Art is what happens outside the box.
In spite of our best efforts to tame, control or categorize it, the artistic impulse – the urge to create something of esthetic resonance – spills over whatever confines or frames we tend to create for it.
Artists persist in thinking ‘outside the box’ both in creativity and in use of materials – and that’s what internationally celebrated fibre artist and experimentalist Pauline McLean Dutkowski had in mind when she founded White Rock’s Outside The Box Festival in 2011.
The month-long, genre-challenging celebration of art in fibre returns to the city for a fifth year Aug. 29-Sept. 30, and as in previous years, White Rock Library is a key location for the launch, displays and ongoing programs.
The festival has a new co-ordinator, White Rock artist Alicia Ballard, but she is by no means new to the event.
Noted locally and internationally as a painter and multi-media artist, she was also creator and coordinator of the international FiberFusion mural at White Rock Museum and Archives, part of the 2011 Outside The Box Festival.
“I always want to do something that is not the everyday, the ordinary and expected,” she said.
Ballard will have her own feature as part of the festival and White Rock Library’s ongoing Master Artists in the Library program, Sept. 11 and 12, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
As an illustration of the Outside the Box theme, she will be showcasing and answering questions on a work-in-progress – a piece inspired by the mythological goddess Medusa.
“I’ve been researching her – although, apparently, she was very ugly, she was also the protector of Athens, and originally she used to appear on shields,” she said. “Medusa is a warrior, but she’s also a goddess of wisdom and crafts. I thought this would be a good month for me to be prepared in all three areas!”
The overall festival follows in a tradition established by Dutkowski, she said, embracing all aspects of fibre art – from formal creations such as woven and sewn pieces and tapestries to free interpretations that challenge accepted conventions and norms, even re-imagining our basic definitions of fibre.
And Dutkowski herself, while enjoying the opportunity to step down from organizational responsibilities, is still very much present as a participant in the festival.
Throughout September, gallery owner Mary Mikelson will host a display of Dutkowski’s art and the fibre-related work of another great local “outside the box” thinker – Elizabeth Carefoot – at the Mind and Matter Gallery (13743 16 Ave.)
Also illustrating the theme is the work of Kali Bags and Accoutrements partners Katherine Siemens and Stephanie Lafreniere – also known as the tribal fusion dance duo The Fusionistas.
Their up-cycled art bags and other wearables, designed by Siemens, which utilize vintage and re-purposed fabrics and decorations in one-of-a-kind creations, will be on display at the library and the White Rock Community Centre during the month.
They and their creations will also be featured in a ‘Fibre Flash Walkabout’ (weather permitting) from The Gallery at Central Plaza to the White Rock Library from 1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 29 – passing festival venue Laura’s Fashion Fabrics.
This will lead into the Outside the Box preview opening from 2 p.m. in the library including a short performance by the Fusionistas, and remarks by Ballard and dignitaries including White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and Coun. Helen Fathers.
There will be plenty of other chances for the public to catch ‘fibre fever’ during the festival, Ballard promises, highlighting the creativity of many individuals and established community groups.
Displays will be ongoing at the library by the Piece Arch Quilters and the Tuesday Tapestry Group, while the Peace Arch Weavers and Spinners Guild will offer demonstrations Saturday, Sept. 19 and Monday Sept. 28, ( both 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
Also at the library, Fibre Gone Wild, Sept. 22, 3:30-4 p.m., is a children’s workshop (pre-registration required) in which youngsters will create animals from recycled materials, while on Sept. 25 members of the Needlenuts will demonstrate their techniques for applique quilting.
The White Rock Community Centre will host a mini photo-exhibit by Ballard and also the festival’s closing event on Sept. 30, 6:45 p.m. – a show-and-tell in which the community is invited to participate by sharing fibre items they cherish and the stories behind them.
The community is also invited to participate ‘hands on’ in the Interknots II Fibre Installation, Sept. 18, 1:30-3:30 p.m. at Bryant Park (beside the Community Centre), by bringing colourful scarves, knitting or crocheting of flowers and insects to decorate trees in the park.
Other festival venues include Tourism White Rock and White Rock Museum and Archives.
“I’m really looking forward to the festival and I’m delighted by all the co-operation we’ve received, including from the city,” Ballard said.
“We owe the success of Outside the Box to Pauline, to the library, and to all the other artists and venues that have participated for five years.
“I’m looking forward to making it bigger and better each year.”