Antigonish Culture Alive organizes two major arts events each year: Antigonight and Gathering of the Arts. Read more about them below.
Since its inception in 2010, Antigonight Art After Dark has been Antigonish Culture Alive’s most recognizable and popular public art event. It is specifically designed to offer the public an opportunity to appreciate art in a public venue. The festival provides both the opportunity for artists to display their work and become known within the community but also gives the community the opportunity to interact with contemporary artwork of different mediums, such as dance, theatre, music, visual arts, and other forms of live artistic interaction. Annual attendance at the festival has been around 3,000 for the last two years.
The festival takes place annually in September and is free, open to all, and accessible by wheelchair and stroller. Art projects are positioned around downtown venues including parks, closed-off sections of Main Street, and the public library where visitors have easy access to the exhibits. Exhibits and performance are found on sidewalks and in storefronts, alleyways and nooks and crannies of the downtown.
Each year, artists are invited to submit proposals and selected to present projects that are participatory in nature. Over the years, projects have including music, dance performances, painting, sculpture, workshops in visual art, storytelling, and theatre.
The festival is organized by Antigonish Culture Alive’s board of directors, with additional organizational (paid) support in the form of student assistants, an administrative assistant, and an artistic director. ACA board members serve as festival chair, venue, volunteer, and vendor coordinators. Upwards of 125 volunteers contribute to Antigonight during the festival itself, and are comprised of community members and students from St. Francis Xavier University.
For a number of years, the Government of Canada has provided funding for Antigonight Art After Dark Festival under the Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage program. The Honourable Peter Mackay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and Member of Parliament (Central Nova) had this to say about Antigonight when presenting the organization with its funding grant in 2014:
Antigonight is a dramatic nighttime event that will light up the Antigonish streets and sky in a colourful array of artistic presentations. The support our Government will provide will help bolster a cultural presence in our community and contribute to our long-term economic prosperity. Organizers and volunteers are to be commended on bringing such a special event to Antigonish residents and visitors alike.
Antigonish was presented with the Community Arts and Culture Recognition Award by the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council in 2015, with Antigonight being named as one of the factors contributing to the vibrancy of the arts community in Antigonish. The festival was also mentioned as one of the contributing factors to Antigonish winning the 2016 People’s Choice Award in a contest sponsored by the Canadian Institute of Planners, called Great Places in Canada.
As one of the largest arts festivals/events in the Antigonish area, Antigonight has been an important means by which the public has been able to connect with the arts – in a truly up close and personal way. Many of the mediums on display are of a sort that could be considered less accessible to the public (e.g., modern dance, visual arts), which is why having these arts forms accessible in public spaces (i.e., on Main Street in downtown Antigonish) goes a long way in helping expose more people to the arts that other forms of exhibition. Although the artists involved with Antigonight clearly benefit from taking part in the festival (i.e., through compensation and exposure), the main beneficiaries of this type of public art festival is in fact the general public, and the Antigonish community as a whole.
Gathering of the Arts
Gathering of the Arts (GoArts) is an exhibition with accompanying workshops/demonstrations hosted at the Peoples’ Place Library, on Main St., in Antigonish during the summer. The exhibition is open to artists working in all visual media, and the exhibits remain on display for two months in the library where they are open to the general public and tourists. ACA appoints a jury of peers from the Nova Scotia arts community that select the works to be exhibited from the pool of submitted candidates. The juried GoArts exhibit is open to all residents of Antigonish Town & County, and there is no fee to apply.
In addition to the juried exhibit, GoArts invites youth artists and the artists at L’Arche Horizons project to participate in the exhibition as non-juried artists. The un-juried exhibitions allow emerging artists to show their work in the company of professional artists. The Youth Art Project enable youth to gain confidence by submitting and showing their work for public exhibit and performance as well as supporting teachers in instructors in the arts.