No-charge festival delights community of artists and patrons after much longing for a safe space to perform again
Though the performance and exhibition of art has been inhibited by the pandemic over the past year and a half, the creation of art has been occurring all the same, and through the festival Art Out Loud, locals were able to showcase much of what has been inspired. Artists and attendees alike gathered in downtown Regina on June 28 for the event, which mainly took place across Victoria Park, the Scarth Street strip, and the Cornwall Centre.
Mackenzy Vida, a mentee artist at Art Out Loud, explained that the event all began with an open call from the National Arts Centre. Vida and others at the Globe Theatre “reached out and said that we would love to be a part of it. Lo and behold, Regina, Saskatchewan got chosen, which is incredible!” The selection was like a breath of fresh air for the individuals involved as they returned to the joys of designing and planning live performances and instalments once again. “This is the first real event that theatre artists and technicians have been able to have,” she said. “This is the first time we’ve had work since the pandemic, and it has been a huge honour.”
Co-artistic director of the festival, Sierra Haynes, said that their selection process for artists and instalments took an open-arms approach from the start. “I don’t think it was so much looking for specific things in artists, this was more a showcase to show what artists were doing on their own anyway. There was no audition process, it wasn’t a picky-choosy type of event, just about lifting up the pieces of art that have been made during COVID and getting them in front of an audience.”
Vida described the festival as “an interactive festival of sound, theatre, comedy, dance, and all types of performance.” Live performances included a land acknowledgment performance by Indigenous artist Teddy Bison and his family who graced attendees with dancing and drumming multiple times throughout the day, poetry in both Arabic and English by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish read by 3arabizi: عربي/ انجليزي and Arthur Milner, and the live curation of personalized verses done by Greg Ochitwa.
In addition to the land acknowledgment performance, the festival included a small plot of land in the north-east corner of Victoria Park that had been painted like a map of Saskatchewan. This map was further marked with the borders of Treaties 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 that fall within what is now Saskatchewan, and had markers with the names of each of the First Nations groups whose land we are on. It was made interactive with the addition of smaller yellow flags for attendees to stake, allowing them to locate and acknowledge which treaty they are a part of while learning the names of the First Nations groups included in that treaty.
Those who were able to find a table at the Copper Kettle, the Fat Badger, Avenue Restaurant, or Circa27 in Hotel Saskatchewan were able to listen to radio theatre performances written and performed by local artists and troupes. Haynes mentioned that she contributed a piece, “a voice mail piece, so it’s a series between two people trying to catch each other up on their lives,” which was written specifically with radio theatre in mind. “Adapting theatre in this way is an incredible feat. The arranging and adapting of processes. Once upon a time radio drama was a big deal, but we haven’t seen much of that in the last few decades, so having a festival celebrating that is incredible.”
Vida’s participation in the festival as a mentee artist included the opportunity “to shadow under professional scenic painters, professional carpenters, and it was basically like ‘Here, I’m going to show you how to bring this idea to life and be a part of the creation process.’” She mentioned tearfully that “It’s been really evident, the importance of the arts during these times and how much we all miss it, and how much we all feel like a part of us was missing for so long.” There was a tangible air of excitement among artists, volunteers, and attendees at the festival as they had the chance to get back to the events and opportunities that make them excited about life.
The Art Out Loud festival was just one aspect of a larger event across Canada, Grand Acts of Great Hope, in which Vida said “each of the pieces have to do with reconnecting with the community and what it means to connect with one and other. Just to celebrate being together again.” While the event itself has passed, Vida also mentioned that “At the end of [the festival] each of the groups are having a video made that’s going to be available on social media and the National Arts Centre’s website, as well as it’s going to be playing projected on their [building’s] windows so anyone who walks by in Ottawa is going to see our work in little Regina, Saskatchewan.”
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