Culture Days Continues to Grow in Guelph

by Katie Wilde

Guelph Culture Days was hopping this year, with people of all ages and abilities coming out to have a taste of arts and culture. Founded in 2009, Culture Days is both a national non-profit organization and national annual event occuring in communities all across Canada on the last weekend in September each year. During Culture Days in Guelph, you could listen, watch, make, or learn, and we were so pleased to see artists having the chance to engage with dedicated followers and new audiences alike, and to see those new audiences begin a transition to dedicated culture-lovers!

The Studio Tour held a preview show at the Joint Café, with opportunities to meet the artists all weekend long; #HappyMaking pianos filled the air with ballads and honky-tonk tunes; and all over Guelph, people were discovering new artforms while having some free, family fun.

Guelph Arts Council was pleased to present a Public Art Walking tour on Sunday. Developed by past staff and volunteers of GAC, Meaghan Griffin, and the City of Guelph, and presented by Faith Cameletti, this freshly updated walking tour introduced visitors and Guelphites alike to the City’s collection of public art, as well as some special pop up projects such as HATCH, and the Wilson Street underpass.

We heard from some of the people who hosted Culture Days events on how the weekend was for them, and would like to share that with you here.

“On Saturday of Culture Days weekend, AGG hosted a dedicated group of 20 beadwork enthusiasts, from across Guelph's broad and eclectic community, to engage in a workshop led by Naomi Smith, Native artisan and educator. The workshop took place in the midst of an exhibition curated by Smith, titled Travelling with the Ancestors: An Exploration of Historical First Nations Beadwork (on view at AGG until Dec 13, 2015). The participants each created a beaded emery (pincushion) in the shape of a strawberry, a sacred medicinal plant to the Native community. The beaders, some skilled and others brand new to the technique, enjoyed a day of learning and skills-building, of laughing and community, under Smith's generous spirit and patient guidance. AGG also hosted families and children for an afternoon of "Leaf Art" led by activities creator Sally Evans, which took place in the clerestory gallery at AGG, where participants made leaf animals and festive wreaths from the early autumn leafs in red, orange, and gold.”

- Dawn Owen, Curator/Director, Art Gallery of Guelph

I connected with Laura Paghal, Director of the Guelph School of Art, who was happy to report one of their best Culture Days yet. A busy weekend saw their studio full to the brim of people creating prints. While this might not sound like anything especially out of the ordinary for an arts school, very few of these folks had been to the GSA before, or had any printmaking experience, and they all loved it! So we are pleased to hear that the public in Guelph is taking advantage of opportunities to try new things and engage with culture locally. This is what Culture Days is all about.

“One thing is for certain, Guelph loves culture!With a full slate of free activities, events and exhibitions highlighted through my Culture Days #GuelphCulture program and weather that surpassed all expectations, I drank in the sweet creative energy that is woven into the fabric of our city.

The one thing I noticed while I was making the rounds was the great variety of ages taking in the weekend’s offerings; the woman in her seventies rocking the square in front of me as King Neptune & His Tridents covered hits outside of City Hall Friday night; the 5-year-old playing the piano outside the main branch of Guelph Public Library (with his feet dangling off the bench) on Saturday; the daughter, mother, grandmother and sister at Guelph School of Art’s Make & Take Print Swap on Sunday – they all gave me the impression that Culture Days had cemented itself into Guelph’s cultural calendar.

I can’t begin to express how impressed I was with all of this year’s activity organizers and artists, and how grateful I am for the community’s support. Let’s do it again next year for Culture Days 2016, September 30th – October 2nd.”

- Jen Rafter, Cultural Program Coordinator, City of Guelph

I also had an engaging conversation with Jay Wilson of Pandora’s Sox, famous purveyor of Puppets and Poems (as well as Guelph Arts Council Historical Walking Tours). While it was the Guelph Public Library that hosted the event, hiring Pandora’s Sox to deliver the programming, Jay is a repeat artist participant in Guelph Culture Days. He would like to see the celebration of Guelph’s local culture become a bigger part of Culture Days. He called to mind the experience of tourists in Guelph, here from Denmark, (let’s imagine). They want to discover the local culture. What better way to offer that than through Guelph Culture Days? But they could see a Norm Foster play anywhere in Canada, so why make a point of doing it in Guelph? Maybe there is something more to be gained - both for tourists and locals - from Guelph Culture Days programming which reflects on Guelph’s rich history, current culture, and hopes for the future.

Thank you to everyone who participated, and if you'd like to share your thoughts on Guelph Culture Days, let us know!

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