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Vines intertwines art, environment and community spirit

By Zoe Grams

The hip hop group Snotty Nose Rez Kids will be a part of the Vines Art Festival. (Submitted Photo)

The hip hop group Snotty Nose Rez Kids will be a part of the Vines Art Festival. (Submitted Photo)

While Vancouver brims with Festivals in August, few demonstrate the city’s quintessential nature like Vines Art Festival: an annual, eco-art event featuring artists collaborating alongside community leaders and farmers.

Vines has already planted deep roots and blossomed since its inaugural year in 2015. Beginning next Wednesday, more than 60 artists will participate in an expanded 10 days of festivities in parks across the city — from Trout Lake to Stanley Park to Pandora Park. All events are free, often taking place on evenings or weekends.

“It has definitely developed,” explained Artistic Director Heather Lamoureux. “The first year was one day. The second, four. This year we’ve partnered with more parks, such as Stanley Park, and made more connections with people who teach great workshops. And we partner with Artists in Residence in certain parks. The intention is to reach the public with this thought-provoking art that speaks to protecting the earth. We thought it was important that we could reach a wide, diverse audience.”

Core to Vines 2017 is the Resilient Roots Project, which partners Indigenous and non-Indigenous “artivists”. Celebrated, thought-provoking Nuu-chah-nulth/Kwakwaka’wakw poet, Valeen Jules, worked closely with Lamoroux to pair “front-line activists” with more traditional artists to create conversations and new ways of making art. Participants include Mia Amir, Creative Writing Educator at Playwrights Theatre Centre; Kwiigay iiwaans; and Darren Metz and Quinton Myce of hip hop group Snotty Nose Rez Kids.

While the initiative isn’t a public-facing part of Vines, it does contribute to environmental art in the city.

“The idea is to build a bigger community, and get a broader sense of each other’s processes. It’s a project within a greater project,” Lamoureux said.

Program highlights include a performance of legendary Canadian dancer, Margie Gillis’ “Loon” by Caitlin Griffin. Two musicians, a performer, and a beekeeper create an interactive sound performance with live bees in “A Complicated Intelligence”. New (to) Town Collective—a group of clown artists—bring humour and joy to audiences. Cease Wyss and Mia Amir present movement and storytelling on the shores of Second Beach in “Obscura Lucida”.

Workshops include plant explorations with herbalist and urban forager, Lori Snyder; the importance of bee protection with author and educator Lori Weidenhammer; and how to weave, as taught by the EartHand Gleaners Society.

 

It’s not simply the talent — and messages — of artists that make Vines such a unique festival, however: it’s the setting. Community-focused in both programming and location, Vines’ outdoor performances and workshops remove barriers to anyone seeking to engage with an artistic experience. Dancers move in the ocean and on the sand. Painters lean canvases against trees. Actors compete to be heard over birdsong.

The experience of happening upon a performance in a park — or feeling part of a community engaged in multiple environmentally-conscious art projects — allows for participation and interaction often impossible to achieve within walls.

“Being outdoors encourages the art to be centered in the earth … that’s really special,” said Lamoureux. “As artists, we’re often using so much to make a piece — a lot of resources — so love the idea of working with the earth’s stage. We’re better able to enjoy what already exists.”

For audiences, Lamoureux concluded, “Sometimes people are hanging out, having their barbecue and seeing this art unfold. That’s really awesome. And maybe they’re encouraged to think about what it all means.”

Vines Arts Festival runs from August 9 to 19 at parks across Vancouver. For a full lineup of events and further information, visit www.vinesartfestival.com.