Ladysmith’s First Avenue will once again be occupied by paintings, live music, interactive art stations, and a plethora of artists from Vancouver Island and beyond for the 25th annual Arts on the Avenue festival.
On Aug. 26 and 27, the Arts Council of Ladysmith and District is hosting the festival which will include a painting competition, an arts market, a kids area and more to promote Canadian artists and the local arts community.
Arts council media director Francesca Reside said the festival started in 1998 when the original founder of the council decided to start an art-related event for the community, so they started with “maybe 10 vendors” for an arts market in Ladysmith. It has since expanded into “one of the biggest juried art festivals on the Island.”
Among the dozens of participating artists, Grant Leier, a Nanaimo-based, internationally featured painter will be the guest artist this year.
Despite having his work shown in galleries across Canada and the U.S., Leier sees local art communities as “hugely important” to both longtime and emerging artists who are looking to show their art, even in an age where artists can easily promote themselves on social media.
“There’s a real need for people that are wanting to become professional artists, to get some positive feedback and exposure to their work in their local community,” he said. “You can only do so many shows at restaurants, and friends’ houses. You need to have your work presented and hung in a professional way, in a professional space, so that people can take you seriously and gives you better opportunities.”
He mentioned that in his third year at the Alberta College of Art, he showed his work at a mall in the prairie town of Lloydminster, Alta., and “a number of people were very supportive and you get that that sort of vote of confidence from your own community, which is really important.”
The first day of the festival will host Art Jam, which is an evening of interactive art stations for visitors to try painting, poetry and drawing, along with a beer garden and an art competition between three Vancouver Island based artists.
“[The competition will feature] three young emerging artists, and they have one hour to paint; we supply the canvases, we supply the paint,” Reside said. “Throughout that hour, they’re given a theme and they do whatever they feel they need to do to win the audience’s vote, and the audience can move around, they can watch how the artists are working and they can ask them questions if they want as well. But then at the end of it, it’s up to the audience to decide who wins.”
The second day will host more than 60 vendors at the arts market. Paintings, jewelry, carvings and Indigenous-made arts will be available to purchase from a wide variety of mostly Island-based artists.
Art Jam will be held on Saturday, Aug. 26, from 6 p.m. until 9:30 p.m., and the market will be on Sunday, Aug. 27, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.