A marathon hits its stride

11 Aug 2011

The Telegram
By Justin Brake
View source article here 

Montreal artist Andrea Carvalho will display her portable statue“Place de Galo”
around town during the 12th annual Art Marathon Festival (submitted image)

There’s nothing more exciting for St. John’s thriving visual arts community than this.

The 12th annual Art Marathon Festival, which runs Aug. 14-21, will unfold this year in its biggest incarnation yet.

What began as the 24-Hour Art Marathon, a fundraising event that challenged local artists to create a work in 24 hours and then auction it off, turned into a full-fledged festival a few years ago.

But this year, organizers are taking it even further and expanding the festival — which celebrates as many contemporary forms of artistic disciplines as its participants bring to it — to include more concerts, workshops, venues and family events.

“It’s not just for people who make art,” says festival co-ordinator Jane Walker. “It’s for people who are interested in art, for people who want to come out and have a barbecue with their kids. It’s for anyone, really. It’s quite the community-building initiative.”

As a prelude to the festival, the Aug. 13 “Summer Saunter” is directed toward those interested in checking out more than a dozen downtown art galleries and studios.

The following day’s “Family Launch” at Eastern Edge will entail wall painting, live music and a children’s film screening in partnership with the Nickel Film Festival.

Ongoing events include afternoon community barbecues hosted by local not-for-profits outside the gallery, and downtown displays by visiting Montreal-based artists Karen Zalamea and Andrea Carvalho.

Carvalho’s work explores the relationship between architecture, the built environment and our ideas of faith and belonging, she explains.

“Place de Galo,” her portable and inflatable sculpture of a rooster, speaks to the idea of collective space and is “reflective of people who are constantly moving.”

Her Portugese background and the O Galo de Barcelos rooster, a symbol of identity for many in Portugal, enabled Carvalho to create something “different from the ideas of historical or wartime monuments,” she says.

“I wanted to keep it in the dialogue of culture.”

Over five days she will move her monument to a different downtown location each day for the public to see.

Music is a bigger part of the festival this year, too.

The Aug. 17 “Festival Launch Party” at The Rock House brings together Ontario underground hip hop artist Thesis Sahib, francophone performer Donzelle, body painter Natasha Kudashkina and local Remix86 DJs Shawn Hynes and Amy Fisher.

A songwriters circle featuring Tim Baker, Sherman Downey, Katie Baggs and Sherry Ryan is also scheduled for Aug. 19 at The Rocket Room.

“We have music and we have dancers and clown artists and circus artists,” says festival director Michelle Bush, “but the focus is on contemporary visual art.”

The festival’s core event, the 24 Hour Art Marathon Aug. 20-21, should see more than 100 artists gather to create in the shared Eastern Edge space.

“We want to promote the idea that there’s a value to art,” says Bush, “because the (people) we were getting involved in it were younger and more and more interested in the making of art. And there’s the potential within that to bring in more of the contemporary practice(s) to them and broaden their horizons in terms of their practices.”

Iain McCurdy, a philosophy student at Memorial University, is planning a unique undertaking for the marathon this year. With the help of local painter Jon Howse he plans to finish a writing project that never saw the light of day.

“I’ve had this idea bouncing around for six years about a book that never got started,” he explains. “I’ve been taking notes on it all this time and the idea got so big that I couldn’t ever do it and never had a reason to do it. And the marathon is this opportunity to turn it into something and move on from it.”

Over the course of 24 hours McCurdy will make notes on cue cards “from the moments of lucidity that I’ve had,” he says, and post them inside an eight-foot-tall box that Howse will paint to look like a book.

“This gives me the means to get it out, and whatever I manage to write in this form of a novella over 24 hours, that’s what it’ll be and I can let go of the whole idea,” he says.

The 24-Hour Art Marathon begins at noon Aug. 20 and concludes noon the following day. From 8 p.m. until “late” a music marathon will happen on site as well, featuring local DJs and bands like East of Empire, Pathological Lovers and Mark Bragg.

Admission is $5 for the day or $10 for the day and evening.

For more information, including a listing of other events, visit artmarathon.wordpress.com or call Eastern Edge at 739-1882.