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Community

Abbotsford Arts Council bows out of Jubilee Arts Centre: Proposed cultural hub to open without long-planned gallery component

On the heels of this year’s Jam in Jubilee concert series, the community can expect another flurry of activity to soon take over Jubilee Park. The Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) will be moving their offices into the upstairs floor of the MSA Centennial Library building early this fall, but they will do so without…

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Art

Blurring the line between audience and spectacle: creatiValley goes to the Garden of Earthly Delights

Over 500 years ago, Hieronymus Bosch created the painting he would become most famous for, “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” Even though surrealism didn’t exist in the late 1400s, the painting became the inspiration for the surrealism movement 350 years later. But its story doesn’t end there. “The Garden of Earthly Delights” has become the…

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Community

Upending Tradition at Harrison Fest: July 9 – 17

Nestled between lake and mountain 10 kilometres north of Agassiz, the sleepy village of Harrison Hot Springs provides a picturesque setting for more than a week of high-calibre world music every July.

Kicking off its 38th year Saturday, July 9, the Harrison Festival of the Arts occupies a unique position in a crowded field of southern BC summer music festivals. Besides the breathtaking setting, artistic director Andy Hillhouse says the mid-size event, spread out over nine days this year, cultivates a laid-back atmosphere with ample opportunity to absorb and reflect on the art you experience.

“It’s not like a gated festival where you go in for three days and you’ve got sensory overload,” he says. “But I love those festivals too, and they’re all important in their own way.”

Harrison’s mission to connect the local arts community with innovative and talented world music acts — rather than focusing on popular music — also sets it apart. This year’s program features a eclectic slate of musicians from contemporary Hawaiian performer Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole to Haitian hip-hop fusion artist Vox Sambou and Québecois traditional, rock, and electro combo Mélisande. The line up goes on and on in this manner, drawing on music from all corners of the globe with surprises at every turn.

As an ethnomusicologist, Hillhouse says he is especially capable of articulating this mandate and how it’s reflected in the program.

“You get a pretty good sense and understanding of the value of music in culture,” he says. Ethnomusicologists examine “how music is used in everything from ritual to concert performance to religion, everything.”

When it comes to the non-profit Harrison Festival of the Arts, Hillhouse looks to strike a balance between challenging global artists and those with a wider appeal.

“We try to draw a broad audience, but at the same time, you’re trying to educate people and expose people to new things, things which have a cultural value.”

A perfect example of this duality on this year’s line-up is Yemen Blues, a unique group that blends traditional Yemenite chants with “funky, African inspired music.” Hillhouse says that the band represents an intriguing cultural blend that translates into “very dancy, very upbeat festival music.”

One of the themes of this year’s program is “re-working tradition,” which returning festival-goers will find contrasts nicely with last year’s emphasis on traditional music passed down through generations.

“We had a musician here last year from Mali who, I don’t know how long his ancestors played for the kings. I knew of some artists who were digging into tradition, but they didn’t necessarily grow up with it. But they’re researching it and re-imagining the tradition in their own way. [This theme] allowed me to bring in some people I was interested in, like Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project.”

Fashioned by virtuoso banjoist Jayme Stone, the Lomax Project re-works many of the original folk recordings collected around the world by anthropologist Alan Lomax with the help of many collaborators from the folk music community.

Harrison’s marketing and administrative manager Bryan Cutler says that he enjoys watching themes emerge as Hillhouse ssembles the program.

“He takes a lot of input and he tours around to different festivals,” Cutler says. “And then he looks at it and he says, ‘here’s what I did here, and here’. Themes come out organically from his programming.”

While this is Cutler’s first year in his new role with the festival, he’s been working behind the scenes on the production side for nine years. That’s rooted his work in the festival’s history while allowing him to branch out in new ways.

“We’re trying to stick with what Ed and Phyllis [Stenson] started and developed, but we’re making slow changes here and there,” he says.

It’s important to maintain a sense of the festival’s identity and place in the Fraser Valley, according to Cutler.

“Where Harrison kind of fits is, we kind of strip it all back, and we go right back to the roots,” Cutler says.

Beyond watching performances, Cutler and Hillhouse have also been looking for to get people to participate.

“I’m always trying to think of ways where we don’t just present music or other forms of art, but we engage people, too,” Hillhouse says. This includes workshops, a literary café, and a daily market of artisan vendors peppering the waterfront.

Hosting a variety of performances and activities near the excellent cafés and restaurants of Harrison Hot Springs contributes to the relaxed and slow-paced vibe. Most days, visitors can take in free music on the beach each afternoon, or browse the market before migrating indoors for ticketed headline performances at the Harrison Memorial Hall.

“Children’s day is completely different,” Cutler says. “That’s sort of a nut-ball kind of day.”

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Harrison Festival of the Arts runs July 9 to 17 in Harrison Hot Springs. You can find tickets online at harrisonfestival.com

Art

Never too rainy to raku: Despite the weather, Chilliwack pottery- glazing event fired up attendees

If you don’t like the rain, you may have missed out on one of the Chilliwack Community Arts Council’s first events of the summer: the second annual Raku in the Valley at Thompson Regional Park.

Yet the setting was perfect to practice an old Japanese technique of glazing pottery. Nestled into the cloud-filled valley a short drive up Chilliwack Lake Road, the wet weather lent a sense of mysticism. And luckily, it didn’t keep too many people away.

“We still had lots of people here,” said Patti Lawn, executive director of the Chilliwack Community Arts Council (CCAC). “We have a whole bunch of people coming to watch, because it’s a fascinating thing if you don’t know about that pottery form.”

Raku produces beautiful ornamental cracked- or metallic-finish pots. One begins by choosing the type of glaze: either clear, which results in blackened spider-web cracks, or an eye-catching, rainbow-coloured metal glaze.

At its maximum temperature, the pot is taken out of the kiln, transferred to the ground, and covered in shredded paper, which ignites. Then, metal tins are placed overtop to hold in the heat and smoke. This part of the process cracks the clear-glazed pots, allowing black smoke to set into the cracks. With the metallic glaze, the sheen is brought out by the heat without cracking it.
The entire process takes roughly an hour and a half, from glazing to firing to cooling. Once cool, the pots are wiped clean of excess smoke and residue.

All 65 pots made for the glazing process sold out well in advance of the event. While pots can be any size, depending on the tins that cover them, the pots used at the event were smaller for portability and ease.

“Last year, because it was the first time, we had pots we could sell here,” Lawn said. “This time we don’t.”

The event is made possible by a partnership between the arts council and Devon Road Pottery and Rainforest Pottery. Potters from the local studios perform the raku portion, and the arts council puts on the event, which also includes vendors and food, as well as providing volunteers to clean the finished pots before handing them over.

To the right of the raku pit where two portable kilns were located, were pottery vendors, artisan soap-makers, and hand-crafted jewellers. The Chilliwack River Valley Fire Department was also on scene to manage any possible issues from the heat and flames that go with the raku process, and to host a barbeque by donation.

With the success of this year’s Raku in the Valley, the CCAC plans to expand next year.

“We’re going to try to double the number of pots,” said Lawn.

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