In a scene reminiscent of a certain wizarding school’s sorting hat ritual, more than two dozen Sunshine Coast artists and writers were randomly paired on Feb. 3 to promote mutual creativity.
The upcoming 2023 Art and Words Festival is an initiative of the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society. Its contributors assembled at the Gibsons Public Market for the matching ceremony, with some six months remaining before the festival’s public exhibition.
Poet Maggie Guzzi and author Heather Conn, who both participated in the inaugural festival in 2022, plucked names from gaudy hats. Fifteen writers were matched with an equal number of artists. Each partnership will collaborate to prepare works for presentation at this year’s Art and Words event, which runs Aug. 10 to 13 at the Public Market.
“Sometimes the artists and writers think, OK, we want to do something totally in sync,” said Cathalynn (Cindy) Labonte-Smith, president of the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society. “They’ll even name their pieces the same thing and do that together. Or sometimes the artists will say, look, I have a number of decades of work. Do you want to go through it and see if something sparks our interest?”
Artworks and written pieces from the 2022 festival were combined in a published anthology. Some partnerships resulted in subsequent creativity, as in the case of Robin Lamarche and Marilyn Sadik. Sadik’s charcoal and pastel work Gentle Beauty inspired Lamarche to pen a short story titled Goodbye, Jake. She later drafted an entire novel inspired by Sadik’s equine portrait.
“That’s the kind of thing I had hoped for,” said Labonte-Smith. She founded the festival to highlight the Sunshine Coast’s rich literary and artistic community. “It’s been great to see it become a reality, and so many people from last year come back, while seeing everything blossom and so many people attracted to come to this as new participants.”
In 2022, Labonte-Smith herself composed a poem during a visit to California’s Joshua Tree National Park. Her assigned partner, Kasia Krolikowska, created a series of digital collages on metal substrates to complement Labonte-Smith’s verse.
Participating writers for the 2023 festival include Marion McKinnon Crook, whose memoir Always Pack a Candle won the Lieutenant-Governor’s Historical Writing prize, and poet Isabella Mori, whose newly-published collection Not So Pretty Haiku was released at an event in Davis Bay on Jan. 30.
Artists represent diverse disciplines. Janna Maria Vallee is a knitter, weaver, and founder of Madeira Park-based Everlea Yarn. Paula O’Brien, an abstractionist whose canvases depict landscapes and marine settings, has an affinity for plein-air painting in oils.
Two of the participants have a family connection. Jennie Tschoban, author of Tales & Lies My Baba Told Me, is grandmother to painter Athena Quershi. Quershi is a Grade 12 student at Elphinstone Secondary School whose acrylic work Fall From Grace was featured in the 2022 Young Artists’ Exhibition at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery.
During the festival, artists and writers will share their respective projects before a live audience and be interviewed by a facilitator. This year, the presentations will be supplemented with workshops on subjects ranging from mystery writing to preparing manuscripts for the Amazon Kindle e-reader.
Information about the approaching Art and Words Festival and its contributors can be found by browsing to scwes.ca.