Here’s what you need to know about the Art et Mots Festival

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The first Art and Words Festival will take place at Mission Point House in Davis Bay from August 11-14. The event is a project of the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society, which was founded last year.

In a month already known on the Sunshine Coast for its annual writers and books competition, an upstart festival sparks creative collaboration by connecting authors and artists.

The first Art and Words Festival will take place at Mission Point House in Davis Bay from August 11-14. The event is a project of the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society, which was founded last year.

According to the Society’s director, Cathalynn (Cindy) Labonté-Smith, the Art et Mots Festival was designed to put local writers in the spotlight.

“It’s our gift to the community,” Labonté-Smith said, “and it’s quite different [from the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts] in the sense that they are artists and authors working together.

Earlier this year, the names of 32 visual artists and writers were randomly matched. The pairs were invited to “go out together and inspire each other and come up with a work of art and a piece of poetry, prose, non-fiction, whatever goes together,” Labonté-Smith said.

Art and writing will be showcased by their creators in 90-minute sessions at Mission Point House. The lectures are offered free of charge to members of the public, who are also free to browse the artwork displayed inside the building during the festival.

Featured speakers include author Marion McKinnon Crook, who received the 2021 Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing for her book Always Pack a Candle: A Nurse in the Cariboo-Chilcotin. Crook will deliver a speech at the festival’s opening reception on August 11 after a welcome song by Calvin Craigan, a hereditary chief of the shíshálh nation.

Director Annie Frazier Henry, whose film Ladies of the Inlet screened during the Sechelt Syíyaya Days celebration, will also deliver a keynote address.

An original short film will be broadcast for the duration of the festival. Falling Down Slowly was produced by Barb Dann, Maggie Guzzi and Gordon Halloran.

Halloran is a Roberts Creek artist known internationally for his monumental ice installations. Guzzi wrote the screenplay, an account of her husband – poet and carpenter David Phillips – as he battled Alzheimer’s disease. Dann, a Sechelt-based artist and photographer, provided complementary images.

All artwork, poems and short stories are contained in a 90-page softcover book which includes the festival program. The proximity of the pieces highlights mutual influences, as with artist Paula O’Brien’s painting “Big Sky Over Lions Bay” and the adjoining poem and short story by Heather Conn. “Who or what is the great creator of each moment, / Choosing the setting of paradise – is it you? writes Conn in his poem Razor’s Edge.

The catalog includes three-dimensional works, including “Seashore Bench” by Roger Handling. The roughly hewn seat, painted to look like a cloudy sky, is associated with Cultural Modification, a story by Jan DeGrass.

The festival’s collaborative approach was inspired by the Writing on the Edge festival in Yuma, Arizona. “But it’s much more of a juried festival,” Labonté-Smith said, “where they would have all the submissions up front and then bring people together.”

Members of the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society wanted an approach that invited serendipity. “They said, make it random and just trust the process. And they were right. Some of the people I gathered found out they were neighbors and had never met before,” Labonté-Smith said. “It’s been so magical.”

The four-day festival also includes a community mosaic project. Visitors can use acrylic pens, paints, brushes and whale stencils to design miniature works of art. The resulting mosaic of combined images will be displayed outside Mission Point House before being auctioned on August 14. Proceeds will benefit next year’s Art and Words festival, which is to take place at Gibsons Public Market.

Exhibits from the 2022 festival will also be on view at the Gibsons Public Library in September.

Festival details are available online at www.scwes.ca.

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