After 16 years of organizing Arts Alive in the Park at Willingdon Beach, Ann Nelson can finally pinpoint exactly what it is that makes the event so unique and special.
“It is a spontaneous market day fair, typical of the Middle Ages through Restoration and even the Victorian Era,” she said, “and that is what has always been my vision.”
Presented by Powell River Council for Arts and Culture, the outdoor exhibit harkens back to the days of yore, when artisans and musicians would pack up their livelihood and lay it out in the village square.
“People wandered and munched on things and and threw coins in the juggler’s hat and bought ribbons and gloves,” said Nelson, ambassador for the arts council. “That was the social experience.”
Arts Alive in the Park is poised to pitch its tents once again on Saturday, August 19, and Sunday, August 20, with dozens of artisans, food vendors and musicians on site to contribute to the collective atmosphere.
“We bring together all the creative arts, and the lively arts and the culinary arts,” said Nelson, “everything we can that reflects who we are as a community.”
Event co-organizer and arts council president Nina Mussellam is responsible for laying out the booths each year in a meandering pattern designed to promote optimal conversation and interaction.
“I enjoy being able to connect people with other people,” said Mussellam, “and it’s really neat to see who the public is. I always make a point of asking where they’re from and what they’re interested in, so that I can give them some ideas of what they could do.”
Although a number of tourists attend the event each year, it serves its biggest purpose as a celebration of local talent.
“It’s about sharing, and an opportunity to engage with each other and have a laid-back, stress-free day down at the beach, whether it’s rain or shine,” said Nelson.
In addition to returning artists such as painter Joyce Furness, photographer Gerry Chabot and sculptor Richard Benson, Arts Alive will play host to a diverse array of musicians including Devon Hanley, Phil Williams and the Take 5 jazz ensemble.
For kids, Tourism Powell River will be on site with its Boler egg trailer, offering interactive crafts and activities.
However, it is the observation of a Tla’amin Nation cultural tradition that has Nelson most excited about the weekend. The project, known as Hɛhɛwšɩn (the way forward), will see a raw log transformed into a canoe over a period of months. The process is slated to begin just days before Arts Alive pops up on the beach.
“It’s an opportunity for the communities to engage with each other and create a lasting legacy through the transferral of skills and time spent together,” said Nelson, “and it’s the first time people will have a chance to actually visit it and explore the potential, the possibilities and where this is all heading.”
Additional exhibitors have yet to be announced, with some likely to show up at the last minute.
“All they’ve got to do is wave their hand and I’ll make room for them as much as I can,” said Nelson.
That model of inclusivity is part of what has made Arts Alive such a hit among artists and audience.
“We have what we think is a winning recipe,” said Nelson. “It gets tweaked a little bit from year to year, but it’s the combination of artists and their work engaging with people.”
For more information about vending, showcasing or performing at Arts Alive in the Park, contact Nelson at 604.483.9345 or Mussellam at 604.485.6506. The event runs from 11 am to 7 pm on Saturday, August 19, and 11 am to 6 pm on Sunday, August 20.