Culture Days reached out to Community Reporters across Canada to submit articles to culture365 about their experience during the Culture Days weekend that took place from September 27 to 29. The reporters were asked to describe their experience and observations of Culture Days activities they attended in their communities and the impact they had on the artists and public participating. Below is a report by Julie Fossitt from Kingston, Ontario. To read other reports, follow the tag #community reports.
I found my way to Kingston a little bit by accident, as it seems many residents do. They either come to attend Queen’s University or the Royal Military College and leave afterward only to find that they desperately want to return, or are transplanted here accompanying a loved one. My husband was transferred here, and we made the cross-Canada road trip with our infant son and never looked back. That was in 2007 and I have seen a steady growth of support, love and participation in the arts and culture in Kingston since then. I drag my kids and friends to professional theatre, outdoor busking performances, free movies in Springer Market Square and many other cultural events all year long that continue to increase my love for this city.
Kingston prides itself on its built heritage, as many of the limestone buildings have been here since before Sir John A. Macdonald became Canada’s first Prime Minister. The heritage buildings are ornate, preserved and beautiful, but the cultural activities happening in this city are anything but old. There is a buzz in this unique city, where artists create new works with this striking architecture as their backdrop.
During Culture Days, it was great to grab some sunshine and meet sculptor and Queen’s professor Ted Rettig in person to witness what I crudely describe as "life size Tinkertoys" at the MacLachlan Woodworking Museum. Mr. Rettig used reclaimed wood, holes and pegs to build tools for visitors of all ages to truly experience a hands-on creative experience on the grounds of this 1855 log house. You can see all of the creative iterations of the process here.
My Friday afternoon continued with a stop at The Screening Room, Kingston’s only independent movie theatre, for an exclusive screening of the Limestone City Cell Phone Challenge presented by the Kingston Canadian Film Festival. Located in a heritage building on historic Princess St., this intimate theatre showed six films that were all under 3 minutes and shot on cell phones, and that posed the question “What is it about Kingston that you love?” The winner, HISTORY, was a tribute to the beautiful places of Kingston by local filmmaker James Greatrex.
Saturday was another glorious fall day and I brought my whole family along to our first stop, the Kingston Potters Guild, at the repurposed Harold Harvey Arena. This old arena is now a theatre and the temporary location for the Guild until they move into the restored J.K. Tett Centre in 2014. This fun-loving bunch had homemade brownies and Skor cookies and their motto, "Turning dishwashing into art appreciation since 1967," was clearly shown with their welcoming smiles. My son and husband were both captivated with the wheel and indicated they would like to take a pottery class in the future. My husband cracked the “Ghost” joke and everyone laughed (I groaned silently), so I then knew these patient potters were a kind lot. You can read more about the Guild here.
Our next stop was the historic Grand Theatre, where we took in the very popular instrument petting zoo, presented by the Kingston Symphony Association. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Symphony volunteers welcomed many children and adults to try out instruments in the lobby of the Grand. Although the ushers were wearing earplugs to lessen the impact of the cacaphony, all of the volunteers were graciously showing eager participants how to strum a guitar, strike a bow and buzz on a mouthpiece. Participants were then welcome to join the symphony for an open rehearsal. What a way to learn about the creative process!
My last Culture Days stop was at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. A lovely building on the historic Queen’s University campus, the inside foyer of the Centre was transformed into a giant Powerpoint projection screen for Pilgrimages Redux: A Mouthy Event. Two local artists, Vince Perez and Michael Davidge, presented an illustrated tour of their respective pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela and Mount Rushmore. Through spoken word and printed matter, the performance explored curiosity, community, communication and context. The audience was then invited to submit their own travel stories, and Paul Saulnier from indie band PS I Love You recounted a terrifying tale about a band road trip to California (for context, The Bates Motel was referenced).
The Limestone City is undoubtedly best known for its rich built heritage assets, but I see these as not only an important part of the continuing history of the city, but also as a great setting for innovative cultural events that improve the quality of life in Kingston. Culture Days offers an accessible and participatory way for anyone to get involved and the community is better for it.
Photo credit: Julie Fossitt
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