October is one of the most gratifying months of the year on the Sunshine Coast arts calendar, thanks to the three-day Art Crawl (Oct. 22-24), and leading up to that, the 17 days of the Sechelt Arts Festival (SAF).
Starting Oct. 8, the SAF lights up five different venues with a busy calendar of music and dance, hands-on (safely) workshops, dramatic theatre, a heritage exhibit, a literary event, and visual arts you can view and even take part in creating.
SAF co-producers Diana Robertson and Ross Powell build each year’s festival around a theme. For 2021, the theme is “unity,” and SAF aims to achieve that Canadian-style, by honouring our diversity.
“We have addressed different aspects of diversity in the community, whether it is multiculturalism, or diversity in gender identity – with our art exhibition in particular,” Robertson said in an interview. “We’re really embracing and celebrating diversity in a lot of different forms.”
On Friday, Oct. 8, the Unity Art Exhibition, exploring gender diversity, opens downstairs at the Seaside Centre, presenting the work of seven Coast artists. The exhibit runs Thursdays to Sundays, through to Oct. 24. On the final weekend, the centre will become Art Crawl venue #115. Upstairs at the Seaside Centre will be this year’s heritage exhibit, Canoe Culture, “an experiential journey through the history of the canoe.”
Just outside Seaside Centre, the Sechelt Farmers’ Market extends its usual April-to-September season, setting up there for the duration of the festival.
At Trail Bay Centre, meanwhile, the Sechelt company Paintillio, which specializes in interactive art, returns to SAF with another of its murals to which young and old can add their own touches of paint, starting Thursday, Oct. 14.
Performances kick off on Saturday, Oct. 9, with Dances from Home, as Filipino, Indian, Latin, Japanese, Hawaiian, Métis, and shíshálh Nation dancers and musicians perform live at the Sechelt Seniors Activity Centre. At Raven’s Cry Theatre on Oct. 23, Gibsons poet, public speaker, and Buddhist teacher Valerie Mason-John will read from her work and be interviewed by Sunshine Coast Arts Council curator-director Sadira Rodrigues.
Music is featured at a few different venues, starting with the annual Music Arising concert Oct. 10 at St. Hilda’s Church, this year featuring up-and-coming talents Ashley Hautala, Kaishan, and Gingersnaps & Shortbread. The following weekend brings gospel music’s Marcus Mosely Ensemble to Raven’s Cry Theatre, with guest Katherine Penfold, and accompanied by a 12-person chorus led by director Darlene Cooper and backed by Bill Sample’s jazz duo.
The festival caps off the season with the premiere of a new play by author Lousie Phillips called Voices. It tells the ultimately tragic story of Canadian opera diva Jeanne Gordon, not so well-known in Canada but a big star in the U.S. in the roaring 1920s. Wanda Nowicki plays the lead role, with a supporting cast that includes Richard Austin, Mac Dodge, and Steve Schwabl.
A full list of what’s on, when, and where can be found on the SAF website, along with a rundown on some fun and informative workshops – some for free – and ticket information.
Masks and safe-distancing will be required at SAF, and although vaccine passports won’t be needed at all events, expect them to be requested at the bigger venues.