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Meet our Organizers: Art Bomb Festival in Gananoque

Culture Days – March 21, 2020

Looking back on the 2019 celebrations, we want to highlight some exceptional organizers who help make the Culture Days weekend what it is across Canada. The Art Bomb Festival is a celebration of arts and culture in Gananoque, ON, organized by Pam Staples and Heather Haynes. For one day, over the Culture Days weekend, they transform the town into a space that encourages creativity from their community. We asked Pam and Heather a few questions about their experience as Culture Days organizers. Here are their answers.

Find more organizer profiles here.

Can you tell us about the idea behind the Art Bomb Festival and how it came about?

Heather and I are both business owners and artists in Gananoque. Heather is the owner of Heather Haynes Gallery and as she puts it, “Art is life and life is art.” I own a small shop that features local artisans’ work. We have talked many times about bringing the arts to the public, whether through place-making projects or installations. In February we worked with the Downtown Business Association where 12 local artists painted the flower barrels on the main street. It was a huge success and the public loved them. So, with that great public response we thought, “Let’s take the Arts to the streets…” and with that statement came the BOOM. We are very lucky and grateful to have such an incredible group of artisans, musicians, crafts people, local schools, and organizations who came forward to create, inspire and transform this community, as well as all the residents and visitors who opened their hearts to the arts.

Was 2019 its first edition or simply the first time it was registered as a Culture Days event?

Yes, this was the first Art Bomb Festival.

Can you tell us a bit about the events that took place during the 2019 Art Bomb Festival?

Our mission was to create, activate, and enliven public spaces with creativity and artistic expression, to invite residents and visitors to explore, engage and participate in our vibrant art scene and its many forms: International artists such as Heather Haynes, Otis Tamasauskas and Donald Liardi, the First People Festival hosting several events such as the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, a Talking Circle, a Smudging Ceremony, and the Two-Feather Drum Group, young artists’ work from both our elementary schools displayed in our outdoor gallery, local musicians, our High School band, art shows at galleries and shops, car graffiti, pottery, rug hooking. We had a total of 17 workshops, free of charge for everyone to enjoy.

What excites you most about the arts and culture community in Gananoque?

We are blessed to live in a community so rich in arts: Two galleries, two museums, two theatres. The creative economy has long been recognized as an economic driver and the 1000 Islands / Gananoque area is certainly a place that welcomes and celebrates the arts in all forms.

How would you say that the festival engages the community in and around Gananoque?

We invited all kinds of artists, whether established, emerging, or even very young to be part of the festival. We saw the same mindset in those who participated in the festival, some gave it a whirl and tried tie dye, some answered the question “what would you do if you had the courage?” at our courage wall, or grabbed a brush at our ‘paint a mural’ station and tried printmaking. It was so important to us to give every opportunity to just do it!

What is unique about organizing events in a smaller Ontarian community?

Everyone knows someone who knows someone. When we created this festival, we put it out to the community, and people were saying, “I know someone who does this”, and “Oh, you need this person”, or, “Here is an idea!”. Our sponsors immediately thought it sounded great and were eager to help. That is the wonderful thing about a small community that is ready to champion and support an idea. We are grateful.

What made you decide to participate in Culture Days?

We chose to be part of Culture Days because it is a collaborative initiative that welcomes public participation of all forms in the arts, which is our goal.

As a first-time organizer, what can you say about the experience of participating in Culture Days?

It was great. We were lucky that part of our call out was to have the artists and organizations tell us what they wanted to do, what they needed from us, and where they would like to do it. With that info, we were able to create Culture Days events throughout the community.

Is there anything exciting planned for the Art Bomb Festival in the near future?

Yes, we are very excited about 2020. With the success of the event and it coming in 2nd place in the Ontario Culture Days’ People’s Choice Spotlight Award, it has opened up a number of funding opportunities as well as new artists, organizations and volunteers who are interested in helping grow the festival.