"In The Soil" Arts Festival

"In The Soil" Arts Festival

 It’s a fact that a lot of what makes Niagara such a fertile agricultural area can be found “in the soil.” The same can be said about Niagara’s fertile arts community, which will also be found “In The Soil” during an annual arts festival hitting downtown St. Catharines April 24 through 26.

Now in its seventh year, the “In The Soil” Arts Festival is a three-day celebration of the arts that will showcase music, media, theatre, dance, installations and one-time, out-of-the-box performance experiences. It’s a truly unique event staged in the Garden City offering a broad spectrum of programming according to one of the festival’s co-founders, Deanna Jones.

“I would describe it as an artistic adventure, an explosion of creativity in downtown St. Catharines,” says Deanna, who is also co-founder and Artistic Director of Suitcase in Point Theatre Company. “It’s a unique opportunity to move around the downtown, to be invited into different spaces, to experience different artistic practices. There’s definitely something for everyone.”

Officially launching April 24th at a special outdoor party hosted at the festival hub on James Street( between King and St. Paul), “In The Soil” will welcome over 500 artists and a projected 6,000 visitors to the city core over the course of the weekend. It’s another shining example of the positive evolution taking place in downtown St. Catharines, which coincidentally is part of the mandate established by “In The Soil” founding partners since day one. According to organizers, the festival was born out of a love of both the community and of the downtown, and a belief that pooling the collective energies of the arts community and various community partners would help define and identify St. Catharines and Niagara as culturally distinct.

“I think there’s a real investment to this locality, making it a celebration of our downtown hub,” says Deanna. “We want a focus on our downtown, our city. Of course, we want to expand and elaborate all available opportunities for artists too. We want to build up the industry, so there are workshops and conversations between artists, and ongoing opportunity for artists to showcase their works. “

Following a pattern of getting bigger and better each year by adding a mix of new elements, features at the 2015 “In The Soil” Arts Festival will include a Niagara hip-hop showcase, a first-time contingent of artists from Nova Scotia, the “Pop Up Love Party” and three full days of eclectic music and theatre programing. It’s a lot to take in for people unaccustomed to the creative nuances of an arts festival, but Deanna suggests that shouldn’t deter anyone from coming and enjoying the event.

“There are so many things to do, we understand it can be intimidating if you’re not familiar with the groups involved or the art forms being displayed,” says Deanna. “We’re really pushing the James Street hub as the place to meet and get a feel for the festival, experience the Vendor Bender, and then head out on your adventure.”

Music is a major part of “In The Soil” programming, but don’t expect to find the kind of headliners booked by other more mainstream music events annually held in the core. The festival is a cornucopia of genres and styles, a true showcase of indie artists who have applied to perform at the festival according to Deanna.
“There’s an application process for the festival. We go through a jurying process for all genres. And there’s about 25% programmed and curated. We thrive on it wanting to be a showcase of local talent, keeping the artistic integrity of local artists. But we do want to provide local and visiting audiences with a sampling of different genres to entice people far and wide.”

Full details of the festival can be found on-line. However, for an insider’s opinion on festival elements not to be missed, does Deanna have any suggestions? As someone intimately involved with booking and organizing “In The Soil,”| she admits it’s hard to narrow her choices down to just three must-see events.

“In my heart I’m a theatre person, so I might be biased,” she laughs. “Rod Standish is doing a first-version of a rock opera (Illegally Blind (Act 1) 11pm April 24 Oddfellows Temple). That could be something not to miss. And I have to say the Pop Up Love Party (April 13 La Scala Ristorante 9pm) is going to be a very special event. There’s going to be so much to see and do, it’s going to be wild.”

Full festival passes are available now for $35. For full festival details, visit www.inthesoil.on.ca.

 By David DeRocco