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Writers, artists meet their match for third annual Art & Words Festival

A matchmaking ritual in Gibsons last week resulted in two dozen partnerships that will produce new works in time for the Sunshine Coast Art and Words Festival in August. 
Participants in the 2024 Art and Words Festival gather in Gibsons to meet their creative partners.

A matchmaking ritual in Gibsons last week resulted in two dozen partnerships that will produce new works in time for the Sunshine Coast Art and Words Festival in August. 

The festival, now in its third instance since inception by the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society, this year attracted a record number of local participants including artists from Powell River and Texada Island. 

During a gathering at the Blackfish Pub on Feb. 8, writers and artists were paired at random. The duos will collaborate to create complementary works in their own mediums. Results will be displayed side-by-side during the festival week (Aug. 22 through 25) at the Gibsons Public Market and published in a printed anthology. 

“You have to stretch yourself a little bit,” said Doris Good, a novelist who in 2023 was paired with painter Marilyn Sadik. “For me, I usually write about social issues, but my partner [Sadik] had different ideas. So I had to write something very positive and pretty.”  

This year, Good will be working with singer-songwriter Jess Hart, who also creates visual art in watercolour, acrylic and resin. Hart is a first-time participant who was invited to enlist when organizers spotted her paintings displayed at the Black Bean Café in Lower Gibsons. 

“There’s even more enthusiasm for artists and writers to jump in,” said Cathalynn Labonté-Smith, the festival’s founder and president of the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society. “It’s gone beyond my expectations and this year I’m urging the writers with works in progress to ask their artists to come up with a book cover for them. It should inspire them to finish those books and get them out there.” 

Painter Ann-Marie Brown has participated since the festival’s first year. Her original collaborator was novelist Andrea Coates. Brown produced a study using encaustic on canvas (titled Surfacing) then Coates wrote a short story with the same title. Finally Brown returned to her canvas and reworked the image based on her reading of Coates’s text. “The cross-pollination between us always makes for better work because you’ve got another pair of eyes,” said Brown. 

Halfmoon Bay painter Hiroshi Shimakazi, whose watercolour exhibition The World As I See It was featured at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery last month, has been paired with another first-timer, freelance writer and editor Mike Starr. In 2023, Starr conducted live interviews with festival participants. “I saw how much fun they had, and I thought I got to get in on it this year,” said Starr. 

After the 2023 festival, the writers and editors society ran outreach events to engage the literary and arts community in Powell River. The efforts resulted in newcomer duos such as Pat Buckna, a musician and songwriter from Powell River, and Rodger Hort, a photographer based on Texada Island. 

The festival’s expansion is taking place at the same time as the society extends the reach of its quarterly anthology of Sunshine Coast writing. The winter edition of Not An Island is the group’s first issue to be published simultaneously as an e-book and print edition, with copies available for sale on Amazon. 

The anthology’s latest release also includes contributors beyond the Lower Sunshine Coast, such as qathet-based writer Robert Hackett and visual artist Jilly Watkins, who lives on Bowen Island. 

More information about the Art and Words Festival and the Not an Island publication can be found online at