April 25 to 27, downtown St. Catharines will be taken over with sweet dirt of In the Soil festival. In the Soil is the city’s largest celebration of the local art scene and will include music, theatre, dance, film, street scape, and so much more. Over the past six years the festival has bloomed and showcased incredible Canadian musical acts including The Sadies, Great Lake Swimmers and F*cked Up as well as local favourites such as The Woodshed Orchestra, The Bends and Awesome Sauce. Although the musical roster is always very impressive, the vast spectrum of theatre, visual arts and one-time-only performances are what make In the Soil a true gem. I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with In the Soil Project Manager Annie Wilson and Co-founder Deanna Lynn Jones to get all of the dirty details about this amazing local festival.
Can you explain a bit more about In the Soil’s history and growth?
Friends and colleagues about how we aspired to showcase the amazing talent of the local art scene. As active participants in the local cultural scene, we saw an opportunity to bring all sorts of artistic disciplines together in a special format. Like most seeds, this thing has taken root over the past few years. Suitcase in Point now produces the festival with a core Steering Committee made up of co-founders and festival partners. Each year it continues to grow deeper roots and taller shoots. It’s a really amazing thing to be a part of.
Deanna Lynn Jones: I am so proud of the inspiring and creative people in this community and how far we’ve come in our efforts together to create a celebration of the arts in Niagara.
What can festival attendees expect?
AW: A memorable artistic adventure in downtown St. Catharines! You can expect to see and hear and participate in things you’ve never experienced before. You can expect to laugh. You can expect to make all sorts of new friends. You can expect to shake the grey days and blizzards of winter far far away.
DLJ: This year’s In the Soil Arts festival has something for everyone. We’re bringing in artists from all across the region and as far as Alberta, Quebec and New York State. In total, more than 450 artists are coming to downtown St. Catharines to share their work at the festival. That’s a pretty awesome number. Each year we try to push the integrity and scope of the festival and with the hard work of so many folks; including artists, volunteers, local partners and our awesome steering committee, we continue to surprise ourselves with possibilities.
AW: We’re also closing St. Paul Street and expanding our free outdoor hub this year. We’re bringing in local brews, wine, food, artisans, and street scape art. We’ve been eager to expand our outdoor hub for the festival and plans seem to be coming to fruition in order to make a really great and memorable street party. In addition, we have back-to-back stellar programming planned at our downtown venues: The Sullivan Mahoney Courthouse Theatre, Oddfellows Lodge, Mahtay Cafe, Detour, Mikado’s and more.
What are some of the special tidbits happening at In the Soil 2014?
DLJ: We’ve got an exciting new initiative this year: RHIZOMES! A site-specific tour of performances and installations throughout The Old Courthouse on King Street. With sound and light installations to short plays and private adventures – audiences will be talking about this one for years to come.
I also had the opportunity to speak to a collection of visual artists, musicians and theatrical performers that will be featured this year as well as some of In the Soil’s noble volunteers. Below is an eclectic list of multi-disciplinary artists discussing their work and their thoughts on the festival.
Cassie Leigh Clancy
“My piece will be located within the old courthouse on King Street, and it will allow the experience of walking into a Niagara cave within the downtown of St. Catharines. I will be knitting the entire piece, including the walls, rocks, water stalactites and bats, in order to give a comforting experience in a usually dark and dank environment. The experience is intended to invite a solitude and solace within a bustling downtown core, connecting the two in one solitary space.”
“I will be teaming up with Adam Caranfa, musical director of the Brock Musical Theatre Club, to form The Al Borland Band. I’ll be playing the role of Al Borland, and Adam will play Tim Taylor, as we do a role reversal of (arguably) the most famous TV-show-within-a-TV-show Tool Time from Home Improvement. The basic idea is that Al Borland has decided to form a band to express his feelings, but the only people he knows are the people he works with, so he’s forced to recruit Tim as his only bandmate. It kind of mocks the idea of a lot of modern bands but also turns the “he-man/tool man” idea on it’s head.”
“This is the first time I’m doing a show under my own name in almost a year, and I usually only played solo when it was under my name. But for this years’ festival I will have eight people accompanying me on my tunes. Normally I don’t have this much creative control over a set, so I’m trying to use that to make a very memorable and intriguing performance.”
“In The Soil is one of those art events you look forward to for months in advance. Every year it gets bigger and better, the whole downtown area transformed into this vibrant art scape that’s both incredibly joyful and uniquely local. And it doesn’t matter if you’re in the crowd or up on stage or working the door, you just feel like you have found this amazing, energetic and welcoming scene. It’s something really wonderful, and volunteering at the festival gives you the opportunity to meet some of the incredible people involved in keeping the gears of our local art scene turning, as well as experience some fantastic performances you might not have normally gone to.”
Musician (Northern Primitive, Solo Project)
“It is my second time playing my own songs solo at In the Soil. People seem truly interested and I have received a lot of encouragement to play these songs. I am excited, nervous and cautiously optimistic. With the help of Jeffrey Sinibaldi, I have recorded a bunch of songs in February and will be finishing them up to hopefully have a product for the festival. In the Soil is a real representation of Niagara, the content of the art, music is very much homegrown. It couldn’t come at a better time of year. Love is in the air!”
“My “moonsprouts” installation is about the realization of these terrestrial cocoons that exist is my mind expressed in a way that completely immerses the audience in the environment. This rhizome will allow people to drift away from the earth they are familiar with and begin to interact with the euphoric noise and the aura of a surreal world composed of abstract form.”
Musical Director, Musician ( The Woodshed Orchestra, Bronx Cheerleader, Solo Project)
“I’ll be performing with my band, The Joe Lapinski Band, at the Odd Fellows Lodge and we’ve got the extra bonus of have Brittany Brooks supplying live visuals for the show! I’m also playing with The Woodshed Orchestra at the festival launch on where we’ll be joined by Frank’s Bus Brass Band at The Hub! Huge horns and good times! Oh, and don’t miss Bronx Cheerleader either, at The Hub on Saturday!”
In the Soil will run from April 25-27 in downtown St. Catharines. Festival passes will get you all-access to all venues throughout the weekend and are available through Centre for the Arts at Brock University. Early bird festival passes are on sale now for only $20 until 28 March 2014 @ 6pm. Want to get more involved? In the Soil has all sorts of volunteer opportunities available and all sorts of festival perks for helping out. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Find out more information at http://www.inthesoil.on.ca/.