Artsweek 2018 Kickoff + “Imaginarium”

Lester Alfonso's "Imaginarium" piece debuted at Artsweek 2018. Photo by Lola Edwards.

Artsweek is a week-long celebration of visual and performance arts in Peterborough. Like the art that is being portrayed, the venues of the different performances are varied and strategically scattered across Peterborough’s rich landscape. From the newly constructed Peterborough Library downtown to the Zoo on Water street and so many locations in between. All events are free throughout the duration of the event from September 22 to 30.

Artsweek is centered around making art accessible in public places and shining a spotlight on creativity. As expressed opening night, “If you don’t support the artist, there is no art.”

This idea is the driving force behind the mandate of Artsweek. They have recently partnered with Peterborough Pride and Council of People with Disabilities with the goal of working together to remove barriers within art.

During their opening ceremonies this past Friday, there were a number of speakers, including the Artsweek Executive producer Su Ditta and the Artistic Producer Hannah Keating. They reminisced along with other contributors about the promising beginnings of Artsweek that was made possible through the help of the Downtown Business Improvement Area. The event took place in the parking lot across from the Peterborough Public Library and was complemented with a well-stocked refreshments area. There was ample seating but most of the audience chose to stand and enjoy the presentations.

Another project that has been launched this year in collaboration with the Ontario Arts Council is the Downtown Artist Resident Program: New Visions, Old Land on Hospitality. This program works with six different artists, providing an opportunity for professional developments. It allows them to come out of their professional comfort zone and normal environments to work with new artists and materials.

Fire dancer at the Artsweek opening ceremony on Friday September 21, 2018. Photo by Lola Edwards.

Despite the cold winds and chilly weather, the ceremony began intensely with a fire dancer and performer. He began with swinging ropes lit with fire, dancing, and performing tricks. The highlight of the performance came with the addition of a hula hoop lighted around with balls of flame – a new understanding of the traditional ring of fire.

Vocal performance at the Artsweek opening ceremony on Friday September 21, 2018. Photo by Lola Edwards.

After the blazing success, a trio of Omemee women and artists from Between the Water and the Sky performed. They sang, vocalized and harmonized, creating an ethereal sound.

The main attraction of the night, however, was Lester Alfonso’s “Imaginarium”. The piece was an exploration of the imagination through video mapping and projection accompanied with sound to create a sensory experience.

Despite coming into the piece with a general idea of the production, I was still dazzled by the presentation and overall feel of the art. The experience was visual, auditory, and different. With the skies darkening above and behind the library, everyone in the parking lot gravitated closer to the side of the road and the library. “Imaginarium” began with very 60s video game sounding intro – exciting and triumphant while slowly building up momentum, waiting for the burst of sound that would launch its viewers into the first stages of the experience – and I was not disappointed. While there didn’t seem to be a distinct or interpretable storyline, the presentation was filled with vibrant colours moving across the darkened glass of the library.

A projection of an eagle flying seems to lay across the back wall of the Peterborough Public Library’s conference room, as part of Lester Alfonso’s “Imaginarium” piece debuted at Artsweek 2018. Photo by Lola Edwards.

The side of the building was lit up with what seemed like a projection onto the windows from within the building. At a few points in the show, you could see the shadow of a person in the window display but couldn’t be sure if it was the artist behind it or part of the projection.

The experience was both mesmerizing and true to the form of the imagination. It was harmonious at times with the rise and swell of the soundtrack.

True to the imagination: sometimes harmonious and working in tandem, while discordant and off-beat at others. The colours remained vibrant even when all that remained was a stark white of a blank imagination or a deep black of expansive imagination. The experience was a 10 minute long ride through an artist’s understanding of the imagination, and continued to play throughout the night, lighting up the otherwise dark building.

The entire night was a successful celebration of art and imagination – only a glimpse into the upcoming week of events and art.