StArts Fest a blend of learning and fun
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 02, 2013 06:00 am
The fifth annual StArts Fest was one of the noisiest on record.
Over at St. Albert Place’s Progress Hall, kid improvisors, donning the masks of superheroes, belted out blood-chilling screams.
Simultaneously in the visual arts wing, visitors proved that Corian counter tops are unbreakable – even under demolition-like hammer blows.
The repeated crashing sounded as if a new batch of renovations were underway, however the quilters’ guild was featuring a rather tame flower-pounding project.
Visitors were given a small square of muslin with fresh flowers taped to one side. The square was placed on a square-foot chunk of Corian and the florals were smashed to a pulp.
Once the flowers’ liquid colouring and basic shape had stained the muslin, visitors removed the tape and blow-dried the pulp. Taking a black nib pen, crafters outlined the shape and stroked in flower petals and leaves.
Sarah Stephen, a St. Albert mother with two young children under the age of three and a passion for sewing, stopped by to check out the festival on Saturday.
“I’m always on the lookout for stuff to do with my kids. This is too old for them, but I can keep it in mind for the future. Besides, I like the pounding. It gets aggression out,” said Stephen with a wicked grin.
Over at Progress Hall, aggression was key to a wildly hilarious hour of two youth improv troupes duking it out. The younger KIDPROVISORS challenged the older L’il Off the Top to a battle of theatre sports where just about any topic was fair game.
With a non-stop stream of audience suggestions the two groups morphed from blade-thrusting superheroes to turkey killers to paranoid dental patients to couples on a first date.
Keeping a steady hand on the navigation system was one of St. Albert’s favourite sons, the irrepressible multi-talented Matt Alden. An Edmonton A-level improvisor, actor, screenwriter, playwright and director, Alden also displays an uncanny ability as a teacher that makes children relax and gives them the confidence to risk everything in front of an audience.
St. Albert’s Susan Rankin, one of Alden’s former Bellerose classmates, had originally come to tour the farmers’ market. When a busker distributed festival flyers, she opted to check out the improv show.
“It was great. It was fun. You could see the kids loved it and I loved it,” Rankin said.
The three-day StArts Fest ran September 27 to 29. It was organized by the St. Albert Celebrates the Arts Committee as a part of Alberta Culture Days, a province-wide initiative that spotlights every artistic discipline.
Committee chair Peter Moloney spent the three days running around and observing as many events as possible.
“This weekend was fabulous. It was pleasing to see smiles on people’s faces whether they were asking the potters questions about their demonstrations or going down to make a tea book or attending the story slam. Everywhere I saw smiles, laughter and participation,” he said.
Moloney noted that the St. Albert Library author talks received increased attendance. About 100 people attended this year versus last year’s 70. The poetry readings at Art Gallery of St. Albert boasted “standing room only” and “hundreds” wandered over to the visual arts wing to enjoy the demonstrations, projects and one-on-one chit-chat.
Keys For the City, three artistically decorated pianos that were strategically placed at St. Albert Place, La Crèma Caffé and at Arcadia Café and Bar, attracted a hefty share of attention.
“Over the month that they were on display, I saw thousands sit down and play the pianos or watch someone playing,” he commented.
Over at the Arden Theatre, a nearly packed audience of parents with their munchkins had purchased tickets to see the easy-going Norman Foote. Backed by 160 angelic voices from École Muriel Martin and Leo Nickerson Elementary, Foote kicked off with a clap-a-thon followed by a series of kid-friendly songs.
While the Arden bubbled with giggles and noise, visual artist Amy Loewen had hung the quieter, more reflective O Canada Project in St. Albert Place lobby. The eight-foot square quilt detailing a maple leaf design was constructed from rice paper, ink and charcoal. Loewen spelled out what Canada meant to her in eight words – compassion, kindness, respect, understanding, patience, tolerance, gentleness, and forgiveness. Mirroring the Canadian mosaic, she spelled the words out in 35 languages.
Visitors were able to express what Canada and community meant to them on strips of white paper that were woven into a wire frame. Several choices included diversity, service, freedom, opportunity, family, home, natural beauty and freedom to worship.
And finally over at Story Slam St. Albert Style held at Ric’s Grill, the eight competitors braved all and gave it their best shot. Unfortunately, last year’s reigning champion Kelly Aiesenstat lost the crown to John Dolman.
Dolman, a member of St. Albert Writers, presented a five-minute comedic piece with a twist ending titled A Quiet Knight in Airport Security.
“I wrote it in one sitting and spent two months editing it,” he smiles with delightful dry humour.
Since the Story Slam was instituted three years ago, Dolman has competed each year. But this is his first win. He pocketed $75.
“I never expected to win. But with this story I actually like it. I thought I would do quite well. But it still came as a surprise. The stories are so varied. I don’t know how you compare apples to oranges. They’re all so good. But it is exciting to win.”
Bob Locicero was runner-up with a three-minute mystery tale on the trades. Locicero received $25.
Once all the figures are in for this year’s festival, organizers will start hashing ideas for next year.
In closing Moloney said, “2014 is the 30th anniversary of St. Albert Place and we are probably going to partner with the upcoming Youth Festival and build on those two ideas.”