While Ken Blackburn admits last weekend’s Art & Earth Festival was “entirely an experiment,” it was one that went well enough that it’ll almost certainly be returning to the community in some form.
The three-day event served as a chance to celebrate the natural world around us and how the arts play a role in discussing and reflecting it back to us, culminating in the annual Fall Festival at Haig-Brown House on Sunday. Over the three days, artists of all mediums gathered made, showed and discussed their art and its relationship to nature at many facilities and venues around town.
“It was an experiment in establishing partnerships, in working with the museum, working with Greenways and all the other organizations that were involved,” according to Blackburn, who serves as executive director of the Campbell River Arts Council and oversaw the festivities. “It was also an experiment in trying to being various facilities into the fold for the same purpose on the same day. Bringing all of these resources together into one festival was a grand experiment, but it turned out fantastically. We’re definitely onto something.”
The weekend kicked off on Friday, Sept. 20, with the grand opening of the Walter Morgan Studio in Willow Point after its renovations had been completed by the city.
The goal of the weekend, during the planning stage of the festival, was to include as many facilities, organizations and art forms as possible to shine a light on the natural world. And to that extent, the weekend was a great success.
“Having the blend of environmental concerns and stewardship work along side the work of artists, again, was yet another type of experiment,” Blackburn says. “We haven’t ever done something locally to celebrate looking at the environment through the lens of the arts.”
While it’s too early to tell what the future will hold for the festival, Blackburn says it will definitely be back in some capacity.
“I think we established a really solid foundation to build on. Now we’re into evaluating it and looking to hear from people who experienced it, witnessed the events, look at some of the gaps that we had – because there are certainly some things we can improve upon, such as clustering more activity at certain places rather than spreading things out so much. But then again, if we just get a few more things next time, it’ll really help to infill some of the sites.”
The other facet that needs exploring, Blackburn says, is the funding model. This year’s event was funded by a grant from the City of Campbell River, the BC Arts Council and the Campbell River Community Foundation, all of which are application-based, one-time awards that can’t necessarily be relied upon for continuing support, no matter how well it turned out.
“We need to look at some kind of sustainable model, for sure, but I think that will likely largely come from sponsorship and local businesses getting involved now that people have seen the success of it and want to buy in and support it,” Blackburn says. “This year we had Beachfire (Brewing and Nosh House) who created our beer for the festival, and we had the window poems on the storefronts downtown with businesses who bought in, we had activities up at Bough and Antler, we had Destination Campbell River out with their truck circulating, I saw Ox restaurant featured an appetizer for the festival, and that all points to a foundation for how we can invite the local businesses to get involved.”
Blackburn says he’d love to hear from the public on how they think it went or how they could get involved in future festivals. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 250-203-0213.