By Nick Bernard
The Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre curator Laurie Jones said a creative vibe happens when a bunch of makers get together in a park for a few days. That theory gets put to the test this summer as the Art and Craft Festival returns to Head Lake Park from July 22 – 24.
This will be the first time the festival has been held since 2019, and while the gallery has been able to hold exhibits during the pandemic, Jones sees the festival’s return as a reconnection to culture locally.
“What we feel is that a sense of belonging brings purpose to life, and that creativity and sharing of creativity … is really important to people,” Jones said, describing themes the gallery has explored in past exhibits during the pandemic. “What we do is, we use the creative arts, and engagement with them, to … help to support human connection.”
Jones said this year the gallery is looking for work that is innovative, something that answers the question of “what’s new,” especially after the downtime provided by the pandemic.
“I imagine there’s artists and craftspeople who have been able to use the time to turn inward and look at what they’re doing and get better at what they do,” she said. “We look for work … that’s innovative, that has a degree of excellence in its construction, or that shows that [it] took something to make.”
Artists who are interested in participating are able to fill out a form, with all potential vendors being reviewed by the gallery’s selection committee.
There will be a show inside the gallery leading up to the festival, where artists and craftspeople who are accepted into the festival will have the chance to exhibit their passion projects.
“We’ll invite them to put something into the show that is not production work, it’s something that they want to share with the public,” Jones explained. “It’s going to be something unusual, for them, or perhaps [something] they truly love to do … Everybody’s got something else on the go.”
Jones said she faces a number of logistical challenges that need to be addressed head on, including any developments that could result from the rapidly changing COVID situation.
“We never thought there’d be a fourth wave,” she said. “Who knows what’ll happen? And really, once people descend on Haliburton again … everything will change again.”
She is also concerned for many of her volunteers, and making sure they are not put at risk for contracting COVID-19. As a result, Jones says one of the things she’s looking into is a contactless method of collecting donations.
Susan Watson Ellis, a jeweler in Haliburton who owns Paradigm Designs has been a participant in the festival for more than 20 years. She says she’s thrilled to see its return.
“The show organizers work hard to make this a special event and welcoming to vendors and customers alike,” Watson Ellis said in describing why the festival is important to her. “I feel it is extremely important as a local art studio to have the visibility and new customer contacts that this show provides.”
Jones offered a number of tips and insights for what the festival is looking for, especially for anyone who may be new, or hesitant to submit their art.
“If your thing is detailing, you want to draw … or [bring] attention to how great your stitchery is, or how great your technique is … give us a close-up,” she explained, saying that applicants should send in at least six pictures of their art. “Pictures are important. You don’t get a second chance. I don’t get to see the actual object.”
Jones said art is competitive, and that she’s unafraid to let people know when they need more practice.
“That’s what keeps people getting better and improving,” she said. “Keeps everybody going back to the studio.”
Artist submissions are open until March 18.
Applications and information on the Art and Craft Festival can be found at the Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre website at railsendgallery.com/haliburton-art-and-craft.