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Campbell River’s annual Art+Earth Festival sees major changes in third year

‘In a sense, we’re re-defining what a festival can be,’ says organizer Ken Blackburn
Alex Witcombe of Drifted Creations works in the newly-opened Walter Morgan Studio on a new work during the first Art & Earth Festival. This year’s festival will look very different. Mirror File Photo

When you hear the word “festival,” you likely don’t picture a series of events happening over the course of six months.

But that’s exactly how Campbell River’s Art+Earth Festival is moving forward. According to organizer Ken Blackburn, with seemingly everything else in the world having changed dramatically over the past year, it seemed like a good time to re-imagine the still-young festival, as well.

Instead of having all of the festival’s events clustered over one weekend in September centred on World Rivers Day and ending with the annual Fall Festival at Haig Brown House, this year’s “festival” has already started.

“In a sense, we’re re-defining what a festival can be,” Blackburn says. “When we hear the terms ‘festival’ we think of a thing that has precise dates to it and runs over the course of maybe two or three days, and for the last two years – we’re only going into our third year – that’s the model we’ve gone with.”

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This year, however, the people and organizations involved wanted to “think outside that box,” Blackburn says.

“This event is about the environment and using the arts as a framework under which to look at the environment,” he says. “Well, the environment doesn’t live under a three-day cycle in the fall. So the idea was to think about how this festival could be more integrated into community life and extended out over a longer period of time?”

By having periodic events spread out over the course of six months or so, Blackburn says, more people can engage with the event in more ways. It can still “culminate at the Haig-Brown House in the fall,” he says, but it provides more opportunities overall for people, organizations and businesses to get involved.

“It gives people a roster of things they can get involved in over the course of the spring, summer or fall,” Blackburn says. “And it also lets multiple partners plug into the festival around whatever their own cycle is.”

Past festivals haven’t been able to include the aquarium, for example, because their season is over before World Rivers Day weekend.

“This way, all of the partners who want to be involved, whether it’s local non-profits like the Tidemark, Rivercity Players, the aquarium, the museum, Greenways, or whoever, can plan something for the festival around whatever else they’ve already got planned, rather than forcing the festival into their agenda or not being able to participate at all.”

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It also allows for local businesses to get plugged in.

“If you want to do something with your employees and its got a tie-in with art and the environment, we can roll it up under the festival’s umbrella and help you out,” Blackburn says. “We’ve received some grant money for this thing, so let’s spread it around and help more people get involved!”

The “festival” agenda is slowly starting to get populated online at, they are constantly updating their Facebook page (@crartandearthfestival) as events are added and looking for more organizations and businesses who want to get involved, so get in touch though either of those sites or by calling Blackburn at 250-923-0213.

But if this plan works out, will they have to change the name? Will people understand that the “festival” isn’t really “a festival” in the way they understand that term?

“Is the word ‘festival’ the most appropriate word for it now that we’re looking at something that’s six months long?” Blackburn asks. “I don’t know. But I think celebrating the environment shouldn’t necessarily be something we only do once or twice a year anyway. Maybe that’s part of what’s gotten us to the place we’re in right now.”

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