Canadian Spirit Fest

by Nelson Phillips.

Last year, Kelso Beach Park in Owen Sound played host to the first Canadian Spirit Festival, an event conceived and organized by the Tom Thomson Art Gallery  that brought together all kinds of Canadian culture under one starry sky: new-school First Nations music and art, local cuisine, and collaborative ideas geared towards sustainability and creativity.

This year, coordinator Matt Standen sat down with the organizers of the Sound’s renowned Summerfolk Music & Crafts Festival and came up with the idea to amalgamate the two. “We’re bringing programming into Summerfolk to complement what they have. We’re bringing our Homegrown component, which involves the promotion of local foods and sustainability,” says Standen. “This is reciprocal; we have such similar cultural histories in this area. I think it sets a good example for other groups to come together.”

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Photo by John Fearnal/Good Noise Photography.
Photo by John Fearnal/Good Noise Photography.

The Festival happens on August 14, but the concurrent Canadian Spirit Project runs into October, featuring community gardens, exhibitions, cooking and canning classes, performances, talks, walks, films, hands-on activities and other events under the Homegrown banner, which also ties in with Tom Thomson and his legacy. The Project will run yearly until 2017, marking the 100th anniversary of Thomson’s death – and the 150th anniversary of Canada.

The Project focuses on ideas and issues around Canadian identity, its past and its evolution. The theme of this year’s Project, If it Weren’t for the War, investigates the impact of conflict on the art of the Group of Seven, as well as the 100th anniversary the First World War and the 75th anniversary of the Second.

“We’re trying to draw attention to what people are able to do themselves,” adds Standen. “We’re getting back to the basics and refining what this is supposed to be about which is looking at the broader picture. This is literally Canadian spirit at its finest – coming together, working together, we’re unified.”