This is Found Festival‘s 7th year of bringing all types of art into everyday spaces into Old Strathcona.
Found Festival brings art out of the theatres, galleries, and concert halls into the streets, river valley, parks, psychologist offices, restaurants and other unexpected places in order to bring experiences like no other to audiences.
Festival Curator Beth Dart says that each piece in the festival is specific to the location of its performance and that the audience experience will greatly vary from piece to piece. “We do have a couple pieces that are more traditional in their format, more like a classic theatre format. We also have crossovers between classic theatre and street performance, like Whiskey Business which is theatre meets escape art.”
However, the festival also features more interactive pieces for audiences that want to get closer to the art. “This year we have one of our most interactive pieces to date, Off’d On Whyte, which is an interactive murder-mystery throughout Old Strathcona. The audience meets in one location and they’re sent off in smaller groups to go solve the mystery. So, they’ll interact with different characters in locations around Whyte Avenue.”
When audiences are ready for a break, a beverage, or some free music (check out the line up here), they can head to the Found Grounds to hang out in the beer garden meets art installation (I hear there will be giant paper mâché sculptures!). For those who have been to the Found Festival in the past, you’ll find the Found Grounds have moved about 130 metres to the area in front of The Backstage Theatre (10330 84 avenue).
This year’s festival line up features a wide array of artistic performers, locales and performance styles sure to expose everyone to at least something they’ve never experienced before.
For instance, this year’s Found Festival features the festival’s first site-specific sound art performance, Nâsipewin by Jordan Koe. Beth says, “The rough translation of word Nâsipewin is ‘going down the hill to the river in Nehiyawin.’ What I love the most about this piece is that in his submission [to the festival], Jordan talked about how during his time at the University of Alberta there was a hill nearby and he would walk down to the river to take breaks and have a moment of reflection. He looked at that practice and thought how can he involve more people in this act of reflection on what the difference is between the historical context of this area and the current community that we live in. I think it’s really exciting to have an art form we haven’t had before that discusses topics that we haven’t discussed. ”
In another first, Found Festival has partnered with The Next Act to bring a Found artist’s work into the restaurant space for diners to enjoy. For the month of July, The Next Act will host a gallery of Lauren Crazybull’s paintings, which explore portraiture and ask questions of Indigenous identity and representation. Beth says, ” I was blown away by her stunning imagery with its bold, beautiful colours. I think she has such a unique and exciting voice and I’m excited that she came on board… There seems to be such presence in all of her pieces. I feel like there is such depth and story behind all of the pieces.”
One of my favourite things about Found Festival is experiencing art that is uniquely specific to the space in which it’s being performed, and to that end, the comedy show I’m Listening, curated by Simon Gorsak, will surely deliver. I’m Listening takes place in Ignite Counselling and Wellness and will feature sets by four comedians centred around mental illness. Beth says, “It will be a comedy show for only 20 patrons at a time, which I think is fascinating and opens up the comedians to dig deep and be a bit more vulnerable and available. I think there is fantastic comedy happening in this city, and to create such an intimate venue for it will be a really special experience.”
Identity Alchemy is also a curated collection of performances and the July showcase will partner with Found Festival to deliver an evening of spoken word by members of Edmonton’s queer community. “Dwennimmen, aka Shima Robinson, has started Identity Alchemy as a monthly series and so when I found out about it I reached out to Shima and asked if she’d like to do the July showing of Identity Alchemy at Found Festival and she was totally on board. What I love about it is that Thursday night, the festival opening, you can basically follow queer artists throughout the festival. You can start with On the Margin, then Meet Me Under the Gnarly Tree and then go to Identity Alchemy and have an entire night of queer-led art.”
The second edition of the Fresh AiR program (a partnership with NextFest where an emerging artist receives mentorship for 6 months and gets to perform their piece at both NextFest and Found Festival), has helped to develop the show On the Margin by Elise Jason. Beth explains that the origin story of On the Margin drew her to the work when she received Elise’s submission. “It’s such a wild background for how this piece came to be. Elise’s father was a material witness to the murder of Jill Venker in the 80’s. Elise’s father came across Jill’s vehicle on the side of the road and it was discovered that Jill had been abducted by a man who had murdered her. The jumping off point for this creation is the true crime story behind that, but also that Elise’s father used it as a cautionary tale when they were young… The piece really delves into gendered violence and sexual violence and the state of those topics right now. It’s quite a poetic text and it’s set as much in the forest as you can get in Edmonton… The piece is incredibly moving, poetic, and incredibly aware of where we’re at as far as gendered violence goes.”
Found Festival packs all this and more into a very short 3 days and is always one of my favourite festivals to experience the idea of what art could be. Recognizing found space performance might be intimidating to some audience members, Beth offers some final advice, “I think the important thing to remember is that all the artists in this festival are committed to celebrating our everyday spaces. They’re committed to honouring the places we pass by every day and may not notice. And no artist will ever make you do anything you don’t want to do. I think a big part of breaking the traditional audience-performer contract is building a new contract with your audience.”
The 2018 Found Festival runs July 5 – 8 in various spaces around Old Strathcona. The shows above are just a sampling of what’s at Found Festival this year. Check out the Found Festival schedule for more information, or head on down to the Found Grounds (10330 84 avenue) to speak with volunteers about the shows. Tickets range from by donation to pay-what-you-will to $15 through YEGlive.ca.