During the worst days of the early part of the COVID lockdown, it was not surprising that it was culture that sustained us. This was evident in how many individuals, in social media spaces, were sharing a list of books or movies that were their favourites, or in how undoubtably Netflix saw a spike in both usage and profits, ahem. In that respect, it’s not just a meme that culture sustains us during difficult times. In light of that, it has been many cultural spaces and producers who have stepped up, and continue to do so, during these – and bluntly any, and other – times.
As we slough towards Winter, with a sense of being unsure how things might be a month or a year from now, some things remain the same. In that vein, St. Catharines Culture Days (running from September 25 to October 25, 2020) are happening, in a different form, but still offering a variety of events and activities for those who swim in that sea often, and those who might want to experience something new to them.
Everything – so far, as it’s good to check in and find out specifics and more information as added – can be found at this link (but of course, Facebook is the space for up to the minute updates) but here’s the basic introduction, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with this annual plethora of events:
In 2020 the event has been expanded to one month and activities will be led either online or in-person with social distancing and enhanced cleaning considerations. Participants are given the opportunity to get creative, get messy, engage with performances, make art and experience culture!
In 2020 Culture Days activities are being planned to include in-person socially-distanced experiences: collaborative murals, puppet creation, painting, portrait drawing, illustration and textiles/knitting. Digital activities will include workshops and performances featuring: drama games, improv, community play development, mixed media art, steel drum music and shadow puppets.
Special interest groups are also presenting activities that address Social Diversity & Inclusion, feature LGBTQ2+ artists, and explore Cultural Traditions by providing teachings, art-making and music experiences. The FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre will present a series of free digital/online and socially distanced in-person performances and film screenings. And the TD Niagara Jazz Festival will present a series of virtual concerts.
As I said, information about all of these can be found online, but a few events are worth special mention – and it’s important to keep in mind that some are singular events, while others are ongoing. Several spaces that perhaps you’ve not visited yet, now that you can, are familiar friends: the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canal Centre (I might be both open and a bit edged in suggesting their ongoing exhibition on the Influenza epidemic from a century ago, both for it’s immediate relevance and the fine information offered), or Niagara Artist Centre (which has several new projects, from Lindsay Dobbin’s Arrival to Magdalena Dykstra’s Persistent Humanity to an outdoor project by Jose Luis Torres, titled Traversee). Both of these sites are being appropriately mindful of safety, and in the links included here, you can see their hours and what you need to know, to protect the health of others as well as your own.
Besides these more passive activities, there are – as always – many workshops. I would also put out my usual caveat, that I’m just highlighting a few things, here and there, and the events and activities demand your perusal (again, helpful link here), to decide what is of the most interest to you. There are many workshops being taught by artists, from those focused upon children (of all ages, hah) like the Puppet Creation and Interactive Performance with Alexa Fraser (September 26th, 2 – 3 PM) to Ink and Watercolour Illustrations with Jon Shaw (September 27th, multiple sessions).
Culture Days 2020 stretches from late September to late October, so there’s so many more things happening, and being offered, this year. Dave Figuera is leading a workshop based around Self Portraiture where you ‘photo transfer yourself into art.’ This takes place at NAC, and like many of the workshops and events for Culture Days 2020, has limited spaces, so you can register here. That takes place October 4th, again with multiple sessions.
Personally, your intrepid #artcriticfromhell, who’s been spending time on genealogy and history research here in Niagara (both personal and wider), may be checking out one of the virtual lectures being offered: Cemetery Tours: Behind the Scenes, which happens on the 29th of September at 7 PM. Another virtual event, presented by the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre, it ‘happens’ at Victoria Lawn Cemetery in St. Catharines, but can be enjoyed remotely.
And, of course, there are many online performances being offered, that you can enjoy from your own home, if you so wish. Both the TD Niagara Jazz Festival (that link is their site, here’s their social media feed) and the First Performing Arts Centre are slated to offer a number of online performances, and as always, check in at the St. Catharines Culture web site and especially their social media feed for information, updates and to see exactly what might most catch your fancy.
St. Catharines Culture Days 2020 has so many events and activities on offer this year, with extended dates, that you might even be able to ignore the pandemic, and enjoy cultural producers and many engaging and exciting undertakings (hah, bit of a joke, after expressing my interest in the Cemetery tours). From galleries, to concerts, to lectures and workshops, Culture Days 2020 looks to be an exciting and hopefully invigorating time for many of us.
More information can be found here and here, and this article is laden with links to many activities and schedules. Consider this a portal, if you will, to other pages and social media feeds to find what most appeals to you, in 2020’s iteration of Culture Days. The header image for this article is of last year’s mural in partnership with the St. Catharines Downtown Association, facilitated by artist Jana Bergsma. This year look out for 2 collaborative murals to participate in and more information will be shared about that online and on social media (photo credit: Danny Custodio)
Bart Gazzola (also known as #artcriticfromhell) is an arts writer/critic who has published with Magenta Magazine, Canadian Art, New Art Gazette, Galleries West, PrairieSeen, Long Exposure and BlackFlash (where he was Editorial Chair for 3 years). He is Assistant Editor at thesound.rocks and a frequent contributor to various cultural spaces in Niagara.