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Our guide to Year 3 of Penticton arts & music extravaganza Ignite the Arts

The COVID-19 pandemic was still tearing across the globe when Penticton art crusaders and hubby and wife Paul Crawford and Julie Fowler opted to get serious about a concept Crawford had been pondering for some time.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

The concept? A hugely ambitious multi-day, multi-venue arts and culture festival right here in Penticton, at a time of year when tourism is traditionally deadsville and locals are zombie-fied by three-plus months of winter.

And in March of 2022, Crawford, the curator of the Penticton Art Gallery, and Fowler, a consultant and co-creator of the celebrated Arts Wells Festival in Wells, BC, along with a ton of help and a horde of artists and performers, brought their vision to life.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

They called it Ignite the Arts. And it performed…pretty good.

As expected in a debut venture, some events worked while others weren’t quite so successful. Crowds ranged from standing room-only to tepid.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

But considering it broached an entirely new frontier during an entirely new annual time slot, the signs of hope far outweighed the signs of negativity.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

That it also injected a dose of artsy vitality to humdrum pre-Easter Penticton certainly didn’t hurt. If you patronized the best events, you had a great time. And it quickly became one of PentictonNow's fave local happenings.

Now, two years later, we're just a few weeks from the third generation of Ignite the Arts. And it’s never looked better.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

This year, there are more venues, more artists, more events and more chances to see and/or experience something cool than ever. And more enthusiastic voices preaching its strengths too.

The Festival, as always, is divided into two distinct segments. The first, running seven days from Friday March 22 to Thursday March 28, is called "Community Week." It's quieter and calmer and made up of low-cost and no-cost local-ish events.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

The second, running three days from Friday March 29 to Sunday March 31, is called "Festival Weekend." It's three straight days absolutely stacked with seemingly non-stop ticketed entertainment, all happening at nine downtown venues within walking distance of each other.

Nothing else in the entire calendar year can match it. But the full schedule (which you can find here) is absolutely massive.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

So we thought we'd use our experience with the Festival to put together a guide of sorts – a wrap-up of the best bets during the 2024 Ignite the Arts Festival, in semi-chronological order and mixed in with a few comments from those most involved.

And lotsa pics.

Note that the schedule has not yet been finalized, therefore times are approximate.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

Here then is our preview:


Mini Mural Project Unveiling Party

Friday March 22, 7 pm to 9:30 pm

Cannery Brewing, 198 Ellis St

This is the opener of the entire festival. It's fun and it's casual and it's got a lot of beer and it features the always-lively unveiling of the latest batch of "Mini Murals" that ten lucky regional artists were commissioned to design and paint in January.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

In the past, this was known as the "Square Mini Mural Project." But this year artists have the option to create rectangular 4' x 2' paintings as well as square 4' x 4' ones. So "Square" has been dropped.

Each work will hang at the Cannery 'til the fall, when they'll be auctioned off to astute buyers.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

Community Art Walk

Saturday March 23, 11 am to 4 pm

Various locations

"Art Walks," where folks journey around town to galleries and art studios, partaking in a little entertainment and/or appies and refreshments along the way, have become a modern tradition in artsy Penticton.

A couple dozen venues, ranging from "Cormier's Studio" on Vancouver Hill in the east to the Cannery Trade Centre in the west (a big Art Walk hot spot headed by studios like "Speckled Row"), will participate in this one.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

And Tristan Boisvert, managing director of Art Walk organizing body Penticton & District Community Arts Council, wants folks to know they're super psyched about both the Walk and the Festival.

"In fact," they said, "we're looking to expand and improve upon the Art Walk to take it beyond simply going from place to place."

We asked for details and Boisvert obliged.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

"We're looking to bring back street entertainment to the Ignite Art Walk and to future Art Walks," they said. "Any interested business or gallery, part of the Walk or not, or any buskers or street performers can contact us for more info."

As for Ignite, the P&DCAC is more enthusiastic than ever.

"We’ve had some really big Ignite the Arts meetings this year," they said. "Far bigger than last year. There's momentum now. People believe Penticton can become the arts and culture capital of BC."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

Sculpture Day

Saturday March 23, 11 am to 4 pm

Aurora Matheson Gallery, 221 Martin St

Technically one of the stops in the Community Art Walk above, Aurora Matheson Gallery in the 200 block of Martin -- and its adjoining outdoor space -- is entirely worthy of its own listing.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

PentictonNow dropped by during the 2023 Art Walk and found a glorious amalgamation of art and entertainment where one could easily hang out for an hour or more. This year promises to be upgraded beyond even that.

Like last year, Aurora founder Renee Matheson promises nifty stuff like in-person sculptor exhibitions, in-person painter exhibitions, lots of artsy displays and the cool song stylings of Yanti and friends.

And a "Family Sculpture Contest" that any familial entity can enter.

But this year there'll also be an ice sculptor (highly regarded Canadian ice sculptor Aaron Grant) and freshly made Mexican fare from the Fiesta Mexicana food truck.

The place will be a mini party with tons to see, hear and do...and eat. For more info on Sculpture Day, including the lowdown on registering for the Family Sculpture Contest, head here and click the "Show More" button.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

"Gifts of Madness" Exhibition Opening

Saturday March 23, 7 pm to 10 pm

Penticton Art Gallery, 199 Marina Way

The opening of Ignite the Arts means an exhibition opening at Penticton Art Gallery too. And this year, that exhibition will be, as it often is with Paul Crawford in charge, thought-provoking.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

The main exhibit is entitled "Gifts of Madness." To quote the Art Gallery media release, it's a "Mad Pride mental health-themed art exhibition that will show the Yin Yang duality of both the negative and positive experience and all the grey areas in between the complex spectrum of living with a mental illness."

Considering how many Canadians will suffer from some form of mental illness in their lifetime (some estimates are as high as one in three), Gifts of Madness should appeal to many.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

The companion exhibit is "M.A.I.D. in Canada," an exploration of Canada's Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) Program. This is especially topical right now as the Canadian government just recently delayed 'til 2027 the expansion of assisted dying to include those suffering solely from mental illness.

These are difficult subjects, but we suspect Crawford and team will handle them with the dignity they deserve.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

Snpinktn Speaking

Sunday March 24, 5 to 8 pm

Dream Café, 67 Front St

A new event to the region, Snpinktn Speaking is a monthly gathering that celebrates the art of the spoken word performance.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

The freebie happening presents local poets and performing artists and also features an "open mic" session for anyone brave enough to step up and get involved.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

Your reward? We hope it's a bevy of coffee-house beatniks snapping their fingers.

We’ve heard good things about Snpinktn Speaking from people like Renee Matheson of Aurora Matheson Gallery, Tristan Boisvert of the P&DCAC and Ignite co-founder Paul Crawford. It's free to attend.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

Youth and Adult Songwriting Bootcamps

March 25 to 29 (Youth) & March 27 to 29 (Adults)

Holy Cross School (Youth), Leir House (Adults)

One of our favourite events during last year's Ignite the Arts was the Youth Songwriting Camp. We stopped by for the learning/rehearsal phase during Community Week, then again for the final performances during the Festival Weekend. Both were immensely impressive.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

Apparently we weren’t the only ones who thought so. This year, there's not only another Youth Songwriting Camp, there's also one for grown-ups.

Registration for both will continue through to March 20. And according to Academy executive director Catherine Jones, there's still plenty of space available. For more info and/or to register, go to the Academy site here and click the appropriate buttons.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

2Rivers Remix Movable Feast

Thursday March 28, 7 pm to 11 pm

Cleland Theatre, 325 Power St

A multi-hour showcase of high-grade Indigenous musicians, songwriters and performers, the 2Rivers Remix Movable Feast is a hugely entertaining event now in its third iteration that's made that much better by being in the acoustically awesome confines of Cleland Theatre.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

One other thing. It's absolutely free.

So why hasn't it drawn oodles of fans in each of its previous two years? We asked Ignite co-boss Paul Crawford, and he's at the same loss we are. It deserves the attention.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

This year the Moveable Feast features peeps like Leela Gilday, The Melawmen Collective and Saltwater Hank. To attend, pre-register here and/or just get yourself to Cleland for 7 pm, March 28.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

Traditional Welcome, Parade for No Reason, Firespinning

Friday March 29, 6 pm to 7:30 pm

Elks Hall parking lot (343 Ellis St) and through downtown

Ignite the Arts swings into high gear with this, the wild and crazy kick-off to the three-day entertainment extravaganza known as "Festival Weekend."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

The action begins at 6 pm Friday evening at the Elks Hall parking lot with a traditional welcome, then continues with the formation of the third annual "Parade for No Reason."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

Proudly raucous, the parade, now bigger than ever and led by unofficial Ignite signature band Balkan Shmalkan and anyone who wants to dance and/or make noise, will snake through the downtown core, stopping for pics and general revelry along the way.

Once back at the Elks Hall, there'll be a mesmerizing outdoor "firespinning" routine that leads into several hours of indoor partying.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

Ambient/Experimental Electronic Music-a-Thon

Friday March 29 through Sunday March 31, various times

Legacy Den, 441 Main St

Looking for a place to get a little freaky, maybe a little zoned out, maybe a little mellow, man? There'll be few better bets this spring than the ambient/experimental music stage set up during the final Ignite weekend at collective art gallery Legacy Den in the 400 block of Main.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

Festival co-founder Paul Crawford is especially psyched about this one, drawing our attention to it early and calling it "really cool."

"They'll have several renowned analog synth players," he said. "People like J Daniel Cramer, Shawn Pinchbeck and Heidi Chan."

There'll also be opportunities for the public to try out their synthy skills and even experiment with a theremin (think Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations"). Crawford says to expect "freeform jamming" and hopefully a light show too.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

Urban/Dance Music-a-Thon

Friday March 29, 7 pm to 3 am & Saturday March 30, noon to 3 am

Britbar, 67 Nanaimo Ave East

Britbar (formerly Brexit Pub) owner Martyn Lewis has become one of Ignite the Arts' biggest fans. Buoyed by a successful partnership last year, Lewis opened his venue completely to festival organizers in 2024, and they responded by loading his club with 20-plus hours of funky grooves spread over two days.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

Performances will begin at dinner hour Friday and finish at midnight, then pick up again at noon Saturday and not stop 'til 3 am.

We're talking primarily hip hop and EDM (electronic dance music), though there will be splashes of other styles/subgenres too.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

Expect a lot of skilled rappers (like Vancouver's lightning-fast Kia Kadiri), a lot of multitalented DJs (like spinner/flautist "Lady of the Mist"), and workshops during the daytime hours for those trying to develop their chops.

"I think Ignite is the best thing Penticton's got," said Lewis, "with Fest of Ale coming in second. It's way better than the hype that surrounds it. If anything, it should be more hyped. It's amazing."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

Youth and Adult Songwriting Concerts

Friday March 29, 8 pm & Saturday March 30, 11 am

Dream Café, 67 Front St

You know those adult and youth songwriting bootcamps we referenced earlier? This is the weekend they get to show off all they've learned.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

The grownups take the Dream Café stage Friday evening at 8, the kids do the same Saturday morning at 11. We watched the latter in 2023. It was awesome.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

Three-Day, Two-Floor All-Genre Music-A-Thon

Friday March 29 through Sunday March 31, various times

Elks Hall, 343 Ellis St

One could argue, quite effectively, that the Elks Hall is the Festival Weekend epicenter. The March 29 opening parade starts there, followed by a ton of entertainment on both floors over the next three days.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

And Elks prez Laurie Kidd couldn’t be happier.

"As a club," he said, "we're working real hard to make a transition from solely an old people's club to a community club, a meeting place.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

"So Paul and his crew at the Art Gallery got this thing geared up last year and we were one of the major venues. And we were totally blown away by the quality of the acts and the variety. There was something for everybody."

Kidd's right. It was a non-stop variety show.

Lineup highlights this year include celebrated kids/all-ages entertainer Al Simmons (Friday evening 7:30 and again Saturday afternoon at 4), two straight hours of kids' programming featuring singers/dancers/part-time clowns "The Myrtle Sisters" Saturday afternoon, and a Saturday evening dance party with a bevy (there's that word again) of talented musicians.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

Wolf Trail Fashion Show

March 30, 1 pm to 2 pm & 4 pm to 5 pm

SS Sicamous, 1099 Lakeshore Dr West

Ignite co-founders Paul Crawford and Julie Fowler are emphatic – building bridges between the original occupants of this land and those who colonized it is key.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

And with the Wolf Trail Fashion Show, an entirely new Ignite the Arts event held inside the SS Sicamous, they feel they're taking steps in that direction.

"We had a meeting with the Sicamous," said Fowler, "and we connected them with the Ullus Collective, a group of Indigenous artists across the Okanagan, and now it’s come together that we'll have an Indigenous fashion show called the Wolf's Trail at the Sicamous."

"It's all about building bridges and Indigenizing spaces," added Crawford, "and it's kind of cool that these two unlikely partners are creating what will probably be a pretty remarkable event."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

One Minute Play Festival and more

March 30, 6 pm to 10:30 pm

Tempest Theatre, 125 Eckhardt Ave East

PentictonNow somehow got in the door of a sold-right-out Tempest Theatre during the 2023 Ignite the Arts Festival to experience one of the event's star attractions – the One Minute Play Festival.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

The audience was going bananas and for good reason. The product they were enjoying – a string of one-minute plays written and performed by anyone who'd submitted an approved script – was riotous. And sometimes just impactful.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

In 2024 the One Minute Plays (and the judging) begins at 6 pm, Saturday March 30 and last a couple hours. And that's followed by a series of four Ten-Minute plays starring the Tempest Ensemble. It's sure to be one of the hippest and most involving theatrical evenings of the year.

Those who'd like to participate can submit their One-Minute Play script in advance right here.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

Shred Kelly

March 31, 8 pm to 10 pm

Elks Hall (upper floor), 343 Ellis St

By dinner hour Sunday, March 31, the 2024 Ignite the Arts Festival will be all but over. And there'll undoubtedly be a bunch of sleepy people in Penticton.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

But for those with a little energy left over, there's always the final gig of the event – two hours at the Elks Hall upper floor stage with a dynamic live band that's toured all over the country and a whole bunch of the world too.

They're called Shred Kelly and they lay out an infectious blend of alt, folk and rock.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2023 Ignite the Arts

Should be a solid end to the biggest Ignite yet.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Scene from 2022 Ignite the Arts

Remember, for more info on the full festival, including all the stuff we didn’t have time for, head to the Ignite website here. To get a Festival Weekend all-access pass, do it here and use the discount code "FLAMEANDFORTUNE" to save yourself $25.



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