StArts Fest offers buffet of events
Cultural celebration aims to provide moments of discovery
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 06:00 am
Sept. 28 to 30
St. Albert Place
5 St. Anne Street
St. Albert may be a small city, but it’s known for its festive spirit. Anything goes from a popular boisterous children’s festival to action-packed rodeos and eye-popping car shows.
Simply put, St. Albertans love to have a good reason to celebrate and share the good times. With an exuberant community spirit, the town has generated a bevy of cultural and historic events that promote and establish local artistic output.
Alberta Culture Days is blowing its horn this weekend from Sept. 28 to 30. The city’s version, dubbed StArts Fest, is once again spreading its wings at St. Albert Place.
Now in its third rendition, StArts Fest celebrates culture in all its forms – music, street dance, film, theatre, literature, poetry, storytelling, visual arts and the fibre arts.
Instead of the red-carpeted Mayor’s Gala kicking off the activities, organizers are launching Friday night’s celebrations with a screening of the film anthology Prairie Tales 14 in St. Albert Public Library. A reception follows.
In addition, Bboyizm returns Friday night as part of the Arden’s professional series with its new theatrical concept IZM.
Peter Moloney, StArts Fest committee chair, was asked if a lack of the much-anticipated prestigious Mayor’s Gala would affect festival attendance.
“In the last two years, there was a strong focus on the gala,” Moloney said. “Now it’s more of a festival. The focus is on the events happening on the weekend – the performances, the talks, the workshops, the hands-on events. It’s a discovery. It’s an experience. It’s a celebration of culture.”
Organizers have scheduled a combination of traditional events with fresher offerings.
Returning is the competitive story slam and the more sublime poetry reading. Last year, the slam created a lot of buzz and attracted a packed house to Ric’s Grill.
“It was very relaxed at Ric’s last year. People had food and drinks. It was a relaxed social gathering like going to a comedy fest. The informality was delicious,” commented slam organizer Tracey Aisenstat.
Six slammers are already signed up and there is room for two more. For all their hard work, the two top slammers will receive prizes.
The poetry readings are an anything goes event open to traditional and spoken word to haiku, sonnets and rap.
“Whatever the muse moves you to create,” says poetry co-coordinator Sandra Mooney-Ellerbeck. She adds that the poetry readings have room for half a dozen more poets. Both poets and slammers can sign up on the StArts Fest website.
Bboyizm, presenting two ticketed performances at the Arden, is also offering one of the hottest new workshops on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s a street dance workshop for experienced dancers that are 14 to 20 years old. It’s an exciting opportunity, but there are space limitations. It’s no cost and there’s a registration form on the website,” Moloney explained.
Another youth-driven event is the award winning production Grocery Store, by Hayley Moorehouse. The Paul Kane High graduate wrote and directed the original production as a school drama project. Once again, the original cast is in this remount.
Set in a grocery store, events in this comedic drama spin out of control when a young woman approaches her job with a negative attitude.
Aisenstat, a local playwright and co-ordinator for this activity said, “It’s going to be very entertaining. I wasn’t looking for something with a lot of social relevance. I was looking for something entertaining and if you get something out of it, that’s the cream cheese frosting.”
Another event that’s dear to Aisenstat’s heart is the screening of Prairie Tales 14. Hosted at the St. Albert Public Library, this 2012 anthology of the province’s best filmmakers features innovative contributions from 15 professionals. They float from the realms of poetry, flamenco dance and the slow food movement to several dipping into non-verbal animation. Most range from two to 10 minutes in length.
“They’re very imaginative and so different one from the other. What appeals to me is the imagery. They can be bizarre, but they make you think. They stimulate a lot of conversation,” said Heather Dolman, St. Albert Library public services manager.
Following the screenings, Edmonton filmmaker John Osborne will offer a Q & A on the film industry in today’s economy. Osborne is also screening his Lines for Clarinet, a five-minute art animation synchronized to music.
The library is also presenting an editing workshop led by Morinville writer Jessica Kluthe, a magazine writer due to release a book in 2013.
One of the library’s more exciting events on Saturday evening is a discussion with Nora Young, host of CBC Radio’s Spark. She has just written The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives Are Altering the World Around Us.
Although technology is rarely celebrated as a culture, Dolman explained, “It affects how we deal with technology and how it affects how we interact and that affects our culture.”
The visual and fibre artists have a wide plethora activities and the Musée Heritage is hosting games, activities and tours for the family.
Tying all the events together is a roster of talented emerging artists situated in St. Albert Place’s main lobby. They run the gamut from guzheng player (ancient Chinese zither) Jenelle Chen, violinist Lara Hyrak, rock country artists Jessy Mossop and Stephen Lecky, pianist Jonathan Engler, vocalist Rebecca Lappa and the Mac Jazz Band.
“This festival is more about bringing the community together to participate in arts events,” Aisenstat said. “It makes St. Albert a smaller place. You get to know people and you’re more apt to go. It engages people.”
For a complete schedule and to register for events log onto www.startsfest.ca.