Paluck, Artsweek Peterborough’s program, marketing and communications coordinator.
Paluck has worn a lot of hats in her career as an artistic producer and arts administrator; always with a flare for style and daring aplomb. For Paluck, the ever-changing and precarious world of the arts brings fresh ideas, new approaches, and wonderful acts of creation. Dancing on the edge of uncertainty is part of what makes it all so special.
Those of you unaware of Artsweek’s yearly autumn explosion of creativity across the city have probably happened upon some part of it in one way or another. Perhaps you stopped for a few moments to listen to a spoken word poet on the sidewalk, or found a piece of “abandoned art,” or got swept up in a crowd led by a Jug Band to find yourself on a downtown concert tour. Part of the magic of art, and this event, is its ability to seize you in the midst of your most routine moments and open you up to a new reality.
Artsweek has continued to open up the doorways and alleyways to the sometimes secret, seemingly inaccessible, world of artists and performers since its inception as part of the City’s Centennial Celebration in 2005. Since then it has continued to evolve in keeping with the artistic process itself; through ongoing change and experimentation.
This year’s crop of offerings might be all the more plentiful thanks to the involvement of the Electric City Culture Council (EC3). EC3 formed in late 2012 to support and build resources for artists and cultural workers. Having recently secured key operational funding, it is set to be a stable home for Artsweek in the coming years.
This year’s 10-day celebration of the arts runs from Friday, September 18th to Sunday, September 27th and features dozens of artists working in a wide variety of different forms and settings across the city. The many works and performances will be encompassed by four unique programs: AlleyWaltz, BLINK, Pop-Up Arts, and The Jackson Creek Project.
In addition to these programs, there’s a Art Hop and Launch Party on opening night at Peterborough’s four downtown art galleries: Artspace, Gallery in the Attic, Christensen Fine Art, and Evans Contemporary (also celebrating a grand re-opening at their new Hunter St. location).
AlleyWaltzArtsweek’s grand adventure, from the puzzlingly wonderful to the gorgeously sublime, also features a new incarnation of the popular AlleyWaltz series.
The five top-secret stages of the AlleyWaltz will be set to reveal extraordinary performers including aerial circus artists Opal Elchuk and Kayla Stanistreet, actor and martial artist Ken Gibb and his Without A Scratch Co., talented siblings Sarah and Andy McNeilly, theatrical puppeteers Shelley King and Naomi Duvall, and a trip to Granny’s house with clowns Hilary Wear and Patricia Thorne.
“It’s like theatrical graffiti, really,” says Paluck, who also creates children’s theatre. “When you’re in a seat and the lights go down, you’re alone with your thoughts. You’re engaged within the theatre and all the wonderful magic that happens, but there’s a remove. You’re there just having your emotions and your mind engaged, but physically you’re so static. There’s a physical complacency that I think has a connection to the way that our brains and our hearts receive things.”
The openness and interactivity of the AlleyWaltz performances is part of what gives it a broad appeal without it being designed to be children’s theatre; there is plenty here for audience members of any age to enjoy.
BLINKPaluck contrasts these types of performance spectacles with the altogether different appeal of visually oriented installations and displays like BLINK — a signature Artsweek event that takes retail spaces in the city’s core and re-imagines them as storefront exhibitions transformed through art.
Co-curators Elizabeth Fennell and Victoria Mohr-Blakeney selected nine artists from the field of submissions to be paired up with nine storefronts. Fennell is the owner and curator of Gallery in the Attic, The Darkroom Project, and a consistent producer in the Peterborough arts scene. Mohr-Blakeney brings a different critical perspective as an equally active Toronto-based curator and current Writer in Residence at C Magazine with personal ties to Peterborough.
Fennell and Mohr-Blakeney chose the artists for excellence in their respective mediums and their unique, creative approaches.
Fennell also emphasizes the power of the unexpected in art making.
“I love putting art in unusual spaces,” she says. “I like the challenge of matching an artist to a space where you wouldn’t expect to see them.”
Her matchmaking of artists and local businesses includes both new and established artists exploring new mediums, so everything about these displays is fresh and novel.
Joe Stable, a legendary Peterborough-based artist for almost 40 years, is transforming his recent Picasso series of digital drawings into “stained-glass” to adorn the windows of the St. Veronus Café and Tap Room, located below his famous Acme studio at the corner of Water and Hunter Streets.
In contrast, newcomer Tara Azzopardi just had her first local show at Evans Contemporary this spring. She’ll be transforming the window of Dolce Vita’s authentic Italian restaurant on George Street in an exploration of display culture itself. Her history of window display will feature many photos of Eaton’s windows from the late ’30s to the early ’50s.
Be sure to check out all the remarkable BLINK artists profiled on the Artsweek website, or just go see them for yourself without any preconceived notions about what you’ll discover.
Fennell and Mohr-Blakeney will lead guided tours or you can take your own tour throughout the festival. In addition to showcasing the work of the artists Fennell also points out that “local businesses’ engagement through their creative endeavours bring a lot to the community, and that BLINK looks to highlight that creativity.”
POP-UP ARTS: #eCityLitAnother aspect of the festival that will be making a more subtle appearance at local cafés is #eCityLit, one of seven features in the POP-UP ARTS program section.
This series of micro-fictions and poems will be printed on cup sleeves at some of the area’s favourite cafés including The Nutshell Next Door in Lakefield, Silver Bean Café, Dreams of Beans, Hasseltons, and The Spill.
Lakefield-based writer Laura Rock Gaughn and writer and literary critic JC Sutcliffe gleaned the idea from an increasingly popular micro-lit trend in the literary scene. They co-curated the selection of submissions from local writers who were then commissioned to have their works printed on the recyclable and compostable sleeves.
Gaughn describes it as a little jolt of inspiration that can reach anyone.
“A little pleasure, or the spark of an idea,” she says. “It’s short. And that’s a virtue for someone not expecting to be reading something.”
Gaughn imagines people reading those lines being provoked into thinking, or feeling pleasure/surprise, or a response that leads to a connection. She’s hoping some of those connections might be between local writers and new readers.
The Jackson Creek ProjectFollowing the course of Jackson Creek through Jackson Park and into the city is the final installment of the four core Artsweek programs: The Jackson Creek Project.
Photographer Esther Vincent’s “Going Down to Jackson” is already generating quite a buzz. The upcoming exhibition features portraits of people from all over Peterborough wearing rubber boots and standing in their favourite part of the creek. Many participants have already queued up to have their pictures taken (Editor’s note: bookings are now closed).
Projections of these photographs along with video of the short film Lost and Found in Jackson Creek, created by filmmaker Lester Alfonso and his daughter, will be appearing on buildings and in mysterious places throughout Artsweek.
The Jackson Creek Project will also feature a multi-disciplinary “Sunday in the Park” celebration, a walking history tour of Jackson Creek, and a sculptural installation by Lett Architects at their King Street location.
It is the nature of the artistic community here (and no doubt elsewhere) that no matter what life throws at them, artists will find a way to keep creating, performing, and making art. It is a quality that many of us and our cherished institutions could learn a great deal from in terms of embracing change, meeting new challenges, and finding new ways of doing things.
But for all that resiliency, we should not assume that artists will continue to exist under the spectre of scarcity. They need and deserve to be respected, appreciated, and rewarded for what they contribute to society.
Our lives are touched by the work of artists every day in a multitude of ways that we often don’t notice. We don’t see the remarkably powerful forces of change and prosperity artists could have, if we permitted them to thrive and be a greater part in shaping the way we do things and how we build our cities and institutions.
Artsweek plays its part each year by turning up the volume of those creative frequencies often drowned out by the buzzing of our consumer industries; frequencies that give meaning to our lives and power the true creative source of our future prosperity.
Artsweek Peterborough 2015 runs from Friday, September 18th to Sunday, September 27th. For all the details on events, displays, artists, and locations visit www.artsweekptbo.com, or pick up an Artsweek guide soon to be available at many locations throughout the Peterborough area.
For more information, you can also contact the Electric City Culture Council (EC3) at 705-749-9101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to get right in on all the action, you can also volunteer at Artsweek by outlining where you’d like best to help out in an email to email@example.com, or you can connect the with the Artsweek Volunteer page on Facebook.
All photos courtesy of Artsweek Peterborough except where noted.