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In late March of 2022, right in the midst of a bland Penticton off-season made blander by continuing pandemic restrictions, all that quiet was suddenly interrupted by something rather spicy.
It was fun and it was creative. It was a breath of fresh air at the end of another long winter. It was the inaugural edition of the Ignite the Arts Festival, a nine-day celebration of all things artistic and the first extensive first-quarter festival of any kind in recent memory.
There was music, there was live theatre, there were visual arts aplenty. There were artsy competitions and an artsy parade and an art(sy) walk, and multiple participating venues across town where groups of people gathered like it was the middle of summer.
It wasn't perfect. Some of the outdoor events were impacted by cold, windy conditions. Some of the indoor events were impacted by smaller than expected crowds. But for the most part, the organizing tandem of Paul Crawford (Penticton Art Gallery curator) and wife Julie Fowler (16-year organizer of the Arts Wells Festival) were justifiably pleased with their ambitious creation.
And now, one year later, Ignite the Arts Version 2, all ten days of it, is almost ready to launch. It boots up this Friday, March 24th with the opening of the festival's "Community Week," a full seven days of varying events and happenings throughout Penticton.
It closes March 31 to April 2 with the Ignite the Arts "Festival Weekend," three intense days of ticketed music, dance and theatrical performances spread over seven venues in the downtown core, many within walking distance of each other.
All of that in what is otherwise one of the slowest times of the local calendar.
One problem. The Ignite calendar is jam packed. And there are a number of events that are rather specialized. So we thought we'd help out.
We attended much of the 2022 festival and have a pretty good handle on what's what and what holds the most mass appeal. So here's PentictonNow's take on the Top Ten Events you Shouldn’t Miss during Ignite the Arts 2023 -- in chronological order.
Note that there's still time to sign up and actually participate in three of them.
Just as in 2022, the silly, family-focused, non-motorized Parade for No Reason will lead off this year's festival, and it’s worthy of a recommendation for that reason alone. It's also great fun for those who can let themselves go, and it makes a strong lead-in for Recommendation #2. Bring along a costume, mask (one guy came as a potted plant last year) or decorated bike for maximum effect.
Finish the parade and stroll up the street (with your kiddos in tow if you want) to Cannery Brewing where art aficionados of all ages can witness the official unveiling of the 2023 batch of "Square Mini Murals." Each commissioned work has been created by a local artist, and all will hang at the Cannery 'til the fall, when they'll be auctioned off to astute buyers.
Wanna tour a bunch of Penticton's most celebrated art galleries and studios, learn about the artists from the artists themselves and grab a refreshment and/or knock back a snack along the way? Then join in the fun for the Ignite the Arts Art Walk (formerly known as the Lake to Lake Art Walk) Saturday, March 25th from mid-morning to 4 pm.
Speckled Row is a way cool pottery studio opened last year by noted local potter Carla O'Bee in a big, bright space on the top floor of the Cannery Trade Centre. It celebrates its one-year birthday March 25th during the Art Walk (see above), when it opens up to the public.
There'll be refreshments, gift baskets and gift certificates, and as a bonus, Tin Whistle Brewery and brand new art studio Donut House Studios will also be open and ready to host, making the historic Cannery Trade Centre a vibrant place indeed.
One of the big potential draws for Year 1 of Ignite the Arts was a family-versus-family sculpture-making competition at Okanagan Lake Park. Unfortunately, a frigid spring windstorm put a chill on the proceedings.
Lesson learned. This year, "Sculpture Day" will unfold far away from the cold lakefront, in the 200 block of Martin Street and mostly in the big parking lot adjacent to Aurora Matheson Fine Art Gallery where owner and noted local artist Renee Matheson will stage quite the show.
There'll be professional sculptors honing their creations, a sidewalk exhibit of fully realized sculptures, painters painting, and cool music courtesy of celebrated songstress Yanti and her blues band. Artist and generally fun guy Ron Gladdish will attempt a one-day sculpture consisting of environmental items.
And there'll be a family vs. family sculpture competition as well. Indeed, two free spaces remain for it. To sign up, contact sculptor Mark Werklund at email@example.com by Friday, March 24.
Know a budding songwriter? Then this one's for you. And them.
Beginning next Monday, March 27th and ending Saturday, April 1st, the 2023 Youth Songwriting Camp, presented by the Penticton Academy of Music and hosted all week long at the Dream Café, is an impressive resource and a great opportunity for those serious about the art of penning tunes.
Students (between the ages of 12 and 17) spend five invaluable five-hour days in the Dream Café "classroom" with distinguished BC songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Corwin Fox. Then on Saturday between 11:30 am and 1 pm, they get to perform their numbers live in front of a crowd.
A few days after that they'll get a fully realized digital version of their song.
To learn more and to register ($175 plus fees), go here.
Hundreds of thousands of YouTube views and two Juno awards, the latest coming last week. That's the story of Indigenous pop/rock/hip-hop duo Digging Roots, which will bring their formidable presence to Cleland Theatre Wednesday, March 29, as part of a six-plus hour Indigenous music/culture/dance showcase that’s absolutely free to attend.
Also on stage will be folks like singer/songwriter Kym Gouchie, Australian Aboriginal artist DRMNGNOW, Syilx entertainer Madeline Terbasket and many more. Attendance for this event in 2022 was strangely low, a real surprise given the artist line-up and the simple fact that it's, like we said earlier, free.
If you missed the festival's first parade a week earlier on March 24th, here's your chance to make amends. Except this time it starts at the Elks Lodge and is being led by awesome Vancouver-based "dance party orchestra" and one of the wildest parts of Ignite 2022, Balkan Shmalkan.
When it’s all over, you can hang out in the Elks parking lot and watch a fire-spinner do his thing. Then you can take in the first night of the Festival Weekend, with action upstairs and downstairs at the Elks Hall (Al Simmons leads off at 7:30) and a couple blocks away at the Dream Café. Tickets/wristbands are required for all indoor performances.
Ignite the Arts really takes flight on its final Saturday. Just check out the schedule. There's nothing like it in Penticton 'til summer.
By mid-day, there's continual action at seven downtown venues -- including newbie festival venues like BritBar and the Elks Hall. But of all the Saturday happenings, festival co-founder Julie Fowler especially likes the mid-afternoon "In The Round" performance at Cannery Brewing.
"I'm really stoked about it," she said. "There's Brandon Wolfe Scott, a singer-songwriter from Kelowna who was a big part of well-known Canadian rock band Yukon Blonde. Joining Brandon will be singer-songwriter Selina Martin, who'll be coming in from France but is originally from Ontario, and Sarah Noni, an incredible singer-songwriter from the Sunshine Coast.
"So there are three veteran songwriters who've never met each other, performing 'In The Round' under the theme 'Love & the Apocalypse.' It'll be a really neat show."
It was, by all accounts, one of the standout experiences of the 2022 Ignite the Arts Festival. And it's back again for 2023.
It's the One Minute Play Festival, a chance for anyone who wants their minute of fame to jump on stage at the Tempest Theatre and go crazy for one minute. Or less.
According to festival co-founder Julie Fowler, "It’s basically anything that's a performance that’s 60 seconds or under. Last year a woman took a blender on stage and went around asking the audience to put anything edible in it. And then she blended it and drank it. She won."
To observe the spectacle, just show up at Tempest Theatre with your wristband at 6 pm on April Fool's Day. To hit the stage and perform, go here and fill out the document.