As the Summer of 2019 winds down, events like In The Soil are behind us but with September now here, the latest iteration of Culture Days is soon to begin, also offering several days of visual and cultural events and activities. Culture Days 2019 in St. Catharines offers a variety of events and activities for individuals of all ages. Your intrepid #artcriticfromhell tends to favour visual arts in his mad and frenetic ‘guides’, and there’s several exhibitions that will be opening for the first time and others that, if you’ve not had the chance to visit yet, offer a prime opportunity to do so over the September 27 – 29th weekend.
Now, some of these activities are open to all, and you can simply attend: others, however, require registration and are limited in space. Everything you need to know can be found at stcatharines.ca/culturedays, and there is even a downloadable PDF that is a handy chart, divided by day so you can effectively plan your activities. This article is rife with links, too, for the activities, often leading to social media or sites offering further details.
Unsurprisingly, you’ll find me at the opening reception for Transformations at City Hall (50 Church Street, 3rd floor), which is from 4 to 6 PM on Friday September 27th: this group show ‘investigates the positive and negative transitions and transformations that shape human beings and the world.’ The annual juried exhibition of St. Catharines artists has some fine participants this year. This will be on display into 2020, but knowing several of the artists involved (Bruce Thomson, Jonathan Shaw, Emily Andrews – just to name a few) I’m keen to see how they interplay and interrelate. I’ll be returning to City Hall to offer further thoughts and responses to this show, in a future issue of The Sound.
But before I get into what are time dependant activities, consider that over the three days, several spaces are continuously open. Niagara Artist Centre (354 St. Paul Street, Noon to 5 Friday, Noon to 4 PM Saturday), The St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre (1932 Welland Canal Parkway, 9 AM to 5 PM, Friday through Sunday) and the MIWSFPA’s VISA Gallery (12 to 6 PM, Friday through Sunday) are three notable ones. Rodman Hall Art Centre will also be open, and Carolyn Wren’s retrospective Task At Hand has been extended into October, so you can experience that massive and intense series of installations. NAC has multiple visual offerings. In the main back space, is teiakwanahstahsontéhrha we extend the rafters by the multidisciplinary but very digitally savvy artist Skawennati: ‘A futuristic saga set in 3025 yet firmly rooted in the ancestral Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) confederation story and featuring historical figures such as Tekanawí:ta, Jacques Cartier, and a president addicted to Twitter! This new machinima—an animation-style movie produced on the virtual reality platform Second Life created specifically for a youth audience.’ The Plate Glass Gallery which is easily seen even when the gallery is closed will feature Magic Carpet by Diana Hosseini, and Emily Andrews (who has a fine work in Transformations) is on display in the Dennis Tourbin space at NAC. I’ll be offering more detail about Andrews’ exhibition Strange Happenings & Rare Findings here, at The Sound’s site, closer to the opening.
Near to NAC is the VISA space in the Walker: the official address is 15 Artists’ Common but if you walk to the front of the school, near the large sculptures in the grass, you’ll find the main lobby and the VISA is in that space. Kira Pretty’s exhibition Home, From Above, will be installed during Culture Days, ‘this solo exhibition is the culminating project for an independent study course, where Pretty is exploring a combination of photography and video work.’
The St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre is further afield and is a more historic than artistic site, perhaps: permanent exhibits ‘illustrating the history of St. Catharines and its people: The Welland Canals, Follow the North Star (the Underground Railroad), and the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame & Museum. Temporary exhibits include: Outbreak: the Spanish Flu, Victorian Tweets, Blowing Our Own Horn: The Niagara Symphony Orchestra at 71 and the Mack School of Nursing Alumni Photo Exhibit.’ Their hours are longer, however, which gives you more options for fitting this into your weekend Culture Days plans.
Speaking of location: there’s several new venues this year, for Culture Days, in addition to the regular sites. Rodman Hall, of course, has numerous workshops happening, but before speaking of those, one that happens on the Friday evening is at the OddFellow’s Temple on James Street in downtown STC. Although the Encaustic Painting & Collage Workshop (taught by Sandy Middleton, one of my favourite photographers – mmm, too specific a term, as she does wonderful images in wax and sometimes woven) happens on the hour, from 4 to 8 PM (so five sessions, that evening), it requires pre registration. There are also activities taking place at the Pen Centre, a new space added to the Culture Days, and it has two workshops that caught my eye: an Expressive Painting Workshop (with the fine artist and educator – and dancer, ahem – Geoff Farnsworth) and Cell Phone Photo Art with Danny Custodio and Jessica Bishop-Custodio. Danny will also have work on display in Transformations at City Hall. This is a good spot to point out that St. Catharines Culture has a FB page, which more specific information both about the teachers and locations, and with updates so you can maximize your Culture Days experience: this can be found at @StCathCulture, and as sometimes times / events shift, is a valuable resource.
Some sites are closer than others (as with City Hall, Rodman and VISA, for gallery-going): this also applies to workshops, so from 1:30 to 3:30 pm on Saturday there’s the Tree-Mendous Creative Collage Workshop with artist Dena Colling Gelentso at the Dr. Huq Library at the Kiwanis Aquatic Centre (425 Carlton). But to return to Rodman Hall, it is a cluster of activity: I’ll only mention two things, among the tours (both of the exhibitions and the historic space) and how the Carousel Players will be on site (with The Drama Garden), too, which is the Photo Transfer Workshop, which happens both Saturday and Sunday, from 12:30 to 4:30 PM. This is taught by David Figueroa. Simultaneously, Making A Monotype Hybrid (which is a printmaking method) is being facilitated by Meka Manfreda, also at Rodman Hall. All of these mentioned are drop-in for all ages, and very brief, so you can easily visit many of them during the day.
That is by no means all that’s happening on Saturday, but the online / downloadable schedule is a must-have, to plan accordingly. As usual, your intrepid #artcriticfromhell is offering a teaser.
Returning to St. Paul, on Sunday afternoon there is a Pull a Print: Intro to Screen Printing Workshop, that’s happening at the Niagara Artists Centre / Roly Poly Space, with Colleen McTigue (interestingly, there’s a lot of fun printmaking / photography / collage focused workshops this year). This happens from noon to 5 PM, and is also a drop-in, all ages activity.
The last event / activity / collaboration I want to mention is something that perhaps best exemplifies what Culture Days can be, at its best: this is a Community Collaborative Mural Making with Jana Simms-Bergsma, which runs from 10 AM to 12 PM, and is again all ages and a loose, come-and-go format. The blurb: ‘Join in as you contribute to a collaborative mural as we also beautify this downtown location. Guided by a professional artist – we will take our inspiration from our beautiful garden city!’ This site is the corner of St. Paul and Court Street, in Downtown St. Catharines.
Some of the Culture Days 2019 highlights I’ve mentioned require pre registration, but many are open and easy and can be visited at your leisure. Again, I’ve only offered a taste, so visit them online or on FB, and plan ahead for the many interactive and interesting options available to you, in the 2019 incarnation of Culture Days.
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.