The first 50th Parallel Art and Earth Festival is officially scheduled to culminate with the long-standing Fall Festival at Haig-Brown House this September. Image courtesy Campbell River Arts Council

50th Parallel Art and Earth Festival coming this fall to Campbell River

Event looks to ‘create an appreciation for the beauty and significance of our natural environment’

He’s been dropping hints about it for the past few months, and now, Campbell River Arts Council executive director Ken Blackburn has officially announced the first 50th Parallel Art and Earth Festival coming this fall.

Blackburn presented to city council this week with an outline of what’s already lined up for the Sept. 20-22 weekend – culminating with the annual Fall Festival at Haig-Brown House – what’s still in planning stages and what he hopes the event will do for the community.

“I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anybody that we face some fairly significant challenges – not just as a community, but in general, as people – with some of the environmental situations that are coming up and that we’re currently facing,” Blackburn says. “The youth seem to have picked it up and are becoming a strong voice for environmental activism, which is a wonderful thing to see, but in a sense, that should be inspiring the rest of us to question ‘what can we do?’”

Instead, “the rest of us,” Blackburn says, are starting to experience “environmental fatigue, or what could be called green fatigue, where people are starting to tune it out. That’s why it’s incumbent upon us to try to find innovative and creative ways to keep the discussion alive.

“Every sector has to take responsibility and find innovative ways to provide entry points for education and discussion around environmental issues,” he continues. “No one sector can do it alone, whether that’s science or engineering or economics or politics or social services. We’re all in this together.”

But the arts sector, in particular, can be a conduit into the discussion in partnership with those other sectors and resources that the community has.

“Campbell River is perfectly poised to take the lead on this discussion of how mystical, amazing and profound our natural environment is and the arts are a way to help create that appreciation within the public. It’s well documented that people preserve and protect that which they respect and appreciate, and art has an ability to create an appreciation for the beauty and significance of our natural environment.”

One of the weekend’s featured artists will be Vancouver-based Sharon Kallis, who creates sculpture and installation works using invasive species materials that have been pulled from the environment. She will be teaming up with Greenways Land trust to create works of art out at the Haig-Brown House using locally-pulled invasive species such as scotch broom and giant hogweed.

Local sculptor Alex Whitcombe of Drifted Creations will be setting up shop in the newly-opened Walter Morgan Studio – currently under renovation next to the Sybil Andrews Cottage in Willow Point – for public driftwood sculpture workshops.

There will also be a series of environmental films screening at the Museum at Campbell River, live performances at Spirit Square and Rivercity Stage, underwater photography exhibits, discussions on recycling and conservation practices, plein-air painting along the Seawalk and a mountain biking kids event in the Beaver Lodge Lands in partnership with Greenways Land Trust and Swicked Cycles.

The weekend’s event will span the entire community, Blackburn says, from north to south, east to west, oceans to mountains, riverbanks to beaches and forests to skies. Likewise, it will feature a similar breadth of arts, from painting to sculpture, photography to dance, poetry to filmmaking and more.

Council seemed impressed with the idea, but wanted to know what it would cost people to attend the various events and whether it would be an annual thing or just a one-off.

Blackburn confirmed that all of the scheduled events would be free (besides some of the ones being offered alongside the official festival offerings by local tourism operators and businesses), but whether it becomes a recurring celebration – and whether it will remain in September – will depend on how the first one goes.

“This is an issue that has to have no barriers for participation,” Blackburn says, “so all the events will be offered free of charge.”

For more information on the festival or to see how you or your organization can partner up and get involved or become a sponsor of the event, contact Blackburn directly at 250-923-0213 or by email at arts.council@crarts.ca

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