By Jessica Lovell
There are no numbers yet to define the size and scope of Guelph’s arts and culture community, but if the slate of activities on offer for Culture Days is any indication, it’s a strong and healthy community.
“There are so many fabulous things going on,” said the city’s arts and culture program officer, Astero Kalogeropoulos. “I’m really impressed by the calibre of events that are happening this year.”
The third Canada-wide event takes place from Sept. 28 to 30. Communities all over will be participating, with artists and arts or cultural organizations offering free activities to get people to connect to culture in their communities.Guelph will be taking part once again, and this year promises more activities than ever. “The event is for people who aren’t already engaged in culture,” said Kalogeropoulos. “You can go and sample things in a way that’s really not intimidating.”
River Run Centre
For example, someone who has never picked up a violin or has never attended a live symphony concert can check out all the instrument families at the Guelph Symphony Orchestra’s Ultimate Instrument Petting Zoo at the River Run Centre on Sunday. Or if they prefer, they can just check out what happens behind the scenes at the River Run at the Sunday event, which is also a celebration of the concert hall’s 15th anniversary.
The city is taking the lead promoting culture days and is offering several events, but they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what’s available to do.
“We are trying to make sure we are raising awareness of the even throughout the city,” Kalogeropoulos said.
The celebration will have an official kickoff Friday afternoon at 3:45 p.m. at Market Square. A contemporary dance performance – Les Moutons by dance company CORPUS – will follow at 4 p.m., with a second performance at 7 p.m.
“It’s more performance art than what people would normally think of as dance,” said Kalogeropoulos, adding that it’s one of the things she thinks everyone should try and check out, just simply because it is funny.
Another city event is the opening of the exhibit, “GuelPhonography” at the Guelph Civic Museum from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday. The exhibit features photos shot with mobile phones by Guelphites, and admission is free.
“All the Culture Days events are free,” said Kalogeropoulos.
But more importantly, most are also hands-on. But even if they’re not, “you’re getting to see things you wouldn’t normally get to see,” she said.
This year, it’s a happy coincidence that the event will correspond with this month’s Fourth Fridays events in the downtown, but there will also be a wide variety of activities there on Saturday and Sunday.
“Downtown is really shaping up to be a hub,” Kalogeropoulos said.
While there are activities on offer in other areas of the city, including the Macdonald Stewart Art centre on the university campus, downtown seems to be where it’s at.
It is where Guelph Arts Council executive director Sonya Poweska’s must-see events are happening.
“Personally, I think everything is really interesting,” she said, but pressed to name a few top attractions, the following were on her list:
On Saturday, the Arts Council is supporting the Downtown Guelph Business Association as it hosts Graffiti Fest. Cork Street will be closed to traffic from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., while graffiti artists show off their talents on plywood boards.
The event will include “artists from all over Guelph,” said Poweska. And they will not just be painting. There will be music and dance crews, and Guelph Spoken Word will be on hand to give voice to the art on the boards, she said.
“It’s a community event,” she said, noting that public boards will also be available for those who want to get their hands dirty. “It kind of cultivates this informality; street art is informal and impromptu.”
A little more formally – for street art – around the corner, artist Andrew Frazer is set to finish his mural on the Guelph Mercury building on Norfolk Street next to the Albion Hotel on Saturday. The completion is meant to correspond to the Culture Days event.
Poweska also recommends that people start Culture Days on Friday, as she expects the dance performance in Market Square to be a must-see. “Yarn Bombing” of St. George’s Square, taking place from 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, will also be a sight to see.
She also recommended people check out Mary Kroetsch’s Take a Memory – Leave a Memory at the Guelph Public Library’s main branch. The interactive art project, based on memories evoked by photographs, will take place throughout the weekend, with the results forming one final community art project.
But the list of things to do goes on and on. “I think throughout Culture Days, there’s something for everybody,” said Poweska. “It does speak volumes about the importance of culture and how people feel passionate about sharing arts and culture with the community.”
Map it out
With so much to do on Culture Days weekend, people may have some difficulty keeping it all straight.
However, there is an easy way to plan your activities this weekend, according to Poweska.
“The best way to engage is going to the Culture Days website,” she says.
The website, www.culturedays.ca, features a tool called Bright Spots, which is meant to allow people to customize their weekend schedule.
It allows users who sign up to create their own customized schedule by plugging in events from those registered on the website.
Checking out the website may also be the best way to get a complete listing of all the activities on offer in the city.
“People are still registering on the Culture Days website up until the day, so there could be some surprises,” said Poweska.
She also encouraged people to take advantage not just of activities in Guelph, but also in neighbouring communities, as events will be happening all across Ontario this weekend.