White Rock (and South Surrey) residents who appreciate the impact of arts on every aspect of life are definitely going to be thinking ‘outside the box’ this September.
That’s when the Outside The Box Festival returns to locations throughout the community, challenging pre-conceived categories of art by demonstrating the infinite possibilities of unfettered inspiration.
Bolstered in its sixth year by a grant from the City of White Rock, the festival – which originally began as a showcase strictly of the potential fibre arts – has expanded its horizons to include all forms of artistic expression in what OTB artistic director Alicia Ballard calls “A celebration of fibre – plus.”
Highlighting that expanded outlook, the festival has not one, but three different openings, each in one of the festival’s major supporting venues.
On Thursday, Sept. 1 at 1:30 pm., a launch of the festival at White Rock Library (15342 Buena Vista Ave.) – which will feature related displays and events throughout the month – will include opening remarks by Mayor Wayne Baldwin.
Also highlighted will be the special display A Touch of Green by the Cutting Edge Mixed Media Art Group, including works by Judy Alexander, Linda Sharp, Georgina Powell, Wendy Mackinnon, Janet Kugyelka, Lynn Johnson, Angie Gursche, Susan Germain, Jennifer Cooper, Elaine Anderson, Julie Rudd and Kathy McColeman.
“The library has a jam-packed program for September and early October,” Ballard noted, adding that displays will include demonstrations by the Peace Arch Weavers and Spinners Guild, quilts by the Piece Arch Quilters, featured master artists, storytelling for children, and talks by Linda Quigley on ‘The Art of Gardens’ and ‘Fashion In Art’.
On Saturday, Sept. 3 at 1:30 p.m., the White Rock Community Centre (15154 Russell Ave.) will host an opening featuring a fusion dance piece by Kat Siemens, together with Jill Tunbridge of Flamenco del Mar.
Showcased at that location will be the exhibit Wood Diamonds and Other Eccentricities (“from the mischievous to the audacious, a mixed-media experience for everyone,” Ballard said) – featuring works by Ballard, Siemens, Pauline Dutkowski, Elizabeth Carefoot, Justine Morley, Lynn Bradford, Thelma Newbury, Karen Kroeker, S.C. Sylph, Mimi Am, Bette Hurd, Matt Streifel, Gail Heaver, Maggie Ma, Sherry Jin, Shelley Wang, Katie Sun, Lorena Kraus, Roger Golden, Heather Quinney, Margaret McCarthy, Suzanne Kendall, Sandy Stevenson and Barbara Carscadden.
And on Sept. 4, 1-5 p.m., an open house at the Arnold Mikelson Mind and Matter Gallery (13743 16 Ave.) will launch Outside The Box Month with a display of works by Carefoot, Newbury, Mary Mikelson, Arnold Mikelson, Ashley Jackson, Valerie Grimmel, Eileen Fong, Bob Gonzales, Anita Lindblom, Robert McMurray, Millie Meerheim, Shirley Thomas, Elmer Gunderson and David Kilpatrick.
“Mary (Mikelson) is totally involved – she is such a supporter of this,” Ballard said.
Other supportive Outside The Box venues include Laura’s Fashion Fabrics, on Johnston Road, which will display fabric-based “soft sculptures” during the festival and White Rock Museum and Archives, on Marine Drive, which is featuring the exhibit The Soil and Sea – a story of local food.
For Ballard – an artist always willing to embrace new and experimental avenues of artistic expression – helming Outside The Box for a second year has become, in itself, a work of art, albeit on a much wider, and much harder to control, canvas.
The truly cosmopolitan White Rock-based artist – born in Buenos Aires of Hungarian parents, and raised in Argentina and Uruguay – maintains a wide circle of contacts among artists around the globe, with whom she shares many of the dizzy and unpredictable highs and depressed lows of the artistic experience.
“I get upset with some of my friends when they post on Facebook that they have painted something in 25 minutes and then sold it for so many dollars,” she said, adding that she feels such anecdotes encourage a tendency among non-artists to devalue all works of art.
“I have painted something myself in 25 minutes and sold it for hundreds of dollars, but the point is not the 25 minutes, but all the work and research and study behind it – really a lifetime of experience,” she said.
A case in point is her continuing struggles with her ongoing work for the festival, a three-dimensional portrait of the mythological Medusa, which she hopes to present in its final form in September.
“I’m feeling right now that my original research was incomplete or erroneous,” she said, adding that she has wrestled with descriptions defining Medusa as ‘ugly’.
“I felt I couldn’t paint ugly – I didn’t have the right to call something ugly. And in the passage of time, the definition of ugly changes.”
She said a piece by the late Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco on beauty and ugliness helped her “sort through” her feelings and thoughts – and she may actually read from it at the festival or use it as the basis of a ‘philosopher’s cafe’ discussion at the community centre.
“I’m inviting every artist to write a story about their work in the show,” she added.
Just like the process involved in creating other work of art, putting together this year’s Outside The Box has involved a few disappointments and ideas that didn’t come to fruition, she admits.
“The gods did not smile upon some of the expansion plans for additional events this year,” she said, wryly.
“And I can say that, yes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
But one thing that has been unwavering is the support of Outside The Box founder and internationally-recognized fibre artist Pauline Dutkowski, who has given her blessing to the new directions for the festival that Ballard has chosen.
“Although Pauline retired as the director, she is still very much involved and very much a supporter – and I really appreciate that,” Ballard said.
“What I’m most excited about is all of the exhibits – the people who are participating have been so lovely, I often get tears in my eyes thinking about it.”
And yes, Ballard said, there are still many opportunities for volunteers to get involved in this year’s festival.
“And you don’t have to have any past experience in the arts – just enthusiasm,” she said.
For more information about the festival, visit https://www.facebook.com/OutsideTheBoxWhiteRock/