This year’s Isle of the Arts Festival on Gabriola Island will honour the stories we tell, what they mean, and how we tell them.
The 11-day celebration of everything artistic and creative will be held across the island with six events and more than 30 arts and culture workshops planned.
Carol Fergusson, Gabriola Arts Council executive director, said the whole festival has been inspired and influenced by Harold R. Johnson’s book The Power of Story: On Truth, the Trickster, and New Fictions for a New Era which discusses “the role of storytelling and illustrates its potential to reform our own lives and the life we share.”
One of the participants in this year’s festival is Heather Cameron, who will lead two sessions on visible mending. Cameron distinguishes herself as an artist who works with textiles, and not as a textile artist.
“I come at it from a different perspective,” she said. “I like to look at a little bit more of the history and the cultural association.”
Although the artist has held many different workshops dealing with textiles for the festival in previous years, she said the prominent reason she chose to focus on mending this year was because of a special community project she worked on in 2021, in which she repaired the coat of a noteworthy island musician, Victor Anthony, who died from cancer. The coat, which Anthony had been known for wearing, required mending after storage.
“Something that had such personal meaning, I didn’t want to throw out,” she said.
Cameron also reached out to community members and asked if they had any phrases or sayings associated with the musician and embroidered them onto the coat, along with colourful stitches and patches.
“People loved it because it was a way of reconnecting with an old friend and they were able to share some stories about Victor,” Cameron said. “The way that clothing is not just a practical functional thing, it’s also something that contains memories – and by stitching into the cloth, for me, it’s an act of caring and love.”
Cameron’s two workshops, titled Visible Mending, will be held on March 31 and April 7, both from 10 a.m. until noon at the Gabriola Arts and Heritage Centre.
Those interested in attending can bring a garment of their own that they’d like to work on, and Cameron will go over the basics of darning, needle-weaving and patching.
The Isle of the Arts festival opens on Thursday, March 30, with Reading and Reconciliation: One Book One Community at the Gabriola Community Hall, co-hosted by Harold R. Johnson’s widow, Joan Johnson.
Events continue until Sunday, April 9, and include performances by Twilight Radio Theatre, an evening of spoken word and storytelling at the Ground Up Café, and a night market at the Surf Lodge.
New to this year’s celebrations will be an exercise in interactive and collaborative storytelling at the Arty Party on Saturday, April 8. The GAC’s executive director said participants will travel as groups to different stations and through the disciplines of music, theatre, art, poetry and dance, will present “the stories that we have written together” at the close of the event. The Arty Award will be presented to the person or organization who has made an outstanding contributions to the arts.
Further information on the Isle of the Arts Festival, including workshop information, can be found online at www.artsgabriola.ca.
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