Arts festival organizer Susann Williamson in her new gallery space.

Arts festival taking hold here

The long-awaited inaugural Terrace Arts Festival starts Friday

IN CASE you haven’t noticed, Terrace is secretly teeming with artists.

The walls of independent coffee shops and restaurants are filled with local artwork, public art is on the rise (think spirit bears, murals), and the art gallery – located underneath the public library – is home to smartly-curated group shows that include dozens of homegrown artists,

And with the inaugural Terrace Summer Arts Festival opening this weekend, these artists are set to take the town centre by storm as they showcase Terrace’s unique cultural side with ten days of community events – art shows, workshops, concerts, you name it – free of charge.

“People have been wanting to do this for a long, long time,” says Susann Williamson, secretary treasurer and project director for the Terrace District Arts Council (TDAC), who organized the event with the support of various community groups.

“A lot of people are asking, why this year, and well, it’s that we have the people. We have a perfect storm of volunteers right now, we’ve got a lot of really dedicated people who have skills, know how to organize, plan, set up, with lots of background and experience.”

“There are lots and lots of volunteers and people involved,” said Williamson, who said the number of volunteers could be as much as 70 people, if you include all of the artists.

She and her core organizing group of six started planning the event in January and have been inundated with calls from people wanting to support, perform and volunteer ever since.

The TDAC is an umbrella organization that in the past has typically been used to funnel money to their membership, formed of local artists, groups and projects.

But its mandate has changed over the last year to include more promotional work involving the arts scene in Terrace – this means more large-scale events and fund-raisers.

“The BC Arts Council has said that arts councils in the province have to do more, not just hand out money and write cheques, but do more to promote arts in the province,” said Williamson.

The group’s plan is to have an event for every season – a dinner and auction in the fall, a long weekend event on the new February family day holiday for winter, a studio tour in the spring and the arts festival in the summer.

There’s a real demand for cultural events here in Terrace, says Williamson, noting that this year’s first spring studio tour, held on May long weekend, sold out very quickly

“There’s been a real fresh attitude here” with artists of all stripes banding together to host new events, she says. Williamson, who has lived in Terrace for the past six years, is busy renovating a new studio and gallery space at Skeena Landing.

One of the highlights of the festival includes the opening gala at the art gallery on Friday night, which coincides with the opening of the gallery’s next monthly show, “Summer and Winter.”

On Saturday nights there are concerts in the park featuring local musicians like the Terrace Community Band, Late Night on Air, and King Crow and the Ladies from Hell.

Also taking place are daily workshops, a night market and fashion show, live painting in the park organized by local artist Matthew Daratha, and a family-oriented bike parade on the Monday.

Williamson anticipates a large turnout, and is encouraging people to register for festival events to make sure they get a spot.

The prospect of good summer weather will also help those who attend various events enjoy the efforts of festival volunteers.