It takes Patience to run city-wide arts festival

What: Integrate Arts Festival

When: Friday and Saturday

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Where: All over town

Tickets: Free

Who better to introduce you to your own city than artists?

That piece of wisdom, proclaimed on a YouTube video by an unnamed art-festival director, has guided Kaitlyn Webb Patience in her first year as director of the Integrate Arts Festival.

The two-night art crawl will see 23 galleries open their doors around the city. Patience says she hopes locals will take advantage of the opportunity to explore.

“My hope is that after a night like this, when there are people in galleries and there’s music and exciting things happening, people will feel more comfortable in spaces they might not have felt comfortable in before,” she said.

“And then after the festival is over, they’ll feel encouraged to go back to the spaces by themselves.”

Participants are encouraged to walk, cycle or hop aboard a free double-decker shuttle to travel between spaces.

The Integrate Arts Festival has evolved since its inception in 2007 as the Off-the-Grid Art Crawl. While it began as a more underground event highlighting some of the less formalized art spaces in the city, it has since attracted the attention of bigger players, such as the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, that expressed interest in getting involved.

The name change came last year to address the shift toward broader representation, as well as a broadening of form.

“We renamed it Integrate to bank on the idea of integrating different types of art: theatre, dance, music, photography, visual arts, street art, etc.,” said Patience, who was on the board of directors before taking the helm.

An example of that branching out is the Play on Words Literary Fair, presented in partnership with the Greater Victoria Public Library, the Ministry of Casual Living and the Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria on Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Central branch.

Among the 23 galleries are two pop-up spaces hosted by the Integrate Arts Society.

“One is our reception space in Market Square where we’re having our opening party. We’re hanging tons of art on the walls from independent artists who don’t have gallery representation,” she said.

Another, located a few doors down in unit 162 at Market Square, is dedicated to artist Rose Currie’s work, based on her experience with cancer.

“Her artwork is fantastic, so we’re giving her her own little exhibition.”

In addition to the 23 galleries, five artists were selected to create installations in public “off site” spaces.

Vanessa Pattison has designed a projection “somewhere” in the city — Patience said they’ll keep the location a secret so it will be a pleasant surprise for people who stumble upon it. E.R. Gott (a.k.a. Ian Nikolaus), who typically appropriates pop-culture icons in his work, will have a stencil mural on the back of Munro’s Books.

Nicholas Robins, a founding member of Studio 16 in Fan Tan Alley, is working to build art panels over walls for an outdoor gallery, Patience said. Cameron Kidd is completing a colourful mural, with assistance from local youth, on the back of the Victoria Youth Empowerment Society in Commercial Alley. And Jonathan Dowdall is creating 3,000 lettered blocks that visitors can interact with to spell words at the Central library.

“So people can spell something out and leave it for the next person to find,” she said.

A mobile map of participating venues and the free shuttle route is available for smartphones at integratearts.ca.

While the focus is on local artists, Patience said she hopes to see it develop a larger profile in the long run akin to Nuit Blanche — an all-night festival that began in France and has spread to Toronto and Montreal.

And ultimately, she hopes it plays a role in raising the profile of artists and galleries across the province.

“We have so many art spaces in B.C., an endless amount, and I want to introduce people to them,” she said.

asmart@timescolonist.com

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