Skip to content

New Sunshine Coast festival celebrates union of art and words

The inaugural Art and Words Festival will take place at Mission Point House in Davis Bay Aug. 11 to 14. The event is a project of the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society, which was founded last year. 
A.Art and Words Festival artists at Mission Point House
Artists and organizers of the inaugural Art and Words Festival gather at Mission Point House at Davis Bay.

In a month already known on the Sunshine Coast for its annual pageant of writers and books, an upstart festival is sparking creative collaboration by connecting authors and artists. 

The inaugural Art and Words Festival will take place at Mission Point House in Davis Bay Aug. 11 to 14. The event is a project of the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society, which was founded last year. 

According to Society director Cathalynn (Cindy) Labonté-Smith, the Art and Words Festival was devised to put local writers in the spotlight. 

“This is our gift to the community,” said Labonté-Smith, “and it’s quite different [from the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts] in that it’s artists and authors working together.” 

Early this year, the names of 32 visual artists and writers were randomly paired. The pairs were instructed to “go out there together and inspire each other and come up with a piece of artwork and piece of poetry, prose, nonfiction, whatever goes together,” said Labonté-Smith. 

Art and written works will be presented by their creators during 90-minute sessions at Mission Point House. The talks are offered at no charge to members of the public, who are also free to browse art exhibited inside the building during the festival. 

Featured presenters include author Marion McKinnon Crook, who received the 2021 Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing for her book Always Pack a Candle: A Nurse in the Cariboo-Chilcotin. Crook will deliver an address at the festival’s opening reception on Aug. 11 following a welcome song by Calvin Craigan, a hereditary chief of the shíshálh Nation. 

Film director Annie Frazier Henry, whose movie Ladies of the Inlet was screened during Sechelt’s syíyaya Days celebration, will also deliver keynote remarks. 

An original short film will run over the duration of the festival. Falling Down Slowly was produced by Barb Dann, Maggie Guzzi and Gordon Halloran.  

Halloran is a Roberts Creek artist known internationally for his monumental ice installations. Guzzi wrote the screenplay, an account of her husband — poet and carpenter David Phillips — as he contended with Alzheimer’s disease. Dann, a Sechelt-based artist and photographer, contributed complementary imagery. 

All artworks, poems and short stories are contained in a 90-page softcover book that includes the festival program. The proximity of the pieces highlights mutual influences, as with artist Paula O’Brien’s painting “Big Sky Over Lions Bay” and the adjoining poem and short story by Heather Conn. “Who or what is the grand designer of each moment, / choosing the décor of paradise — is it you?” writes Conn in her poem Razor’s Edge. 

The catalogue includes three-dimensional works, including “Seashore Bench” by Roger Handling. The rough-hewn seat, painted to resemble cloud-dappled skies, is paired with Cultural Modification, a story by Jan DeGrass. 

The festival’s collaborative approach was inspired by the Writing on the Edge festival in Yuma, Arizona. “But it’s much more of a juried festival,” said Labonté-Smith, “where they would have all the submissions at the outset and then put people together.”  

Members of the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society wanted an approach that invited serendipity. “They said, make it random and just trust the process. And they were right. Some of the people I put together found out they were neighbours and had never met before,” said Labonté-Smith. “It’s been so magical.” 

The four-day festival also includes a community mosaic project. Visitors can use acrylic pens, paint, brushes and whale stencils to design miniature artworks. The resulting mosaic of combined images will be displayed outside Mission Point House before being auctioned on August 14. Proceeds will benefit next year’s Art and Words Festival, scheduled to take place at the Gibsons Public Market. 

Exhibits from the 2022 festival will also appear at the Gibsons Public Library in September. 

Festival details are available online at