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 Melanie Godel from Nanaimo, British Columbia. To read other reports, follow the tag #community reports.
Culture Days weekend in Nanaimo began with a stereotypical Vancouver Island predicament: wet weather on the horizon. Weather reports and video warnings from friendly folk on the opposite coast began to flood our news feeds. Nothing like weather to bring a country together.
While the rain caused issues for some Culture Days organizers and may have deterred some attendees, those who braved it would undoubtedly tell you that they felt the community coming together. And while the weather really wasn’t as catastrophic as forecast, we did feel the incredible force of sharing creativity, stories, and ideas.
I started my weekend by attending the Dam Poets Inspired by the Colliery Dams, which are Nanaimo’s historic 100-year old lakes in the Harewood neighbourhood. In October 2012, City Council passed a motion to demolish the dams based on flood risk in case of seismic activity. Heated public debate followed, and it was the communication breakdown at one of these forums that led Meldy Wilton to start the Dam Poets.
Let’s not yell, let’s not be frustrated,” Winton declared. “Let’s write some poetry.”
Winton, flanked by two gorgeous photos of the dams, opened the session with an introduction, the latest news on the issue, and her works, ranging from poetry and prose to satirical nursery rhymes.
Darragh Worledge shared several poems, one of which struck a chord with me. She painted a picture of stargazers slipping into the park in the dead of night—in August I had done this very thing with friends. We jumped into the black waters and floated on our backs, counting shooting stars. Local Independent MLA candidate and activist Brunie Brunie shared some highly theatrical works, including one that had her on the floor in a mock tantrum.
The final performers were Jim Erkiletian and Janette Brière, a musical duo known as Owl & Pussycat. With banjo and mandolin, they performed songs about the dams, and led the audience in singing the classic “We Shall Not Be Moved.” Though just a smattering of people were in attendance, it was a joy to see them sing “The lakes are for our children, we shall not be moved,” with smiles spreading across their faces.
It was clear that these folks want the dams to be around for generations to come, and they chose poetry as the vehicle to inspire the community to help save them.
The Nanaimo Art Gallery hosted a drop-in Printmaking workshop, led by Vancouver Island University graduate Aaramë Robillard. The workshop was presented in conjunction with the NAG’s exhibit, Rhythmically Repeated: Alistair Bell, New Acquisitions.
There were participants with a range of experience, from seemingly seasoned artists in the genre, to artists trying the medium for the first time, to young kids playing with some pre-cut blocks. The group was so engrossed in the process that the woman sitting next to me remarked,
I can see how somebody can get OCD about [printmaking].”
As soon as I had an idea of what I wanted to create, I delved into that creative zone. I wanted it to be representative of my Culture Days experience so far. Gumboots and an umbrella, anyone? With a smile, of course.
Community Films Screening
The weather was at its pique on Sunday night. On my walk to the Community Films Screening, hosted by the Hub City Cinema Society, I had the choice between seeing where I was going, or having my umbrella ripped inside out by the wind. I kept my umbrella firmly poised in front of me. Upon entering the venue, I was surrounded by the smell of popcorn and the sounds of movie scores like those of Mission Impossible and Back to the Future.
The event was organized by Zachary Tannar, Jeff Monson, and Raymond Knight, three out of the 250 members the cinema society has enticed since its inception in July of last year.
We wanted to create an opportunity for any filmmaker to show their work,” explained Tannar.
The line-up indeed included a wide range of talent, from a short 2-minute chase sequence, to a preview of a feature-length documentary, to a half-hour psychological drama. After the screening, the filmmakers opened the stage to questions. The topics ranged from simple curiosities, praise, and suggestions, to sharing their unique movie-making experiences.
The society is all about making filmmaking accessible to people, making people accessible for filmmaking, creating a space for screening and dialogue, and keeping film alive and well in Nanaimo. Local’s where it’s at,” said Todd Jones, director of the sci-fi short “Close Your Eyes.” “This is where it’s real… you get shivers talking about this stuff [in person].”
What really made the Culture Days weekend so worthwhile to me was the chance to get my hands dirty. While the printmaking workshop afforded me one such opportunity, it was the Upcycled Art workshop hosted by the Nanaimo Arts Council that really hit the spot.
The atmosphere was light and fun from the get-go. Old artworks lined one wall, either discarded, unfinished, or uninspired. These were the works to be "upcycled" - transformed with the help of another’s point of view.
Sarah Schmidt, the event organizer, pimped up another artist’s “post-apocalyptic pig” with pink beads and ribbon, one woman “Halloween-ified” a black cat, and another added monsters to idyllic landscape scenes.
I selected a canvas with a beautifully painted face. I decided to create a mosaic/collage effect with Gustav Klimt’s work in mind. I found gold fabric and patterned magazine clippings and began the transformation, fully engrossed until the end of the session.
By creating a weekend dedicated to arts and culture, Culture Days brings all of these things to the forefront, and inspires those of us in the community to create something beautiful, share a message, learn a new skill, or tell a story.
This is, after all, how artists are born—out of the cultural and artistic climate that surrounds them. So, the forecast for the year to come? 100% chance of inspiration.
Photo credit: Melanie Godel
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