After several delays because of the pandemic, Artsweek Peterborough is returning full force in May with 10 days of free performance, poetry, and visual arts projects across Peterborough featuring 40 events and nearly 100 artists.
Running from May 5 to 14, the theme of this year’s multi-arts festival is ‘Art in Unexpected Places’ — so expect to see for singers and dancers, circus artists, take-out poetry carts, musicians, giant puppets, visual artists, and surprise events and public acts of creativity popping up every everywhere from the Riverview Zoo to Peterborough Square and from Millennium Park to Armour Hill.
The origins of Artsweek go back to 2005, when the City of Peterborough celebrated its 100th anniversary as an incorporated municipality and formed a committee — led by arts managers and champions Su Ditta and the late Liz Bierk — to come up with ideas for designated legacy projects in the arts, ultimately leading to the annual Artsweek festival. The city transferred responsibility for Artsweek to the Electric City Culture Council (EC3) in 2014, and the festival became a biennial event after 2018.
Although EC3 presented a COVID-modified festival in 2020 and early 2021, this is the first year since the pandemic began that Artsweek will return as a full-scale live event.
Artsweek 2023 launches at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 5th during the monthly First Friday Art Crawl in the courtyard of the Commerce Building at 2 Bankers Common in downtown Peterborough (access via the alley next to Watson & Lou at 383 Water Street).
Artsweek Opening Ceremonies will include the official proclamation of Artsweek by Peterborough mayor Jeff Leal, who will also say a few words about the festival. He will be joined by Terry Guiel, executive director of the Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) and councillor Alex Bierk, chair of the city’s arts, culture and heritage portfolio (and Liz Bierk’s son). Guest artists include the Unity Singers, musician “Washboard Hank” Fisher, and poets Justin Million and Laurin Isiekwena.
After the opening ceremonies, Artsweek’s opening night continues with a selection of 12 signature programs, many of which will be repeated on different dates and locations during the 10-day festival.
At 7:30 p.m. on Friday, artist Jennifer (Opal) Elchuck will lead the Woodland & The Wilds Promenade, a participatory performance featuring a magical gaggle of woodland creatures, musicians, and stilt-walkers who will parade around the downtown. Attendees are encouraged to don one of the animal masks, fly a banner, and join the parade, which departs from the Commerce Building courtyard.
From 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, the Take-Out Poetry Cart will be available on the sidewalks outside the Commerce Building. Step up to the handmade bicycle-pulled cart and a local poet will create a poem just for you, tapping it out on a classic manual typewriter. Whether you request a Shakespearean sonnet, a vengeful haiku, or a tragic ode, you are guaranteed to walk away with a unique work of spontaneous art. The Take-Out Poetry Cart will features a rotating all-star line-up of local poets, including Tammy Bunce-Yaxley, Jon Hedderwick, Kristal Jones, Stevie Lanigan, former Peterborough poet laureate Sarah Lewis, Justin Million, Janette Platana, Carlo José Quinones, Bon Scott, PJ Thomas, Niambi Tree, and Peterborough’s newest poet laureate Ziysah von Bieberstein.
At 8 p.m. and again at 8:45 p.m. on Friday, visit the courtyard behind Black Honey Café at 217 Hunter Street West (access via the alley next to Karma’s Café) for Interactive Musical Animations, a one-night-only 20-minute performance of multimedia music and projections by singer-songwriter Benj Rowland.
Finally, from 9 to 10 p.m. on Friday at the Heritage Pavilion on Armour Hill at 300 Hunter Street East, experience a one-night-only concert under the stars when Charlie Glasspool and company perform as 3C84. This original song cycle, first written and recorded 15 years ago, is inspired by the discovery that a distant black hole (3C84) in the Perseus cluster of galaxies is emitting a steady B flat note — albeit inaudible to human ears at 57 octaves below middle C.
Intrigued by a note with real uses (concert B flat is used to tune a wind ensemble), Glasspool celebrates this cosmic phenomenon in a concert featuring the space-age sound of the theremin performed by Jesse Pilgrim. Along with Pilgrim on theremin and Glasspool on piano and voice, the performers include Jose Contreras (synths, sound effects, voice), Victoria Yeh (violin), Susan Newman (voice), and Evangeline Gentle (voice). Stargazing on Armour Hill with guest astronomers will follow the concert.
Artsweek continues on Saturday and Sunday (May 6 and 7) with Porchapalooza, which features live music performed by local musicians on five neighbourhood verandahs each day. Curated by Hank and Kristine Fisher, the performances take place at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. each day. You can take a guided tour of all five porches, moving from one porch to the next, or just drop by any of the five porches on your own.
Porchapalooza – Saturday, May 6
466 Gilmour St. – Chester Babcock (vintage vocal jazz)
516 Homewood Ave. – Victoria Yeh (jazz fusion violin)
524 Homewood Ave. – Phaedra & Marc (bluegrass country)
530 Gilmour St. – Little Fire Collective (space folk rock)
550 Gilmour St. – Irish Millie (traditional fiddle)
Porchapalooza – Sunday, May 7
546 Waterford St. – Tami J. Wilde (country folk)
562 Waterford St. – Sam Allison (roots hokum blues)
573 Waterford St. – Beau Dixon (R&B soul)
592 Waterford St. – Tom Eastland (folk rock)
544 Harvey St. – McDonnel Street Gospel Quartet (vintage roots gospel)
When you’re not enjoying Porchapalooza, you can also visit the Take-Out Poetry Cart from 3 to 6 p.m. on Saturday at the main entrance to Jackson Park and experience Woodland & The Wilds Promenade on Sunday from 2 to 3 p.m. at the main entrance to Riverview Park & Zoo, where you can don a mask, fly a banner, and join a magical gaggle of woodland puppets, stilt-walkers, and travelling musicians.
Artsweek continues on Monday (May 8), with the launch of Look Out!, where a suite of Peterborough painters, video artists, and photographers investigate the possibilities of our urban landscape. Curated by Su Ditta, artists include Tia Cavanagh, LA Alphonso/Age of Moss (Paul Moss), Sioux Lily Dickson, Cassandra Lee, and Sammy Tangier. Look Out! will run daily until May 12, with locations and times to be announced at artsweekpeterborough.ca.
Also launching on May 8 and running until May 12 is Hot Spots, featuring 30-minute performances of music, dance, and spoken word at 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. in the Peterborough Square courtyard at the corner of Water and Charlotte Streets.
Curated by Sara Shahsavari and Su Ditta, performers include The Colton Sisters at 12:30 p.m. and Mintu Maria James at 5:30 p.m. on May 8, Cale Crow at 12:30 p.m. and Elizabeth Jenkins at 5:30 p.m. on May 9, Saskia, Jade & Shahrazi at 12:30 p.m. and Will Ward at 5:30 p.m. on May 10, Adrian Lowe at 12:30 p.m. and Kelli Marshall & Shahrazi at 5:30 p.m. on May 11, and Ále Suárez at 12:30 p.m. and Harbhajunkie at 5:30 p.m. on May 12. Catch them at lunchtime or after work.
Look Out! and Hot Spots continue Tuesday through Thursday (May 9 to 11), with the Take-Out Poetry Cart available from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday at the Peterborough Public Library.
On Thursday (May 11), the Peterborough Poetry Slam Collective presents the first-ever Artsweek Invitational Peterborough Poetry Slam from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Peterborough Square courtyard (with the rain location inside Peterborough Square). The evening of competitive performance poetry, where poets perform original pieces up to three minutes in length, features poets Ziysah von Bieberstein, Niambi Tree, Sarah Lewis, Laurin Isiekwena, Carlo Jose Quinones, and more.
On Friday (May 12), Look Out! and Hot Spots continue and the Take-Out Poetry Cart will be available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Lansdowne Place.
Also on Friday, Naomi Duvall presents Dark Eyes: Granny Tales at 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. in the parking lot behind the Theatre On King at 171 King Street. Building on an original shadow puppet play, Dark Eyes is a 20-minute musical and semi-improvised storytelling session with projections where ‘Granny’ shares tales with her grandchildren and vivid memories of experiences from her younger days. Live music is performed by Naomi Duvall and Ryan Mclean Purdon, with recorded music and performances by Satah Cameron, Robert Hedge, Derek Bell, Lindsay Unterlander, and Sarah McNeilly.
On Saturday (May 13), the Take-Out Poetry Cart will be available from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Peterborough Regional Farmers’ Market at Quaker Foods City Square (on Charlotte Street just east of Alymer).
Quaker Foods City Square will also host Construction Guys at 12 p.m. on Saturday. This aerial acrobatic street show from the Hercinia Arts Collective and Trellis Arts debuted in 2022 with performances at Brooklin Spring Fair, Arts in the Parks, and Toronto Buskerfest. Co-created and performed by Vanita Butrsingkorn, Nicole Malbeuf, and Emily Hughes with direction by Zita Nyarady, this high-energy show for the entire family features physical comedy, feats of strength, choreographed dances, and some high-flying acrobatic surprises. The show will be performed for a second time at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Millennium Park at 130 King Street.
VIDEO: “Construction Guys” trailer (2022)
Also on Saturday, Woodland & The Wilds Promenade takes place from 2 to 3 p.m. at Ecology Park (parking available at the Beavermead Park parking lot off Ashburnham Drive). For the final time during Artsweek, you can celebrate local wildlife and our shared greenspaces with community crafting and a musical parade. Everyone can take part: don a mask, fly a banner, and join a magical gaggle of woodland puppets, stilt-walkers, and travelling musicians.
The Artsweek Closing Celebration will be held from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at Millennium Park, beside the Silver Bean Café. Join Artsweek artists, volunteers, staff, and supporters and dance your legs off to the sounds of Cajun music from the Peterborough bayou courtesy of Pays d’en Haut.
The final event for Artsweek 2023 is The Verandah Society from 1 to 2 p.m. on Sunday (May 14) on the Kerr House verandah at Trail College at 299 Dublin Street. An original performance of story and song by Megan Murphy and Kate Suhr with Saskia Tomkins on fiddle, The Verandah Society is a charming, humorous and heartfelt show that takes audiences on an entertaining and thought-provoking journey using personal storytelling and song writing. Full of nostalgia, humanity and humour, it’s time well spent with neighbours on the proverbial front porch.
PDF: Artsweek Peterborough 2023 program
Artsweek Peterborough 2023 program
For complete details of Artsweek 2023, including additional performances and any last-minute schedule changes, visit artsweekpeterborough.ca.
Presented by the Electric City Culture Council (EC3), Artsweek 2023 is funded by the City of Peterborough, the Ontario Arts Council, and the federal Department of Canadian Heritage and sponsored by the Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area and kawarthaNOW, with partners Public Energy Performing Arts, Ashburnham Realty, Peterborough Square, and First Friday Peterborough.
The Artsweek 2023 team includes executive producer Su Ditta, producer Bill Kimball, assistant producer Bryar Gray, EC3 program coordinators Elisha Rubacha and Gabe Pollock, curators Hank and Kristine Fisher (Porchapalooza), Sarah Shahsavari (Hot Spots), and Su Ditta (Hot Spots, Look Out!), with sound production by Alan Stanley, Tai Timbers, Nick Lato, and Rob Hailman, print design by Rob Wilkes of Big Sky Design, and documentation by Michael Morritt and Andy Carroll.
kawarthaNOW is proud to be the official media sponsor of Artsweek Peterborough 2023.