The first incarnation of In The Soil Arts Festival happened in 2008, and as ITS marks a ten year anniversary, it’s good to consider how much has changed, in that decade; especially as pertains to the cultural landscape of St. Catharines, and to acknowledge how much of a role ITS had in that journey, and hopefully will continue to have in the ongoing evolution of the downtown and the city itself.
To inject a personal note: the first ITS I attended two years ago was a highlight not just of my return to STC, but showed how much this place had grown and prospered. Last year’s incarnation with The Rheostatics was even better. Where ITS will go in the future, and how it will mark its Decennial was part of the conversation The Sound had with ITS. Many of the people who’ve made ITS happen also have a presence in other community oriented initiatives (whether A Better Niagara, or other groups wanting to define and shape STC in ways that understand that using James Street as a hub of ITS leads people to think about liveable cities, and spaces that serve those who live in them, not just those who believe they “own” them).
One of the installations that speaks directly to the history of ITS and how it was / is a product of many hands is by Lisa Renee McKenzie, which responds directly to the motif of “common threads.” It’s a sentiment that’s clear in the images already proliferating for ITS that shows a textile pattern, a weave of many smaller threads, behind the dark text. McKenzie’s project will appear in different areas around the downtown, with thread and string and other such “ties that bind” between areas (“yarn connecting venues” as it was described). With some of the artists that help define the STC and Niagara community recurring, this also illustrates literally what has been built, with many differing contributors coming together, over the last ten years.
As always with a teaser for an upcoming event, things may change. But in the upcoming Rhizomes for ITS 2018, there are some familiar names as well as some that may be new to you. Clelia Scala (excellent puppeteer and mask maker), Twitches and Itches (I’m unsure if just Colin Anthes will be performing, but after seeing his interpretation of HOUSE this year, I’m intrigued), Avery Mikolič-O’Rourke (whose work you may have experienced in Invasive Spaces), lightsweetcrude, Tammy Jane Lepp (who collaborated on a very unearthly site specific work at Mahtay Cafe for ITS 2017), Alex Verkade and Joanne Ring are all participants in In The Soil 2018.
I feel a bit silly making a distinction for “visual arts” (not just because past artists / artworks have straddled and challenged what it means to be artwork outside the gallery space, appearing in storefronts or even sewer grates or enticing you into a tent or other environment). But there are people (Greg Beatty and Arnie McBay, who will be presenting something that surely morphs / mutates words / images / sound) who fall under that umbrella. Taylor Telford’s mixed media artworks can be seen at Rise Above, Alexa Fraser (another fine artist who bridges craft and fine art), Amber Lee Williams (who’s told me that this year she’ll be presenting a video work that appropriates and configures a well known artwork by Bruce Nauman. Her “costumed” performance last year was evocative – okay, and a bit frightening), Luke Gillett and the aforementioned Lisa Renee McKenzie.
On the music front: Marinko Jareb, Jon Lepp (Fat Moth in the Garden), The Bae Beach Club (formerly KNOW), JFM, and an expected highlight of last year, SOUND SOUND, will once again “happen” (for an aural performance both accidental and intentional, SOUND SOUND occupying a parking garage downtown in the pouring rain was almost ethereal, last year).
As you read this, it’s still some time before In The Soil 2018 happens: I’m teasing, and alluding and dropping names and dropping hints. Check back at their site or their social media feed: we’ll also be doing updates leading up to In The Soil 2018, and we’ll also be sharing photos, events and other fun ephemera on our own media feed when it all happens, at the end of April.
Festival passes and a more complete schedule are now online, and it all begins (or with some of the workshops, has already) on April 27th, 2018.
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.