by Sharon Jackson
KAGAWONG— Feeling “pretty honoured to be in this community,” was the sentiment expressed by Sophie Edwards, director of 4lements Living Arts during the kick off of the first annual Elemental Festival held this past weekend.
Ms. Edwards, along with 4e intern Patricia Mader, board members, sponsors, funding partners, artists and volunteers, hosted a weekend of music, workshops, and artist-led walks all in keeping with this year’s theme: the Kagawong River.
The festival, shared Ms. Edwards, was a way to showcase the Kagawong River restoration project by Manitoulin Streams and “focus on the arts to create change.”
Hosted during the shoulder season to attract people to take in the annual salmon run, the festival provides an opportunity to engage the community during a time when there is not as much going on, stated Ms. Edwards.
Partnering with St. John’s Anglican Church was just one way to bring together members of what Ms. Edwards refers to as as “very proactive” community.
A full house of festival goers packed the meeting room at the church. Following a presentation by Manitoulin Streams director Seija Deschenes, readings by winners of the Elemental Festival Writing contest, and ‘riffing on the river’ with Boo Watson, an evening of gospel music performed by Folk Roots Collective was held in the sanctuary.
Ms. Deschenes spoke of the extensive project that took place between June 16 and August 31. “This was a wonderful partnership between two not for profit organizations helping make this community a better place for all. Whether you enjoy the arts or being with nature,” shared Ms. Deschenes, “I highly recommend everyone take the time to walk up the trail to see this wonderful combination of art and stream restoration at its finest.”
The project included enhancement of 875 square meters of riparian habitat by planting 3,414 shrubs and trees; 1,833 square metres aquatic in stream fish habitat by installing 171 in-stream structures including two vortex weirs, one wing deflector, one island, four boulder clusters, and 23 root wads surrounded by boulders for bank stabilization.
Ms. Deschenes mentioned 19 funding partners which includes the Little Current Fish and Game Club, Manitoulin Transport, Township of Billings, Assiginack, Central Manitoulin and the Northeast Town.
Ten ‘in-kind partners’ including H & R Noble, United/Gore Bay Fish and Game Club, and 4elements Living Arts, along with many volunteers who helped plant trees, among them artist Michael Belmore (who created three boulders as part of a replenishment series).
Winners of the writing contest included Linda Willson, Kate Thompson, Francesca Simon and Sarah Hutchinson. Categories included short prose (max 600 words) and creative non-fiction post cards (max 50 words).
Ms. Watson encouraged audience participation as she shared her love of the river and water. “You can’t go far without feeling it,” expressed Ms. Watson. “The river is not just thinking, it’s feeling.”
Saturday was jam-packed with activities for kids and adults alike. Children were encouraged to create a post card following a walk along the river as part of an exchange program. Adults took in a soundscape workshop with artist Sean Procyk.
Artist-led workshops with Mr. Procyk, Ann Marie Hadcock and Michael Belmore were held Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Mr. Procyk works between assemblage installation, soundscape composition and lighting design to construct art forms that attempt to liberate social consciousness.
Building with found materials and reclaimed objects, he addresses notions of place and excess waste. A local sawmill was the source of the cedar used for the construction of the bases for his newest creations. Watch for Mr. Procyk’s installation along the hiking trail.
Ms. Hadcock created a giant ‘seed pod’ from a variety of plant based materials including cattails that have a long history of useful attributes as both a building material and food source.
The piece, she shared, took up the entire inside of her vehicle and required four people to move it from her car to its final resting place tucked amongst the trees in a shaded area along the hiking trail.
Mr. Belmore’s ‘replenishment series’ consists of three boulders installed at various sites along the Kagawong River. They reflect upon the cycles of water, depicting the history of life, death, renewal and perseverance. Each boulder is imprinted with a pattern of thirteen circles representing the 13 moons in the cycle of nature.
Randy Noble, of H & R Noble Construction, was more than accommodating in helping Mr. Belmore select boulders to be used for his art installation. The only item on the wish list from 4elements was that one of the boulders have a fish on it. Happy to oblige, Mr. Belmore came through.
Saturday evening saw an enthusiastic gathering at the Park Centre to enjoy the music of Pistol George Warren.
A community discussion and creative exploration workshop entitled ‘how has the river changed over time?’ and a river side performance by Kagawong resident Mariana Lafrance on Sunday afternoon wrapped up the three-day event.
Mark your calendar for next year’s Elemental Festival which will be held September 30 to October 2, pending funding approval.