The Sechelt Arts Festival will mark its 20th anniversary this October with an event featuring staggering variety designed to highlight local and emerging artists.
Performances, exhibitions and screenings will take place over 18 days at three venues in the District of Sechelt, including a revived musical tribute to Juno- and Grammy-winning artist Joni Mitchell that will take place at the Raven’s Cry Theatre.
The festival was started in 2004 with Nancy Cottingham Powell as a driving force. In each of the last six years, current co-producers Diana Robertson and Ross Powell have concocted a theme and designed dizzying arrays of events that emphasize creativity and heritage.
“From the start we were really trying to bridge different disciplines in staging shows,” said Powell. “So there’d be arts and music and dance in one show but cross over in a sort of a collaborative way, and nobody was really doing that in those days.”
Previous themes explored the story of cedar, the art of water, and Canada’s historical origins. The theme of recycling and upcyling was woven through last year’s event.
More than 120 local artists, performers, technicians and volunteers are expected to be involved in this year’s milestone festival. A film showcase on Oct. 13 will feature a world premiere of Charlene San Jenko’s latest work Coming Home for the Children. Award-winning shorts from local teams in the Run N Gun 48 Hour Film Competition will also be shown alongside works like Diego Samper’s documentary Wild Symphony, which premiered last year in Gibsons.
Two filmmakers — Steven Schwabl (“W”) and Gordon Halloran (“Weather Report”) — will join forces through a staging of Halloran’s one-man play Showing Size, in which Schwabl stars as a reactionary stock magnate threatened by Internet trading. Author and performer Caitlin Hicks will perform extracts from her comedy Six Palm Trees and her novels chronicling heroine Annie Shea.
Another one-man play — Little Voices — will feature actor and playwright Lucas Foss in a story about personal metamorphosis that earned B.C. and national theatre awards upon its debut in 1999.
“Our mission is to help Coast artists do things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do and create new works,” said Robertson. She curated an art exhibition, Siyaya Heritage Stories, in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists worked together. The resulting works will be displayed at the Seaside Centre for the duration of the two-week festival.
“Two groups of the artists that were in the show 10 years ago decided they wanted to come back,” explained Robertson. “Then we brought together three additional groups of people that hadn’t worked together.” Manuela Salinas, a member of the shíshálh Nation, collaborated with collage artist Nadina Tandy and painter Todd Clark. shíshálh painter and sculptor Candace Campo worked with Sandy Buck, a Métist artist who co-founded the non-profit organization Deer Crossing the Art Farm.
A celebration of Sunshine Coast dance talent will resurrect a one-time annual tradition that ended two decades ago. Paul and Nicola Blakey formerly directed a professional-calibre production of dance combining multigenerational talent and contributors from various studios. “A lot of those adult dancers have come back this year to perform for the first time,” said Robertson, “like Sylvain [Brochu], to appear again onstage.” Supplementing primary dance events (and a reception) on Oct. 28, Brochu will produce three intimate performances that blend dance, live piano and vocals at the Waldorf Ballet studio.
Free, interactive workshops will include a session on making ofrendas, altars prepared for Mexican Día de los Muertos observances. The Día de los Muertos tradition will blend with ancient Celtic Samhain rituals on Oct. 31 as a parade and outdoor concert converge at Hackett Park. The show will include shadow puppetry featuring artist Gerardo Avila, and musical performances by Venezuela-born Susana Williams and Romany jazz band Caravan Paradiso.
“It’s all kind of a little bit of an experiment,” said Powell. “But then what isn’t in our world?”
Full listings for the Sechelt Arts Festival are available online at secheltartsfestival.com. Tickets or registration are required for some events.