ELEVATE THE ARTS drew a big crowd last year in downtown Courtenay by celebrating all things artistic.

The arts will be elevated again in downtown Courtenay

Elevate 2013 is set for June 4 to 8 in the heart of Courtenay

Something special happened last May in the streets of alleys of downtown Courtenay.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a grassroots arts and culture festival was born.

With over 22 venues and over 250 performers and artists spread across alleyways, restaurants, plazas, halls and cafés, it was an event that certainly caught the attention and interest of the community. So much so that organizers have decided to do it all over again!

The Elevate Arts Festival is produced by a hard-working volunteer team of culture lovers and community unity builders and the event seems to have really hit a chord with the Comox Valley.

For artists, businesses, musicians, performers and residents of all ages it created a new, free and highly accessible forum for celebrating diverse arts and culture. It also provided a much needed injection of energy and activity in our downtown core.

“We’ve been blown away by the incredible support and encouragement from all aspects of the community,” says Elevate co-producer Bobby Herron. “That support has given us the momentum do it again.”

And so, Elevate 2013 is set for June 4 to 8 in the Heart of Courtenay.

Elevate was unique in a number of ways and that has certainly been part of it’s appeal. The event is all about breaking down the barriers between culture producers and culture consumers and bringing audiences, supporters and artists together in their experience of arts and culture.

Instead of closing Fifth Street or booking a big field somewhere, Elevate was about the nooks and crannies of the community. Instead of big ticket prices, the event is about total accessibility. Instead of passive viewing and listening, the event is all about finding your own voice and your talents and engaging directly with artists.

Instead of escaping from our day-to-day life, Elevate is about transforming our community into a place where creativity, experimentation and exploration is celebrated every day.

Elevate is also all about partnerships. Organizers have committed themselves to producing an event that provides a vehicle for many arts, culture and community organizations to express themselves, as well.

Instead of multiple organizations competing for dates and audiences throughout the year, Elevate is dedicated to providing a collaborative forum for ‘elevating’ arts and culture.

“Elevate seems to have really piqued an interest,” says co-producer Anna Rambow. “The Comox Valley seems hungry for an event that is a bit more challenging and a bit more welcoming to alternative voices.

“We’re really committed to making sure that the diverse voices of our community are expressed in our programming. We’re also creating vending and exhibition opportunities for artists who have very ‘non traditional’ work through the Underground Art Fair. Many of these artists are not included in more traditional craft fairs.”

Organizers have been using a series of ‘E’ words as guiding inspiration for programming.

“At one of our first meetings in late 2011 we came up with the name and a list of words that really represented what we were trying to achieve,” says co-producer Kera McHugh. “Explore, Experiment, Entice, Expose, Excite and Evolve are just a few. Whenever we try and figure out if an activity fits with our vision, we go back to the ‘E’ words.”

The Downtown Courtenay BIA, City of Courtenay, Comox Valley Art Gallery, Comox Valley Community Arts Council, Motif Music Studio and Imagine Comox Valley are already-confirmed supporters and partners of the 2013 event.

Artists, musicians, dancers, businesses and creators of all kinds have begun applying to be part of the fun by offering to perform, exhibit or champion projects.

“We have plans in the works already for over 15 venues and locations and this number is growing like crazy!” says Bobby Herron. “We have an incredible amount of activity happening in Simms Alley including a music stage, participatory art projects, puppet shows and projections, circus arts and really unique vendors.

“We also have some really amazing programming coming together on local plazas and street corners and in several local cafes, shops and restaurants including Zocalo, Union Street Grill, Joe’s Garage, the Lower Elks, the Legion, Lower Native Sons, CVAG, Muir Gallery, Sid Plaza and more. The website is in a constant state of evolution, so check back often!”

What does this band of hardworking culture promoters hope to achieve?

“We really want to do something that makes a difference in the evolution of our community,” says co-producer Meaghan Cursons. “We need to be creative about how our community evolves; environmentally, economically, socially and culturally.

“I think we’re all really committed to contributing to a thriving, sustainable and creative Comox Valley,” Cursons adds. “We have an opportunity to focus our energy on our downtown cores and create places where community comes together for a variety of activities — not just commercial ones.

“This is an alternative vision to the one that promotes big box stores, residential sprawl and more pavement. We want to reimagine our downtowns as places where community happens, outside of our cars and away from our TVs.”

There are lots of ways to get involved in the second annual Elevate Arts Festival. Check the website for volunteer, sponsorship, venue and programming opportunities today at www.elevatethearts.com.

— Elevate the Arts

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