There are many festivals that help bring Old Strathcona to life throughout the summer, but my favourite is probably Found Festival, which puts all types of art in everyday spaces – from parks to bookstores to back alleys.
The sixth annual Found Festival returns to various found spaces in Old Strathcona June 22 – 25. Festival Director Beth Dart says, “We bring art out of the theatres, and the galleries and the concert halls directly into the community. That’s what Found Festival is about. We’re not trying to do anything that’s extreme high art, we’re trying to create something to connect with the every day, the every human. It’s about being in the community and representing the community we live in, in Edmonton.”
As you peruse the 2017 Found Festival line up, you’ll notice a vast variance in the locales in which you’ll find the work that’s part of this year’s festival. From rooftops to (Junque) Cellar, the sense of whimsy that comes with Found Festival is obvious. But Found Festival isn’t just about taking art to the streets. Beth says the artist’s relation to both the space and the audience was key when she was selecting work to be part of the festival. “Something that’s really important to me about found space work is the audience-performer relationship. As soon as you step out of a traditional venue, you break all the rules. There is no longer a contract between the audience and the performer. I think it’s really important for artists to be very specific about what their audience will experience. Why is it important to be in a found space? Why is it different to be in a found space versus a traditional performance venue? That’s the major thing I look for. Also, pieces that really speak to the venue they’ve chosen as well. Taking the space itself into consideration when creating the piece.”
One example of this is NIUBOI’s piece, Glass Washrooms which takes place in the public washrooms at the corner of Whyte Avenue and 103 street (note: this venue has moved to The Backstage Theatre) and is an examination of trans- and non-binary persons in gendered public spaces. Beth says, “I can’t think of a more public space that erases non-binary identity than the glass washrooms on Whyte. It’s men on one side, women on the other and it’s literally glass walls. I think it’s a really important conversation for us to be having, especially since Bill C-16 passed recently and transgender and diverse identities are now respected under the Canadian Charter of Human Rights.”
Another example of work that takes the site-specificity to a whole other level is Brett Miles’ music and storytelling piece, Once a Champion, Always a Champion: A Rollie Miles Story, which tells the story of Brett’s father’s sports career before he came to play for the Edmonton Eskimos. Beth says this piece, “is pretty much the definition of site-specific… It’s so interesting to look at such an influential athlete in Edmonton’s history and look at his career before he came here. Brett himself is an incredible musician and storyteller and has this great story to tell about the influence his father had in Edmonton.”
Meanwhile, 1.5 kilometers away, C.R. Avery will be paying his respects via a musical and poetry performance to Leonard Cohen in a can’t-miss, one-night-only, 25-seat performance at The Commercial Hotel in High Beams in an Even Darker Communion on June 25.
Found Festival continues to delve into the magic of intimate encounters between artists and audience members with the return of the Admit One Series, which include:
- a walking tour accompanied by a lost journal (Shortgirl Productions’ In Shoes)
- an exploration of “stuff” and commercialism (Jake Tkaczyk’s One Man’s Junk)
- a piece exploring how to move past the death of one’s brother – forgiveness or vengeance (Pyretic Productions’ Strife)
- an opportunity to get your fix of poetry, prose or plays in a one-on-one experience with The Author (Bevin Dooley’s The Author Will See You Now)
- the return & reimagination of The Booth – Offerings, featuring live improvised music by Leif Ingebrigtsen, movement by Rebecca Sadowski, and visual art (that you get to take home with you!) by Tim Mikula, all based on a prompt the audience member gives the artists
On the Admit One Series, Beth says, “The Admit One Series is an opportunity for artists to focus on what they’re trying to give to an audience member. Because it’s only one audience member at a time, it’s such a unique experience for each audience member… It’s really exciting for the creators too, because it’s such a challenging form to create for. You have to know the story and the arc you want to provide but also be so adaptable to the energy each audience member brings in.”
A high degree of adaptability is also required of the artists in Carmen Nieuwenhuis’ Whatwazzat!? – a series of pop-up theatre performances that last between 2 – 7 minutes each, are unscheduled, unticketed, and take place at a ‘to be determined’ location. Beth describes this experimental performance as “A break from the everyday. Where you spend your time every day, something beautiful and magical will pop up and then disappear.”
For audiences looking for a piece to dig their teeth into, Lady Vanessa Caicedo Cardona’s The Three Ladies is worth considering. Lady Vanessa developed this piece as pat of a healing process of living through civil war and sexual abuse. Beth says, this piece stands out as “an opportunity for everyone to take a look at how you can heal from the trauma you’ve experienced in your life and move past and beyond and above it. It’s going to be a really beautiful and impactful piece. It’s in a super intimate setting – a tiny back alley behind Gravity Pope. Lady Vanessa’s words are so powerful and it’s going to be an incredible experience for the audience.”
Finally, new this year is Found Festival and NextFest’s Fresh AiR Program, which supports an Artist in Residence monetarily as well as through mentorship in bringing a new found work to life through a workshop production at NextFest and a full production a few weeks later at Found Festival. This year’s Artist in Residence is Larissa Pohoreski, who has created the piece Before the River, based on Ukranian folklore about the summer solstice.
This is just a sampling of some of the work available at Found Festival, running June 22 – 25 at various locations in and around Old Strathcona. For more information and tickets check out the Common Ground Arts Society’s website. Performances range from free, to pay-what-you-will to up to $15.