The W(here) festival has come and gone for this year, but I wanted to wrap it up by jotting down some of my thoughts and memories of the project.
From day one, the Kitchen pARTy, the community was buzzing with excitement; Carver’s, the local coffee shop in Pictou, was packed. As one of the speaking artists, I was unsure of the topic, what the heck I should be talking to this crew about. I ended up speaking briefly on my own art practice, as did the other speakers. There were textile artists, videographers, sculptors, painters, you name it. Susan Tilsley Manley makes mixed media pieces with rusty gadgets from her barn. You get the idea.
What I really wanted to talk about was artists in the area and their practice. I wanted to ask each artist how they live out in middle of nowhere Nova Scotia and have an art career as well. Some artists have a day job. Some artists teach, others actually have managed to maintain an art practice that is successful from this place. This small town whose industry has passed and most of the younger generation has moved away. Is it though the internet that they manage to hold their careers? Are they jet setters, hopping on planes to group shows in New York or Barcelona?
The Award Ribbons for Places was first and foremost, fun. There we were, a group of enthusiastic locals, making crafts at the Old Bayview School House, something I hadn’t done since I joined the 4H club when I was very young.
I am now a huge fan of artist Marlene Creates . I have a lot of respect for her work as an artist, not to mention she is just a fantastic lady! Yes, this project was fun; but it was also emotional and raised our awareness of the “W(here)” around us. For me, this installation project was the most successful of the entire festival. I traveled with a group of cars from place to place, seeing parts of Pictou County that I had never seen before.
At each stop, we awarded our special places with a ribbon, and spoke about the spot much like you would give a short speech to the prize winner in any ceremony. It got us all thinking about this beautiful community in a new light. I gave my award to the “Little Island” on Waterside Beach. It is this little mound of rock and clay that used to be acres, but has been eroding more and more each year. As the story goes, the island used to have sheep on it, and after that volkswagon minivans would drive up on it in the summer. My generation would tent on the land that was left, and now there is barely enough grass for people to sit on. If the island was living, I am sure it would have been like Christopher Plummer, who as the age of 82, received his first Oscar. “It’s about time! This is what I have worked so hard for.”
There were several projects that I did not participate in; living in Toronto, I needed some time with my own Pictou places and people to hold me over until Christmas. But I did come to the closing event and launch of “Memory Factory”, an online project by filmmakers David Craig and Katherine Knight. I love this project. Craig and Knight moved to Caribou Harbour several years ago into an old farmhouse. They began to research about W(here) they were. Being artists, they turned their quest into a body of work, and this amazing compilation of stories and images is the end result. How great would it be if we all took the time to find out W(here) we are when we land in an area?
So, I left the festival all excited, determined and of course, sad it was over. I always look for reasons to come home; but W(here) gave me a reason to come home that is connected with my life in the city, my art career.
Award Ribbons for Places is a project headed by visiting artist Marlene Creates as part of a very eventful day two of the W(here) Festival.Creates is an environmental artist and poet who lives and works in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland, Canada. “For over thirty years her work has been an exploration of the relationship between human experience, memory, language and the land, and the impact they have on each other.” In this installation project, locals from the area (including myself) created award ribbons for a place in Pictou that had special significance to them. The participants will then, over the next couple of days, travel to each place and present the place with their ribbon. Documentation of this will be posted on the W(here) website, so be sure to visit back often.www.wherefestival.ca What is my special place? Well, you will have to stay tuned tomorrow! Myself and fellow Pictonian John Burns accidentally chose the very same place, and so will be doing a bit of a collaborative presentation that is sure to knock your socks off. In the afternoon, using the framework of the life and times of Pictou Island nurse, Margaret MacDonald (1897-1977), we travelled to Pictou Island, a small private island off the coast of Caribou, NS. On Pictou Island, writer Susan Sellers lead us to various sites that played a major role in MacDonald’s life. The walk was informative and adventurous, but I was wondering how the tour would tie in with the W(here) festival’s connection of art and a sense of place. It was then that we ran into Maureen Hull, also a writer ( Check out her book “The View from a Kite“. I give it two thumbs up) and an Islander who took us to the Community Centre, where several of her neighbors and her have been working on a quilt.
Artouteast readers, I am well aware that this masterpiece will not be regarded as “high art”; this quilt will probably never be displayed in a gallery alongside the quilted works of Joyce Weiland or Anna Torma. But this quilt has the technique of masters, the passion of any artist and the history and tradition reminding the medium of its roots. It is a celebration of art and place, which is exactly what W(here) is all about.