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An exercise in thrilling collaboration

Sechelt Arts Festival
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Dancers Pan Wilson and Brittany Robertson performing to the music of Mimosa, with Tamar Kozlov's sultry images as the backdrop during the Sechelt Arts Festival's Main Stage Showcase "the Haunt of a Woman".

The eighth annual Sechelt Arts Festival broke all kinds of moulds, firstly by becoming a 12-day event jam-packed with every kind of art for every kind of audience imaginable.

In both free and ticketed events, collaborative art was the theme for the festival. Coordinator Nancy Cottingham Powell consciously invited artists of all disciplines to make their work together.

“I looked for artists who already collaborate in their work, as well as artists who were willing to take that creative leap and work with others,” Cottingham Powell said.

The results, generously sponsored by the District of Sechelt and other grantors and sponsors, were spectacular for artists and audiences both.

“This year’s festival combined the talents of local musicians, performers, artists, dancers, writers, archivists, puppeteers, and even a clown — it was great fun and highlighted the incredible diversity of the Coast’s arts community,” said the District of Sechelt’s Arts coordinator Siobhán Smith. “Nancy Cottingham Powell and the Sechelt Arts Festival significantly contributes to the cultural fabric of the community.”

Making art, whether music, painting or dancing, for example, is one thing when by yourself, with your dance company or band of musicians. Most artists are familiar with creating their work this way. And we, as an audience, are familiar with having that format presented to us on stage or in a gallery. But put together a couple of musicians who don’t usually play together, a few dancers, some painters and a sculptor on a stage live at the same time creating one work, and it’s a whole different thing for everyone onstage and off. The artists are challenged in ways they have never been, and the audience is as well. Just throw “the box” away.

The resulting works thrilled audiences, who want to experience more collaborative pieces, and the artists, who are now making art they had never before conceptualised. Some are continuing to explore multi-media live collaborations with those they partnered with for the festival, and others are seeking new people to collaborate with. It is an exciting time on the Sunshine Coast in the art world. More than 2,500 people attended this year’s festival, and experienced the work of 131 artists.

“There is a large number of professional and semi-professional artists on the Coast,” Cottingham-Powell said. “It’s all here. Asking them to collaborate on live pieces is a way of asking them to step up their creativity. It was fun.

“I basically ran around and planted seeds, dropped ideas into ears, and waited to see what would come out of it. I didn’t produce the showcases; I wanted the artists to do that. I wanted to help artists by planting those seeds, and then provided the stages, marketing, box office, logistical support for their collaborations,”

There was also a conscious decision to move the festival from August, when there are plenty of festivals on the Sunshine Coast, to October, when it is quieter.

“I wanted to partner with the Crawl, offer complementary programming, not try to compete with it,” she said. “However, I learned that there is just too much going on during the Crawl, so next year there will be a scheduling change of a week. That way, more people can participate in both and not feel too stretched.”


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