This weekend, ArtsWells Festival of All Things Art will feature more than 300 live performances, workshops and special collaborations by 200 artists in 10 unique venues in Wells and Barkerville.
There is something for every musical taste at this year’s festival, which takes place Aug. 2-5, from the world music of master percussionist Elage Diouf and Mongolian modern rock/jazz band Namgar to the powerful hip hop of Snotty Nose Rez Kids and the 333 Collective featuring Kimmortal, JB the First Lady and Missy D.
ArtsWells also has a healthy dose of traditional folk and roots music, with legendary talent such as Linda McRae (formerly of Spirit of the West), Dan Bern and Kim Beggs, plus many artists who are pushing the boundaries of tradition, like Rae Spoon, respectfulchild and Old Soul Rebel.
Collaborations are at the heart of the festival, and this year, innovative violinist Hannah Epperson is working in residence leading up to ArtsWells with contemporary dancer Rebecca Margolick to create a special performance for the festival.
Island Mountain Arts (IMA), which runs the festival, is also excited to welcome back renowned children’s entertainer Al Simmons.
“Al loved ArtsWells so much last year that he invited his good friend, ‘certified lunatic and master of the impossible’ Tomáš Kubínek, to join him in the fun,” states a press release from IMA. “Please note that Tomáš’ fantastical vaudevillian show is not for kids.”
In addition, festival goers can check out the latest in play development from the Sunset Theatre, as ArtsWells shares the work of the Sunset Exploration Series with a play reading by Nicolle Nattrass.
ArtsWells also offers many workshops over the course of the weekend, including such topics as Swing Dancing and Fundamentals of Hoop Dance, plus learning opportunities like Leadership and Reconciliation with Laurent Isadore, Youth Poetry with Peter Paul Van Camp and Consent Culture with the festival’s harm reduction team, Good Night Out Vancouver.
ArtsWells is also excited to welcome Jane Aurora, who will be leading a Producer’s Lounge designed to encourage more women and non-binary artists to learn music production skills.
The festival kicks off Friday night with a Welcome Ceremony at the Wells Community Hall at 7 p.m., followed by the annual Rainbow Pride Parade led by parade marshal Ms. Fondle and musicians Baby Face Brass, along with puppets and clowns from all around. Everyone is welcome to dress up in their favourite frock and celebrate the beauty and diversity of the community.
For Saturday and Sunday, the festival begins at 10 a.m. with yoga in the field and dance church, and the performances go continue until 3 a.m.
Julie Fowler, the artistic and executive director of IMA and ArtsWells, says the Monday of ArtsWells is quieter but still full of amazing art.
“Definitely there’s some fun stuff happening out here if people want the more relaxed vibe,” she said. “Barkerville has all its events happening, and with your pass to ArtsWells, you get into Barkerville for free. Especially for locals, Monday is a great day to come out.”
There will be performances in Barkerville’s Wesleyan Methodist Church and St. Saviour’s Anglican Church and the BGM Outdoor Stage in Wells throughout the day.
As well, there will be a unique storytelling event in the Downstairs Hall, which is part of the Northern Exposure conference, featuring the Indigenous hip hop duo Snotty Nose Rez Kids and Dr. Suzanne Steele, who is a Métis scholar, artist and writer.
“That will be a unique way to see Snotty Nose Rez Kids outside their performance,” said Fowler.
The final performance of ArtsWells will be a performance of the Bruce Horak play Assassinating Thomson at the Sunset Theatre Monday at 4 p.m.
“The cool part of Assassinating Thomson and why we thought we have to do that at ArtsWells … is Aug. 5 is Tom Thomson’s birthday, and it is also Bruce Horak’s birthday,” said Fowler.
Monday is also the feature day for the One Minute Play Festival, which starts at 11 a.m. at the Sunset Theatre.
“Everyone is welcome to come out and perform a play for one minute,” said Fowler. “We also accept one-minute excuses. That’s always a fun and funny event.”
Fowler says this is the 20th or 21st One Minute Play Festival, and it actually pre-dates ArtsWells.
The full ArtsWells lineup is available online at artswells.com/line-up.
The program guide is available online, and anyone interested in coming to the festival can purchase weekend passes and day passes at artswells.com.
During the festival weekend, passes will be available for purchase at the Island Mountain Arts Gallery at 2323 Pooley St.
Children aged 12 and younger get in free, and, new this year, all pass holders receive free entrance to Barkerville Historic Town and Park, as well as a $15 merchandise voucher to spend at the Festival Merch Booth.